via Rhode Island General Assembly

Sen. Dawn Euer, Rep. Lauren H. Carson, Rep. Terri Cortvriend and Rep. Susan R. Donovan are urging Aquidneck Island residents to submit comments on National Grid’s study of the island’s natural gas infrastructure.

National Grid – the sole utility providing gas service to the island – produced the study in response to the January 2019 outage that left thousands without heat on the island for days during frigid cold. The cause of that outage was identified last year as a confluence of spiking demand, the failure of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility in Providence and a distant malfunction in a transmission line in Massachusetts.

In the report, National Grid contends that without significant infrastructure investments on Aquidneck Island, the communities there remain prone to similar failures in the future. The report outlines several options, including building a second pipeline to the island, maintaining the existing portable backup LNG facility in Portsmouth, building a new backup facility either on the island Navy base or on a barge offshore, or reducing demand though efforts through more vigorous energy efficiency efforts. 

The four legislators, along with Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown ,Newport, Tiverton Little Compton), Sen. James A. Seveney (D-Dist. 11, Portsmouth, Bristol, Tiverton), Rep. Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown) and Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown), sent a joint letter responding to the report on Nov. 25.

In the letter, they note that the risk of an outage similar to the 2019 one is now reduced, since the system vulnerabilities identified as its causes, were addressed. Instead of spending more on infrastructure for carbon-producing natural gas, they strongly urge National Grid to concentrate resources on energy efficiency to reduce demand.

“The long-term interests of Aquidneck Island’s communities will be best served by an aggressive transition away from fossil fuels that will allow the state to meet its carbon reduction targets. This would dually protect the residents of Aquidneck Island from the public health and safety risks associated with both climate change impacts as well as gas,” they wrote. “Rather than focusing on expanding yesterday’s technology, we need to continue to make progress toward decarbonization by expanding energy efficiency programs [and] electrification, implementing a demand response system, and exploring opportunities for other green technology innovations such as geothermal micro districts to reduce demand.”

The island legislators acknowledge that such improvements may take time, and said that if more capacity is needed meanwhile, they favor the option of a temporary facility at the Navy base. They also asserted that any expansion must be subject to the oversight of the Energy Facility Siting Board.

Senator Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown), Representative Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport), Representative Cortvriend (D-Dist. 72, Portsmouth, Middletown) and Representative Donovan (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth) encourage all Aquidneck Islanders to weigh in with their own sentiments.

“National Grid needs to hear from the people who are going to be affected by its equipment and service on our island. We are not only ratepayers, but our health, our safety and our environment are all directly affected by the direction National Grid takes. If they double down on fossil fuels, that is our future. But we view this as an opportunity to choose investments that steer our island toward a greener, more sustainable future, and we urge our neighbors to join us in that call,” they said.

To read the report and submit your own comments, visit https://www.nationalgridus.com/aquidneck-long-term-gas-capacity-study.

National Grid had initially set a deadline of Dec. 1 for public comment on the report, but has agreed to keep the comment period open longer. Senator Euer and Representatives Carson, Cortvriend and Donovan urge constituents to submit their comments as soon as possible.

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