During the Sustainability and Environment Committee meeting with Eversource officials on the Western Massachusetts Natural Gas Reliability Project, Springfield Councilor Michael Fenton pointed out the $ 44 million in tax land owed to the city by the company.

The pipeline project aims to improve gas reliability for 58,000 people in the Greater Springfield area, according to Joseph Mitchell, community relations and economic development specialist at Eversource Energy.

However, Fenton wanted to make sure that the $ 44 million in property taxes owed to the city were in the foreground. Taxes owed by the company to 87 communities have been a hot topic lately.

“Please file your case and pay your bills,” Fenton told Mitchell at the zoom meeting. “The company has retained [taxes] since 2012, with penalty and interest, this has cost the business and ultimately taxpayers $ 9,000 in interest per day. The company has withheld similar payments to more than 80 communities across the Commonwealth. “

Eversource said Thursday morning that the company’s withholding of millions of dollars in property taxes in 87 Massachusetts communities is due “to a valuation method that dramatically increases property tax costs and has no transparency.” .

Fenton said the energy company has admitted that not paying what is owed and going to court is “futile.”

“Eversource has chosen to ignore the rulings of the two highest courts in the Commonwealth, the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) and the Court of Appeal, by continuing their appeals and withholding tax,” said Karen Tonelli, director of evaluation. for Montague after hearing Eversource’s response to a MassLives article.

Eversource has struggled to pay property taxes for a decade, but has yet to win a case in Massachusetts, according to a letter sent by Mass. Association of Assessing Officers, Mass. Collectors and Treasurers Association and Mass. Municipal Association at the James Judge, CEO of Eversource.

Prior to 2012, the net book value was based on the Department of Utilities valuation. In 2012, this was changed to a 50/50 approach to net book value and replacement costs, nine less depreciation (RCNLD).

“It is both misleading and false on Eversource’s part to suggest that by subjecting their property to the appraisal method approved by the court and sanctioned by the Revenue Department, the budget gaps are closed,” said Tonelli. “Indeed, the result of these current assessments bridges the gap, those between the utilities and all other taxpayers regarding the payment of their fair share.”

However, Mitchell made a short, pre-written statement, a statement Eversource provided to MassLive in September and returned to the pipeline discussion.

“As a regulated utility and committed neighbor business, we are one of the largest taxpayers in the state, as well as the city of Springfield, and always pay in accordance with Massachusetts laws and regulations. There are different perspectives and approaches that communities can take into account when estimating a property’s estimated value each year, and we work regularly with our municipalities across the Commonwealth to resolve the inevitable discrepancies and inconsistencies that arise. may arise during this process. We are disappointed that this complex issue has been addressed in this manner, and we remain committed to working in good faith with the city towards a fair outcome for Springfield and our customers, ”Mitchell said in the written statement.

He ended by saying that was all he was willing to comment on on the matter and returned to questions from other officials on the pipeline.

Currently, the Springfield pipelines are 70 years old. The proposed new hoses, with regular maintenance, are expected to last indefinitely, Mitchell said.

Mitchell stressed the need for the pipeline in an emergency such as the tornado that swept through neighborhoods on June 1, 2011.

The tornado tore a ruinous strip through Springfield on its 39-mile, hour-long journey through western and central Massachusetts. Two people were killed in Brimfield and West Springfield; 57,000 homes were without power and 171 buildings in Springfield were condemned.

“This [pipeline] would create a termination or liability loop. On the electric side and on the gas side, ”Mitchell said. “That way we’ll have a way to re-feed, if you will, our product in case there is an interruption.”

The additional pipeline would also improve gas pressure to consumers in Indian Orchard to the north and areas of Forest Park to the east who have complained in the past that their gas pressure is low, Mitchell said.

There are three preferred paths that Eversource plans to follow.

“The cost of the project ranges from $ 22.7 million to $ 32.7 million,” said Richard Salvarezza, project manager at Eversource. “So the shortest route, the central route of the forest park is the $ 22.7 [million], our favorite route, the west route under the Longmeadow curve is $ 25.2 million, and the longest route, which is the east route to Dickinson [Street], is $ 32.7 million.

Mitchell told city councilors that he and his colleagues had looked at different routes the pipeline could take to reduce environmental impact in the areas.

According to website the description.

In 2020, Eversource bought the former Columbia Gas of Massachusetts for $ 1.1 billion.

Eversource is organizing a virtual open house to be held via Zoom to allow residents and business owners to learn more about the proposed project with subject matter experts, ask questions and provide feedback. This will take place on November 9 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and on November 10 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Springfield City Councilor Jesse Lederman plans to request an independent cost-benefit analysis of the proposal.

“I hope the Department of Public Services (DPU) will agree with this,” Lederman said. “I will also be requesting DPU hearings in the city of Springfield to ensure residents here in our area are able to comment easily with DPU. I hope residents will participate.

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