Milford selectman to talk with pipeline representative

MILFORD – Selectmen’s Chairman Gary Daniels said he will talk with representatives from Kinder Morgan next week about a proposed gas pipeline through Milford.

The Houston-based energy company announced recently its preferred route for a large natural gas pipeline would be through southern New Hampshire, under existing power lines and through 17 towns that include Milford and Amherst.

The plan includes no side route through Hollis, which put up strong opposition to the line going through its backyards and conservation land.

During the Nov. 24 Milford selectmen’s meeting, Daniels said Kinder Morgan asked to meet with him alone, because they are not ready to give a full presentation to the public, but they will eventually hold a series of public hearings.

The latest proposal, called the New Hampshire Powerline Alternative, involves a major transmission pipeline – 3 feet in diameter, carrying natural gas pressurized to at least 200 pounds per square inch.

The distribution line previously planned for Hollis was about 1 foot in diameter and has a much lower pressure, and thus less danger of leaks.

The New Hampshire route would bury the line under existing power lines from the Vermont border through the Monadnock region and the Souhegan Valley, then across the Merrimack River. The pipeline would end in Londonderry, connecting with the existing gas network; from there, gas could be distributed throughout New England or carried through Maine to Canada for export.

The previous transmission route through northern Massachusetts would have traveled through hundreds of different parcels of mostly private property, generating huge opposition rallies and a protest march that covered much of the 125-mile route.

The new proposal would mean Kinder Morgan will need to negotiate with far fewer property owners and face less opposition. The previous transmission route through northern Massachusetts traveled through hundreds of different parcels of mostly private property, generating huge opposition rallies and even a protest march.

Milford selectmen’s Vice Chairman Mark Fougere said there are several questions the town should ask, including whether there would be any pressure facility that would created noise. Fougere said he has asked the assessing department and community development department to put together a list of properties on either side of the power line that would be affected and suggested Milford create a task force to study the issues.

Fougere, who is a professional planning consultant, said his biggest concerns are the effects of potential blasting on groundwater and damage to private wells, and he suggested the town hire a groundwater consulting firm.

The town can not simply deny permission for the pipeline, he said. It has to convince New Hampshire’s Site Evaluation Committee with facts-based arguments. That agency reports to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which could concur or not. Federal approval would give Kinder Morgan the power of eminent domain.

And keeping the gas line out would be difficult, the selectman said, because they would be using a large power line right of way.

Daniels, who is also the newly-elected state senator for District 11, said selectmen should also think about how they could use the pipeline to the town’s advantage, possibly through a reduction in the high electric rates paid by Hitchiner and other manufacturers.

Route details are still being worked out, but the pipeline would travel about 80 miles in New Hampshire, all but 8 miles in rights-of-way owned by Public Service of New Hampshire. It’s not clear whether the route would include cut-offs that allow lateral distribution pipelines of the kind had been proposed for Hollis.

The actual route will be chosen by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the state’s Site Evaluation Committee.

In September, Hollis selectmen unanimously passed a nearly 1,000 word resolution expressing their opposition after a special town meeting in which voters expressed their disapproval of the pipeline 419-1.

The resolution mentions the potential adverse effect on wildlife, property values, historic sites, health and safety and the lack of local emergency services to adequately deal with health and safety risks.

Kinder Morgan Energy Partners’ Tennessee Gas Pipeline is a 13,900-mile pipeline that transports natural gas from Louisiana, the Gulf of Mexico and south Texas to the northeast section of the United States, including New York City and Boston.

The $2.8 billion plan to go through New England is one of at least two large proposals put forward in response to wintertime shortages of natural gas, caused when the fuel’s use to power half the region’s electricity plants clashes with its use to heat many homes and businesses.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100, ext. 304, or kcleveland@
cabinet.com.