As proposals to build new pipelines and related infrastructure meet opposition from community leaders and environmental activists across Massachusetts, gas companies have frozen new gas hookups several communities citing a lack of pipeline capacity.

Since late January, Holyoke Gas & Electric and Middleborough Gas and Electric have imposed moratoriums on new residential natural gas hookups, adding Holyoke, Southampton and Middleborough to a list of about a dozen towns already under similar freezes.

“While inexpensive natural gas has never been more plentiful in the United States, there is insufficient pipeline capacity in our region to deliver additional load,” HG&E wrote in its Jan. 28 announcement. “Recent proposals that would increase natural gas capacity in the region have been met with opposition, and the current pipeline constraints are causing significant adverse environmental and economic impacts on the region’s ratepayers.”

HG&E, which serves about 9,900 gas meters in Holyoke and Southampton, said existing customers can make upgrades to their service so long as their usage does not increase and that the utility “may be able to accommodate certain commercial and industrial requests” depending on the project’s specific load profile.

The HG&E moratorium is not the first in Western Massachusetts. Berkshire Gas has had a new hookup moratorium in eight Franklin and Hampshire county towns for about four years and Columbia Gas has had a moratorium on new natural gas service in Northampton and Easthampton since 2014.

“This now makes 10 communities in Western Massachusetts, home to more than 150,000 people, where residents and businesses who want to connect to clean, affordable, abundant natural gas are being denied that choice. And the only reason is because of opposition in New York and New England to sensible, long-overdue upgrades of our energy infrastructure,” said Stephen Dodge, executive director of the Massachusetts Petroleum Council. “There’s no shortage of natural gas – there’s a shortage of sensible policy about energy infrastructure.”

Middleborough Gas and Electric said last week that “due to the lack of new natural gas capacity in the region,” it will no longer be able to “meet requests for new natural gas service as of February 2019.”

In recent years, pipeline projects have been met with increasing opposition from environmental activists and community leaders. Kinder Morgan’s Northeast Energy Direct pipeline project was scrapped amid widespread opposition and recently activists and municipal leaders on the South Shore have waged a months-long opposition campaign against a natural gas compressor station planned for Weymouth.

Utilities Freeze Natural Gas Hookups in Central Mass. Towns

by State House News Service time to read: 2 min