Milford pipeline meeting draws a crowd

MILFORD – For more than a half hour, the crowd that filled the Milford Town Hall Auditorium Monday night listened politely to representatives from the energy company that wants to put a natural gas pipeline through 17 New Hampshire towns, including Milford and Amherst.

But during the question and answer session that followed Kinder Morgan’s PowerPoint presentation, people erupted in applause and shouts after Carl Phillips, of Milford, said the reason the company moved the pipeline route north was that Massachusetts residents balked at the plan, and the company thought they’d get little opposition “from a bunch of bumpkins you can push over.”

“For what possible reason should anyone in this room believe you,” Phillips asked.

The company’s presentation was part of the regularly scheduled Milford selectmen’s meeting, held in the auditorium because of the expected size of the audience.

Allen Fore, Kinder Morgan’s vice president of public affairs, called it an informal meeting and the first of many that will include open houses that will begin later in January.

Residents from Merrimack, New Ipswich, Mason and other towns along the pipeline’s 70-mile path in New Hampshire were there, along with Milford property owners from the Federal Hill area where the proposed route follows the Public Service of New Hampshire power lines.

Kinder Morgan now operates about 50 miles of gas pipeline in New Hampshire, and its newest preferred expansion route enters the state in Cheshire County, heads east through Hillsborough County – into Greenville, Mason, Brookline, Milford, Amherst, Merrimack, Hudson and Litchfield– then to Londonderry and south to Dracut, Mass.

This is the second route proposed for what is called the Northeast Energy Direct Project. Last year, a pipeline plan that would have gone through northern Massachusetts and then north into the 2,200-acre Beaver Brook Association land, was changed after massive protests from Hollis and Massachusetts towns.

The current plan is now in the pre-filing process and the company will soon be asking landowners for permission to survey their lands.

Needed would be 150 feet of land near the power lines, and of that, 50 feet would be for the permanent use of the pipeline.

“Survey permission allows us to do nothing but survey. It doesn’t limit your rights,” said Fore in response to questions.

People also expressed concerns about the impact of blasting on their wells and about the potential for leaks.

Michael Conley of Milford wanted to know if the town has any power to reject the plan.

“The town is not part of the approval process,” Fore said. Approval comes from state and federal agencies, with FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission being the lead agency.

But, Fore said, “approval may depend on satisfying the concerns of the towns and the landowners.”

About 50 landowners in Milford and about 60 in Amherst would be affected, and a compressor station and meter station would be located in Hillsborough County at sites that haven’t been determined.

Sixty miles of the 70-mile route would be co-located with the existing power line corridor, and there is a major deviation in Amherst where the route goes around the high school and middle school and into neighborhoods.

Fore and other company officials spoke about the Northeast energy crisis and the need for more energy infrastructure, and the potential to bring natural gas to areas that don’t have it.

They also said the company mitigates the impact of blasting on wetlands and other sensitive areas.

They will test wells that are within a couple hundred feet of the blasting area and then retest after blasting.

“It’s our responsibility,” one Kinder Morgan representative said. “You don’t have to sue us, and we’d put it in writing.”

They also provided a FERC docket number – PF14-22-00 for residents to sign up to receive emails.

Milford selectmen’s Chairman Gary Daniels said he would like to see the town website set up to take questions from residents.

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