Alternate gas pipeline routes go through Milford and Amherst

AMHERST – Plans for a natural gas pipeline that have caused an uproar in Hollis and Brookline and towns to the south might get a calmer reaction in Amherst and Milford.

Houston-based Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LLC wants to construct a 187-mile-long pipeline carrying pressurized gas through New York State and then up through Massachusetts and into southern New Hampshire.

The Kinder Morgan proposal bypasses Milford and Amherst, but the Beaver Brook Association has proposed three alternate routes, two of which would go through Milford and Amherst. The two routes appear to follow existing power lines to an Amherst industrial park where natural gas might be welcome.

Beaver Brook had an engineering firm work with Kinder Morgan to draw up three alternate routes, because the original route went through conservation land in Hollis.

Beaver Brook trustee Wally Key, who lives in Amherst, went to an Amherst selectmen’s meeting July 14 to explain the association’s actions.

Key called the impact of the two routes on Amherst minimal because they follow the power line to the Bon Terrain Industrial Park, off Northern Boulevard, south of Route 101A.

Selectman John D’Angelo noted that the town has had trouble bringing commercial development to Bon Terrain because there is no gas line, so either of the two routes “couldn’t hurt and could help.”

Selectman Tom Grella, however, suggested that the large aquifer under Bon Terrain would be an issue.

Key told the selectmen that if Kinder Morgan sticks to its original plan to cross Beaver Brook land, it would have to take property by force and resort to eminent domain.

“We have to protect our easements,” he said.

Last year, Key said, Beaver Brook trustees finished a three-year project to put easements on all of its 125-plus parcels – 2,200 contiguous acres in Hollis, Brookline and Milford – that the association has accumulated over 50 years.

“We are not political activists – that’s not our mission,” but “we are legally bound to protect our easements.” That is why, he said, Beaver Brook hired Tri-Mont Engineering Co. to design the three alternate routes.

Kinder Morgan’s route goes through private property in Hollis and last winter the company approached 30 Hollis residents asking to do surveys through their properties. Since then people have been crowding into meetings to protest the plans, concerned about property values, environmental damage and gas leaks.

Unanswered questions

Milford selectmen’s Chairman Gary Daniels attended a pipeline meeting in Hollis July 14 and told The Cabinet there are a lot of unanswered questions, including whether the alternate routes would go through any private property in Milford.

There was a lot of talk about eminent domain, he said, “and I don’t see justification for eminent domain.”

Key told The Cabinet the routes could go through private property in Milford, and Beaver Brook trustees would visit Milford selectmen Aug. 11 or later.

The pipeline plans face at least a year of federal and state regulatory review,

Opposition has been building in Massachusetts where at least two towns have held non-binding special town meetings and voted against hosting a pipeline,

Early in July about 150 people started a protest walk in Richmond, Mass. They plan to make their way along the approximate path of the proposed pipeline, ending in Dracut on July 26.

The Northeast Expansion Project as it’s called would carry as much as two billion cubic feet of natural gas per day, officials say. Kinder Morgan has unofficially proposed building a dozen transmission-line offshoots, roughly a foot in diameter, including one through Hollis to a Liberty Utilities facility on Route 101A in Nashua.

Since as a rule of thumb, natural gas distribution pipelines cost $1 million a mile to build – although many factors can alter that figure – cost could play a role in route selection.

The two routes through Brookline are around 15½ miles long, more than the 12.2 miles of Kinder Morgan’s plan, while a fourth route that goes along Route 122 is shorter at 11.4 miles.

At the July 14 meeting in Hollis Selectman Mark LeDoux said all the town’s land use boards would be discussing the pipeline, and the Planning Board is reviewing statutes that suggest this type of pipeline is not permitted in Hollis. LeDoux said Kinder Morgan has not responded to requests to participate in those meetings.

“Kinder Morgan believes this cake has already been baked,” he said.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100, ext. 304, or