We believe that discussion of the Back Bay Billionaires’ Pipeline between National Grid, the developers of One Dalton (and possibly others), and the Walsh administration began around 2014. It is difficult to ascertain exactly what was discussed as the process has been private, hidden from the public. In 2016 members of the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay learned through their city councilor’s office that a pipeline was being planned to supply gas to new high rise developments. NABB’s Green Committee reached out to Resist the Pipeline in November, 2016, and over the next year the Boston Clean Energy Coalition (BCEC) was born. BCEC defines its mission as working to stop the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure while promoting state-of-the-art efficiency requirements for the built environment.
When National Grid was finally prepared to present its pipeline proposal for public review before the city’s Public Improvement Commission (PIC), BCEC mobilized activists to state strong opposition to the project. The City Council was enlisted to present a unanimous resolution urging the PIC to delay any permitting until there could be a robust public discussion of the project. The PIC delayed its approval for several sessions, suggesting that it was listening to the advocates, but in the first meeting after the Mayoral election, the PIC approved National Grid’s request, explaining that it was not the body to consider policy issues – “we are simply engineers” was the tepid explanation. The PIC did require that National Grid hold a public meeting, which became a meaningless public relations event as the decision to proceed was set.
The Attorney General’s office recommended to the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) that they not approve National Grid’s submission for a 20-year special contract with One Dalton. The AG’s office wrote in a brief: “Simply, this Special Contract is nothing more than a special deal for a real estate developer and its hotel and luxury condominium customers that is unavailable to any other core, firm-service customer,” one that could ultimately mean higher prices for less well-off customers.
In addition to granting National Grid the right to construct this pipeline, the city also waived the winter moratorium on below street construction that traditionally is observed between November 15th and April 1st. National Grid began work on the pipeline in late January, 2018.