Gas Pipeline Plans Put Oil Industry in a Tizzy

     HARTFORD (CN) – The heating oil industry in Connecticut has filed suit over plans for a 900-mile expansion of natural gas lines there, calling for an environmental study.
     Connecticut Energy Marketers Association (CEMA) represents 585, primarily family-run businesses, in the Nutmeg State, according to the complaint filed in superior court Friday.
     There are approximately 415,000 natural gas customers in Connecticut, and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) approved a plan that would make natural gas available to 300,000 additional customers.
     There is no state money involved in the expansion, which will be left up to the three natural gas companies.
     CEMA says DEEP and Public Utilities Regulatory Authority failed to do an Environmental Impact Evaluation before approving the expansion project.
     A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection called the lawsuit “groundless and based on inaccurate information.” Nothing in the regulations required an environmental study, he added.
     But the heating-oil dealers note that the clearing of trees and other elements involved in the building and operating the pipelines or mains could temporarily or permanently alter wildlife habitat.
     Regulators should ascertain whether any of the work will create temporary or permanent air or noise quality impacts, such as emissions from equipment installing pipelines or mains or the emission of criteria air pollutants from compressor stations, according to the complaint.
     “They are going to build them in your streets,” CEMA president Chris Herb said in a statement. “They are going to build them across your front yards and no one has considered what impact that will have on the environment and your home. We are calling to halt this plan immediately until we know exactly what harm it might do.”
     DEEP spokesman Dennis Schain countered that CEMA’s complaint “is simply another in a series of steps by the heating oil dealers aimed at protecting their lock on the market and preventing Connecticut homeowners and businesses from having a choice to select a cheaper and cleaner fuel.”
     Disputing this point, CEMA’s Herb said the “lawsuit is about making the utilities follow the rules like every other industry in the state of Connecticut needs to do.”
     “This has nothing to do with trying to stop the project,” Herb added. “All we are saying is that the utilities need to follow the law and take into consideration the impact this massive plan will have on the environment and our homes.”
     The heating oil dealers are represented by Karen Mignone of Verrill Dana in Stamford.

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