By STEPHEN SINGER, AP Business Writer
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Even before Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed key energy legislation into law on Monday, Connecticut’s three regulated natural gas companies and a Houston energy company asked regulators to OK expansion plans that anticipated the state’s new push for natural gas.
One measure the governor signed expands the state’s natural gas distribution system. The states regulated natural gas companies have already filed a joint proposal outlining how they would connect 280,000 customers over 10 years.
“Obviously, I’d like as much of that done today as possible,” Malloy said soon after signing the new law.
Connecticut Natural Gas, Southern Connecticut Gas and Yankee Gas presented state regulators with a rare joint proposal last month asking the state to approve a new rate plan to finance the massive project hooking up hundreds of thousands of natural gas customers.
Spectra Energy of Houston is advancing a preliminary plan to expand its Algonquin Gas Transmissions to build and replace about 44 miles of pipeline in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island, install a new pipeline to span the Hudson River in New York and build compressor stations to boost gas flow. It cited the natural gas expansion in its application to federal regulators.
The second bill that Malloy signed rewrites the state’s renewable energy policy to boost Canadian hydropower _ a measure fought by environmentalists who demanded the state use the clout of its renewable energy portfolio to help promote locally generated solar and wind power.
By increasing availability of natural gas as an alternative to costlier oil energy and relying more on hydropower from Canada, Malloy said Connecticut is putting downward pressure on energy prices. The cost of electricity in Connecticut has been among the highest in the United States, making it a potent political issue as businesses and individual utility ratepayers demanded that state government respond.
“We need to continue the process of lowering the cost of doing business in Connecticut,” Malloy said shortly before signing the legislation.
Many environmentalists also oppose hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, that has led to booming natural gas production. Opponents link fracking to groundwater pollution and object to the high-impact operation.
Connecticut does not have direct access to natural gas, unlike New York, Pennsylvania and other states that sit atop huge energy deposits. But with a policy to hook up hundreds of thousands of natural gas customers, Connecticut is adding to demand.
Malloy said energy companies will drill for natural gas regardless of what Connecticut does.
“Whether we’re buying natural gas in Connecticut or not, there’s going to be fracking just as there’s been fracking in the last 20 years or more,” Malloy said. “Everybody wants change. And when you show them what change looks like they get nervous.”
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