Kinder Morgan’s open house in Milford leaves questions unanswered

MILFORD – State Sen. Gary Daniels said last week he is undecided about a proposed natural gas pipeline that would go through three of the four towns he represents and wants more information on whether the project would benefit this area.

Daniels’ senate district includes Amherst, Merrimack and Milford, which are among the 70 New Hampshire towns along the proposed route of Tennessee Gas Pipeline’s Northeast Energy Direct Project.

Daniels is also a Milford selectman and was the lone holdout when the board voted 4-1 to oppose the pipeline project.

He had hoped to gather information at the Feb. 24 open house put on by Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, Tennessee’s parent company, at Hampshire Hills, especially about whether there could be economic benefits to the towns, other than tax revenue.

But it was difficult to find enough time to talk with company representatives, he said.

“I was glad to see so many people there, but on the other hand the number of people was an impediment. It’s difficult to tell if there would be any benefit to the community,” he said.

One thing he did learn, from officials from FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee, which along with the state Site Evaluation Committee would have to approve the pipeline route, is that it would be better to propose an alternate route than reject the plan outright.

Liberty Utilities, the state’s largest natural gas distributor, has an agreement with Kinder Morgan to buy gas from the new pipeline. Daniels is looking into the Public Utilities Commission process for Liberty Utilities to get approval for expansion.

“Once I understand that process, I can assess if the process needs to be changed legislatively to enable communities to know the benefits (or lack thereof) of an expansion,” he said in a email.

Alternate route

The town of Hollis, along with Beaver Brook Association, which owns more than 2,200 acres of conservation land in Hollis, Brookline and Milford, where a route was proposed last year, came up with the alternate route, and it was moved north.

Kinder Morgan operates about 50 miles of gas pipeline in New Hampshire and the current route enters the state in Cheshire County and heads east into Hillsborough County, going through Greenville, Mason, Brookline, Milford, Amherst, Merrimack, Hudson and Litchfield, and Londonderry before heading to Dracut, Mass. to meet with a compression station.

One question Daniels did get an answer for was whether the pipeline plan is from the Department of Energy or is a free-market project by Kinder Morgan. It is not a federal project.

A NED Project handout says towns will gain annual property tax revenue and temporary jobs will be created, and during construction, benefit from spending by workers.

It also says that “several studies have concluded that bringing additional gas supplies to the region will lower the price of natural gas in the Northeast” and lower energy costs for consumers.

At the two-hour open house dozens of people from Tennessee Gas Pipeline were stationed at booths that gave overviews of the project, its safety features, and expected benefits.

The blue-shirted employees answered questions from people, many of them homeowners who would be directly affected.

People living in the direct path of the pipeline were concerned about what kind of buyouts they could expect. Those living further away had questions about safety and what would happen in the event of a disaster.

Many of them seemed unsatisfied with the answers.

“Obviously, this is all positive information here,” said Tim Finan of Milford, as he studied a poster. No one has provided good answers about disaster plans, property values and why this route was changed, he said.

Courtney Vore said her four children are upset at the prospect of a pipeline within 100 feet of her bedroom of her home on Simeon Wilson Road in Amherst.

“We will not live next to it,” Vore said.