In an exposé based on documents obtained by the Energy and Policy Institute through a public records request, the Boston Globe revealed how gas utility Eversource worked behind the scenes with Douglas, Massachusetts, and a major warehouse developer, to expand a pipeline into the town. Eversource and Douglas officials collaborated to keep the matter out of the public eye and delayed the application for franchise approval to the state’s Department of Public Utilities “since we do not want to alert antigas activists,” according to an email Eversource’s David Allain, director of gas sales and expansion, sent to town officials. The Globe also revealed that despite the warehouse developer’s claim that full electrification of the facility was unfeasible – a claim relayed by Eversource to the DPU in its application – the developer told Douglas officials in an email, “[W]e didn’t do that analysis.”

Additional documents obtained by the Energy and Policy Institute and published below further detail Eversource’s pipeline expansion project strategy. The records show that Eversource was not a mere supplier of a requested utility service but active in creating the “demand” for the gas, helped craft letters submitted in support of its DPU application, assisted in passing a Douglas’ Board of Selectmen resolution in favor of the project, and coached town officials on their meetings and communications with state officials. The emails also show that Douglas plans to use the pipeline to bring methane gas to other businesses and establishments in the town, beyond the stated customers in Eversource’s DPU application.

  • Emails show that Douglas contacted Eversource inquiring about a pipeline expansion in August 2020, two years before Eversource’s franchise application to the DPU. Despite this, Eversource claimed in its August 2022 application that the pipeline must be approved quickly, suggesting a full electrification study would not be possible time-wise. According to an email by Douglas’ economic development facilitator, Bob Minarik, Tony Bulak, a former Eversource employee and a Douglas resident, was involved in the early push for the project. Bulak “wanted economic development,” Minarik wrote.
  • Days later, Minarik helped CRG craft its permitting letter attached to the franchise application. He said the letter should be addressed to Eversource, not the town so that it won’t “look staged” and not “raise any red flags with the people reviewing the franchise application.”

  • In September 2022, shortly before a public hearing on the project at the DPU, Eversource’s Michael Manning, a strategic account executive, emailed Minarik, coaching the town on recruiting supporters for methane gas. “The town should quickly drum up support of people to attend or submit comments at the upcoming public hearing,” Manning wrote. “They need the developers and business owners who want natural gas to speak out and be heard. Since this will lead to hundreds of construction jobs they should contact the local building trade unions to get them to write or speak out in favor of the project as well.”
  • Eversource’s Manning also suggested that officials supporting the project refrain from alluding to the state’s Energy Facilities Siting Board. “Please have the Town avoid any comments and/or references to Section 690 as It pertains to siting of facilities before the EFSB (Energy Facilities Siting Board) – we’d prefer to stay away from that section if possible.”
  • Following its franchise application, Eversource suggested to Douglas that the town reach out to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office and advocate for the pipeline. Eversource provided Douglas with talking points for the meeting and edited Minarik’s letter to Nathan Forster, chief of the energy and telecommunications division in the AGO. After Douglas’ officials met with the AGO, Eversource’s lawyers at the firm of Keegan Werlin crafted for the town a response to the AGO’s claim that the utility’s ratepayers will fund the pipeline expansion.

  • In October 2022, while Eversource’s application was pending at the DPU, Douglas’ Minarik suggested in an email to Eversource other possible customers in the town for future gas use, including schools, businesses, and residential buildings. Minarik added: “Don’t know how much you want to expose expansion now.” The town also discussed with Eversource additional future users on Gilboa Street, including a possible 2.5 million square foot warehouse, “which will be the biggest user overall.”

Posted by Itai Vardi