Correction: We have updated this story to replace a comment from the U.S. Department of Energy, which it states it sent in error.
- Five U.S. senators from New England on Tuesday asked Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm to help mitigate the risks of reduced natural gas supplies and higher prices facing the region.
- The lawmakers from Connecticut, Maine and Vermont asked federal energy officials to identify barriers to bringing non-fossil fuel energy online as quickly as possible.
- And they sought a review of executive branch emergency powers to make sure New England can “get through the winter without major supply disruptions or price spikes.”
Democratic Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Vermont’s Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy and Independent Sen. Angus King of Maine asked Granholm to convene stakeholders, including the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, ISO New England, New England’s governors, utility officials, generators and suppliers to “mitigate these risks.”
The lawmakers did not seek specific action as they joined the region’s governors, Eversource Energy and ISO-New England who previously urged the Department of Energy to develop a response in case of a natural gas shortage this winter.
“We write to ask that you work with federal, regional, state and local stakeholders to identify actions available to prevent energy disruption during the coldest months of the year,” the senators said.
DOE said it’s working with the administration to closely monitor winter fuel availability, especially if the weather is colder than expected, “and we are preparing to address any resulting risks.” The agency said it works closely with the North American Electric Reliability Corp. and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and state, industry and interagency partners to help ensure reliability through the winter season.
The governors asked Granholm in July to consider developing a new or modernized strategic energy reserve. And they asked her to look into when it might be appropriate to suspend the Jones Act, a 1920 law that requires cargo shipped between U.S. ports to be carried by U.S. ships with American crews, for the delivery of liquefied natural gas for a portion or all of the winter of 2022-2023.
In October, Eversource Energy CEO Joe Nolan asked President Joe Biden to waive the Jones Act and consider emergency powers to ensure that adequate fuel resources are available in New England this winter. He warned of a possible natural gas shortage in the region that relies on the fuel for power generation.
ISO-NE asked Granholm in August to “stand ready to support targeted requests for exemptions to the Jones Act to allow New England to access domestic LNG by tanker if emergency conditions develop this winter or in the future. The grid operator also asked the agency to “support the states’ and the ISO’s suggestion to develop an energy reserve in New England.”
Ku’uhaku Park, president of the American Maritime Partnership, wrote Tuesday to New England’s six governors that “blaming the Jones Act for this situation is misdirected.”
He said high energy prices in New England are due to a lack of natural gas pipelines and LNG storage capacity, inadequate LNG receiving facilities and the region’s “risky reliance” on costly short term spot market LNG purchases.
The senators told Granholm that New England officials are working to reduce reliance on natural gas with clean energy resources such as offshore wind and hydropower online, but the efforts will take time.
“As a result, the region remains reliant on natural gas, liquefied natural gas and heating oil to bridge supply gaps during the coldest stretch of New England winters,” they said.
And even if the power is uninterrupted this winter, price instability caused by New England’s reliance on the spot market could have “devastating impacts” on consumers who already face some of the highest energy costs in the continental U.S., the senators said.