The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) – What Do We Need to Know?

The mission of the DPU is to ensure that utility consumers are provided with the most reliable service at the lowest possible cost, to protect the public safety from transportation and gas pipeline related accidents, to oversee the energy facilities siting process, and to ensure that residential ratepayers’ rights are protected.

The proposed pipeline siting process, electricity rate structures, and protecting ratepayers’ rights come under the jurisdiction of the Mass. DPU.  More research needs to be completed on what is happening now.

DPU and Proposed Pipeline by TGP/Kinder Morgan:  Some people who own land that TGP wants to survey are receiving a second letter from Kinder Morgan stating that TGP/Kinder Morgan are intending to file for property access for surveying though the Massachusetts Department of Utilities (DPU).  TGP/Kinder Morgan can file a request to survey through the DPU.    People who may get a second letter from TGP/Kinder Morgan must know their rights as citizens.  At this point Nashoba Conservation Trust (see has up-to-date information about latest TGP/Kinder Morgan letters and information about the Siting Division of DPU which includes a nine member commission. Also check out their very informative page on why this pipeline is not necessary.

DPU and Electricity Rate Structure for National Grid Customers:  DPU reviews and approves the Basic Service procurements of the electric distribution companies such as National Grid.   National Grid came before the DPU in 2009-10 to change distribution charges.  These charges do not include the supply costs.  With deregulation the Retail Electricity Industry has been restructured, and the DPU licenses competitive suppliers and electricity brokers. Getting support for restructuring electricity rates could encourage people to use less.  The Department of Public Utilities is the department in state government that sets electricity rates.  North Quabbin Energy worked on a proposal of incentives regarding rates and gathered regional usage data to help encourage people to engage in conservation and efficient use of electricity. Perhaps it is time to get support for this restructuring of electricity rates.   Such a proposal is in accordance with statements made in DPU hearings that “there is a recent direction in energy policy towards greater promotion and reliance on energy efficiency, distributed generation, and renewable technologies as well as a commitment to address the social and economic risks associated with climate change.” (D.P.U. 09-39, November 30, 2009, Petition of National Grid – Mass. Electric Co., pursuant to G. L. c. 164, § 94, and 220 C.M.R. § 5.00 et seq., for a General Increase in Electric Rates and Approval of a Revenue Decoupling Mechanism)

News From the North Quabbin  — Check out what towns are doing that relate to saving energy and also Green Communities.

Other News:

Wed., May 28th at 7 p.m. at Athol Town Hall — NQ Pipeline Action Meeting

May 5th – Warwick townsfolk passed a non-binding resolution at town meeting to ban fracked gas pipelines.

April 30, 2014 — Orange Selectboard voted to deny Tennessee Gas Pipeline/Kinder Morgan access to survey town lands.



North Quabbin Citizens Continue Efforts to Oppose Proposed Gas Pipeline

Bruce Winn answers questions after his talk at Athol Town Hall on April 16th with over 100 people in attendance at event.

Meeting set for Wed., April 30th at 7 p.m. at Athol Town Hall.  Get Involved! Working Groups will report on what they have done concerning communications with landowners, municipal outreach, messaging, research on conservation laws and Green Communities Act, and research on what is happening in other states. Join us in opposing the proposed Tennessee Gas Pipeline that could run through our towns.

Tennessee Gas Pipeline (TGP), owned by Kinder-Morgan LLC, wants to construct a pipeline carrying fracked natural gas, mined from unconventional gas wells in Pennsylvania and surrounding areas. The  project is known as the “Northeast Expansion” and would consist of a 30″ – 36″ pipeline in a 50 ft. right-of-way running between New York State to Dracut MA. It would go through several towns in Berkshire, Franklin, and Worcester counties.

Come to meeting on April 30th, learn what people are doing to oppose pipeline, and join a working group. After planning meetings on March 11 and April 8th, local citizens formed working groups and signed up to work on various activities in opposition to this project. Continue reading North Quabbin Citizens Continue Efforts to Oppose Proposed Gas Pipeline

No. Quabbin Citizens Organize Around Issue of Proposed Gas Pipeline

Tennessee Gas Pipeline (TGP), owned by Kinder-Morgan LLC, wants to construct a pipeline carrying fracked natural gas, mined from unconventional gas wells in Pennsylvania and surrounding areas. The  project is known as the “Northeast Expansion” and would consist of a 30″ – 36″ pipeline in a 50 ft. right-of-way running between New York State to Dracut MA. It would go through several towns in Berkshire, Franklin, and Worcester counties.

