Milford task force looks into pipeline plan

MILFORD – A natural gas pipeline through southern New Hampshire seems illogical when less than 6 percent of the gas going through the pipe will be used in New Hampshire, says a draft opinion from the town’s Pipeline Task Force.

Written by Town Administrator Mark Bender, the statement says Kinder Morgan’s Northeast Energy Direct project will provide little or no benefit to Milford.

The task force is working on a draft document expected to go to selectmen within the next two months. Judging from comments from other committee members, it seems likely there will be changes.

Kinder Morgan is proposing to send 2 billion cubic feet of gas per day across 70 miles of New Hampshire as part of the project.

Liberty Utilities is the only New Hampshire gas company signed up to receive the pipeline’s natural gas, along with a power-generating plant, Bender said, as he presented what he called rough notes to the task force at its April 1 meeting.

Bender also suggested affected homeowners petition the town to act as an intervenor on their behalf before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

FERC should also consider whether the project is the right size for the demand, and the small volume that would be used in New Hampshire “could be easily be served by a lateral line coming up from Massachusetts at a lower cost and with less social and economic impact,” he said.

Bender’s notes quote the Milford Master Plan adopted in 1999, which expressed a commitment from residents to protect the town’s character and a desire for stronger regulations to protect rural character and water resources.

The pipeline would traverse two scenic road, Ponemah and Federal Hill, and several residential developments and have a significant impact on the rural nature of the town and the neighborhoods and over 100 property owners in the Comstock, Federal Hill and Federal Point developments, all of which have private wells, Bender said.

Not everyone agreed with Bender’s assessments.

Steve Bonzar said he doesn’t understand how the pipeline impacts the town’s rural character and the draft statement doesn’t represent his opinion and should have been vetted by the committee.

“It’s a draft, a working document,” said Bender, and this is a public meeting,” and it is appropriate that it be aired in public.

Carolyn Halstead, a Milford state representative, also said it is misleading to say Liberty Utilities is the only company that has signed a contract, because others would like to sign on, but so far laws have not allowed them to.

The task force’s goal is to provide selectmen with enough facts to make an informed decision, Chairman Steve Duncanson said, and the final document will be voted on.

Don Jalbert, who represents the town’s Economic Development Advisory Council on the task force, said pipelines seem to result in little or no change in property valuations.

“After construction, the pipeline disappears underground, the grass grows,” and people’s properties values are similar to what they had been, he said.

And the pipeline’s overall economic impact for Milford is only speculative, he said.

“It doesn’t look like there will be a spigot stopping here in Milford,” he said, but that doesn’t mean Liberty Utilities or someone else won’t develop that option.

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