Burrillville Group Wants Algonquin Pipeline Station Shut Down


A section of the Algonquin natural gas pipeline in Burrillville, R.I. Enbridge, the company that owns the pipeline, has proposed an expansion. (B.A.S.E.)

BURRILLVILLE, R.I. — Environmental groups are on alert and in lockstep opposition to a Canadian multinational corporation seeking to continue its energy business in Rhode Island.

Calgary-based Enbridge Inc. owns and operates a natural gas compressor station and pipeline in the northwest corner of the state. The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management opened a public comment period earlier this month as the company seeks to renew its operating air permits.

On Feb. 13, B.A.S.E., a group of Burrillville residents opposed to all fossil fuel infrastructure within the town, asked DEM to extend the public comment period to 45 days instead of the original 30, and hold a local public comment hearing.

B.A.S.E. has long opposed any expansion of natural gas infrastructure within Burrillville. In 2014 activists blocked the gates of the compressor station in an attempt to stop its expansion, and then embarked on a multiyear campaign to oppose the new power plant proposed by Invenergy in 2015.

Members of the group told ecoRI News last month they were keen to oppose any and all expansion of such infrastructure. In September, Enbridge announced a new expansion proposal, Project Maple, of its Algonquin pipeline, which pipes natural gas from New Jersey and supplies it as far as Salem, Mass.

“Enbridge is attempting to segment their broader Project Maple expansion into smaller projects in order to skirt regulatory hurdles and quell public opposition,” Kathy Martley, a B.A.S.E. member, said in a statement. “The impacts of Enbridge’s plans must be reviewed collectively, from Burrillville to the Sakonnet River, it’s all connected.”

Last month, Enbridge submitted its application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to replace the portion of the natural gas pipeline running underneath the Sakonnet River. The company plans to replace 1.85 miles of the existing smaller pipeline that’s currently used to supply Aquidneck Island with natural gas. In its federal filing, the company said it expects the upgraded size of the proposed pipeline to “enhance system reliability” and increase the pressure of natural gas being delivered in the pipe.

In January 2019, Aquidneck Island residents experienced a sudden natural gas shortage when a pipe in Weymouth, Mass., along the Algonquin pipeline malfunctioned due to a programming error, resulting in low-pressure conditions in the pipeline that ultimately resulted in mass service outages.

A later investigation by the Rhode Island Division of Public Utilities and Carriers noted much of the outages could be pinpointed to Narragansett Electric’s — which at the time was owned by National Grid — failure to account for growing demand for natural gas on Aquidneck Island in the decade leading up to the outage, and that the utility lacked a mapping and tracking process to manage outage reports.

Meanwhile, Enbridge has yet to file its expansion plans with FERC or with the state Energy Facility Siting Board (EFSB) on how it may impact Rhode Island.

Environmental groups have pledged to oppose all natural gas infrastructure around the state, and set a goal of shutting down the compressor station in Burrillville.

“With the tide slowly turning against the fossil fuel industry in the Northeast, Enbridge is trying desperately to expand their footprint in the region,” said Nick Katkevich, Northeast field organizer for the Sierra Club. “But we will stop Project Maple, defend the Sakonnet River, and ultimately shut down the toxic compressor station in Burrillville.”


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