After planning meetings on March 11 and April 8th, local citizens formed working groups and signed up to work on various activities in opposition to this project. Following the April 16th Public Forum mentioned below, there will be another meeting on April 30 at the Athol Town Hall, 7 p.m. Continue reading No. Quabbin Citizens Organize Around Issue of Proposed Gas Pipeline

Sucessful Winsert Workshops Completed in January 2014

          Over 30 people attended two Winsert Workshops during January.  These workshops were funded with a grant from National Grid.  Materials for making winserts (Interior Window Panels) were purchased with the National Grid grant money.  At the first workshop on January 4th, fabricators and others experimented with making frames with mitered joints using spline to fasten film.  This workshop produced 18 winserts for the Millers River Environmental Center in Athol which have been installed to help increase the R-value of windows and cut down on drafts.  On January 25th another workshop was held at the Barre Library.  Thirty-two people gathered at this public workshop to learn how to make winserts for their own homes.  Each participant, who registered, was able to take home a finished winsert. Twenty winserts went home with people to try in their own homes.   North Quabbin Energy Core members and the Barre Town Energy Committee also completed 13 winserts that were installed in windows at the Barre Library. Continue reading Sucessful Winsert Workshops Completed in January 2014

Renewable Energy and Local Living Talks a Success at Garlic & Arts Festival

North Quabbin Energy had an information table at the Garlic and Arts Festival again this year.  People enjoyed spinning the wheel to test their energy sense and discuss lawns, food and energy use with NQE members.

Colby Spins the Wheel for Energy Quiz

Once again many people attended the talks at the Renewable Energy and Local Living  Tent organized by Steve and Janice Kurkoski.    Another highlight was the brief presentation made about the large solar installations contructed on untillable farm land in Orange and Athol (the Hunt Farm in Orange and the Adams Farm in Athol.   Hal Gillam and Kristen Marquis told the story of meeting at the Garlic and Arts Festival five years ago and beginning a conversation about solar development for the No. Quabbin region.  This conversation turned into a reality in the fall of 2013.

You can check out Photos from Garlic and Arts Festival – 2013 under Garlic and Arts 2013.

2013 Local Food Brochure Available

North Quabbin Energy’s 2013 “Fresh & Local Food Guide” is now available.

The listing highlights local farms and food producers in the North Quabbin towns (Athol, New Salem, Orange, Petersham, Phillipston, Royalston, Warwick, and Wendell) and neighboring Barre and Shutesbury.  Foods grown locally include fruits, vegetables, meats, grains, flowers, eggs, dairy products, mushrooms, and herbs.  The brochure also lists area specialties plus non-food and “value-added” products like honey, maple syrup, local cheeses, bakery goods, hay, compost, wool and fleece, and imported fair-trade coffee.  Look for information about area farmers markets, festivals, the local food co-op, “Community Supported Agriculture” (CSA) farms, and more.

Eating locally is an energy-related issue because the food industry in the U.S. is based on energy-intensive modes of farming, processing, shipping, and storing food.  Produce and other foods are typically shipped over hundreds of miles from the source to the consumer, adding to the “carbon footprint” of products that are usually grown with petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides.  Buying closer to local sources not only reduces the energy required to grow and ship food,  but helps support area farmers and food producers who are working to strengthen more sustainable regional food systems.

Printed brochures are available at town libraries in the region as well as locations, including farms and businesses, listed in the brochure.  For an online PDF version of the brochure click 2013 North Quabbin Fresh and Local Food.




2013 Garlic and Arts Festival

Check out these Presentations at the 2013 Garlic and Arts Festival

Click on the Garlic & Arts 2013 tab at the top of this page to see the current line up of workshops that will be taking place in the Energy Tent at the North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival on October 5-6, 2013.  Janice and Steve Kurkoski from North Quabbin Energy work with the Garlic and Arts Festival Committee each year to find presenters for six to eight exciting workshops dealing with energy related topics.  For more information about the 15th Annual Festival go to

Other Happenings in North Quabbin Region

  •  Starrett Hydropower Plant Begins Operation —  The Starrett Company in Athol is now able to generate about 20% of the electricity the plant uses from its hydropower plant on the Millers River.  This project has been in the works since 2006.  The new turbine was installed in 2008.  The project has two power houses, one with an older turbine that has operated since the early 1900s and now the new turbine.  Operation of the hydropower plant started on April 2, 2013.
  • Solar Farms in Athol and Orange Under Construction — Three large solar farms are now under construction with a fourth project already on line.  The Adams Farm project in Athol is continuing construction.  In Orange, Soltas is constructing the Hunt’s Farm project (off Rte. 202) and EPG is finishing construction of a project behind the Orange Police Station (on land owned by Steve Canning, a local electrician).  The CTC project in Orange is already operating.  All these projects are between two and three MWs and tie into the National Grid infra-structure.

Other things of Interest

  • Electricity Use — Check out our Conservation page under “Getting Started” for charts on electricity use and a proposed incentive program for electricity customers as proposed by North Quabbin Energy members.
  • —  
    Click on “Do the Math: A Movie” to watch this 45 minute film.
    Join the Movement at   Do the Math: A Movie to Spark a Movement.  The fossil fuel industry is killing us.  Watch the film to see how….
    Youtube added on 4/21/13 (41,207 views)

A climate scientist spells it out for us

A packed house at the Wendell Free Library on Thursday night listened to Ray Bradley,  University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Geosciences and Director of the Climate System Research Center at the University of Massachusetts/Amherst, talking about the state of current scientific research into the world’s warming climate, as well as the chilling story of how a few climate change deniers in Congress tried to put science on trial by indicting Bradley and two colleagues for “fraudulent” use of federal research funding.  The latter part of the story is related in Bradley’s book, Global Warming and Political Intimidation:  How Politicians Cracked Down on Scientists as the Earth Heated Up (University of Massachusetts Press, 2011).

I came away from the talk not sure whether to be depressed or reassured.  On the one hand, there was plenty in Bradley’s presentation to feel pessimistic about.  He noted that even in the very best imaginable scenario, if all fossil fuel burning were to stop tomorrow, enough greenhouse gases have already been released into the atmosphere over the past 200 years (and particularly since the Second World War) that the world’s climate will continue to warm right through the 21st century and beyond.  In other words, it’s too late to reverse what’s already been done–the best we can possibly do is to deal with the consequences and try to stop making it even worse. Continue reading A climate scientist spells it out for us

New Green Communities

Petersham and Wendell Earn Clean Energy Leadership Status in the Sixth Round of Green Community Designations

Town Energy Committees in both Petersham and Wendell worked to meet five clean energy criteria and write up a 20% energy reduction plan for their town buildings.  In Petersham Linda Paquet provided the leadership for writing the Green Community proposal.   In Wendell, Nan Riebschlaeger and the town energy committee provided leadership for writing the proposal.  Both these communities must now work to implement projects to reduce their energy use in town buildings.  Petersham is now eligible for $138,425 to implement projects.  Wendell is eligible for $138,125.  Both towns will be working with the MA Department of Energy Resources in the coming months in order to receive money for their town.

Grants for the communities designated today will be funded by Alternative Compliance Payments (ACP) made by electricity suppliers who don’t meet their statutory Renewable Portfolio Standard obligation to purchase a sufficient percentage of renewable energy. Green Communities grants also receive funding from proceeds of carbon allowance auctions under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).  There are 110 communities in Massachusetts with Green Community Designation now.

Other towns in the North Quabbin area continue to work on reducing their energy use in town buildings.  Athol, Barre, and New Salem also have Green Community Designation with grants to help them reduce energy consumption in town buildings.   Although Orange does not have Green Community Designation, the Orange Selectboard recently signed an agreement with Borrego Solar for the construction of a PV system on the capped landfill.

Work continues on reducing energy use in town buildings through the work of town energy committees in Athol, Barre,  New Salem,  Orange,  Petersham, Royalston, Warwick and Wendell.  Check out the pull down menu above for town committees to see some updates.