Amherst will ask Kinder Morgan for new pipeline route

AMHERST – The town will ask Kinder Morgan to find a new pipeline route – one that does not cut through residential cul-de-sacs and the Ponemah Bog sanctuary.

The Amherst Pipeline Task Force has been studying the proposed route for Kinder Morgan’s Northeast Energy Direct project, a 36-inch natural gas pipeline proposed to go through four miles of the southern section of Amherst, part of a 70-mile route through southern New Hampshire.

The task force has been studying the route and other aspects of this pipeline, and gas pipelines in general, including their safety and economic impact.

John D’Angelo, the selectmen’s representative on the task force, said the group is not proposing a specific route, but is telling the company what parts of town it should avoid.

Selectmen are trying to set up a meeting with Kinder Morgan, D’Angelo said, and if it happens it will be public.

Not long after the pipeline company announced its preferred route, the board voted unanimously to have no closed meetings with the company, and last month it voted to oppose the route, which mostly follows the electric power lines and goes through several pieces of conservation land, including Ponemah Bog and some residential neighborhoods.

“The power line easement does not work for Amherst,” D’Angelo said in a phone interview, and the task force wants it to go through more open space and less into residential neighborhoods.

And rumors that the task force is proposing a path along Route 101A are not true, he said, and “nobody is eager” for that route.

The task force is expected to issue a report soon on pipeline safety and the economic impact of pipelines, and it will likely generate some opposition.

“Lots of things that people have been told are true are not true … by both sides,” the selectman said.

”People who are committed to a position, because they think it should be true, may not like” the reports, said D’Angelo as he alerted the board last week to the potential controversy.

News stories early this month about the Amherst Conservation Commission’s preliminary report on the pipeline set off a “small fire storm,” he said.

The committee concluded that the pipeline might have a limited long term impact on the town’s ecology provided certain issues concerning the bog and the pipeline river crossings are addressed.

But the commission also expressed a number of concerns, including concerns about Ponemah Bog, a large wetland system maintained by New Hampshire Audubon. The gas transmission line would cut through 2,600 linear feet of wetlands, including 1,600 linear feet of the bog.

The commission began looking at the route last winter at the direction of selectmen and studied land use, water resources, habitat and species, wetlands, geology and soils, visual resources, recreation, public health, hazardous materials, and air quality.

D’Angelo noted that anyone can give town officials feedback through the link on the town web site, and minutes of the pipeline minutes are expected to be on the town website soon.

The next meeting of the pipeline task force is on Thursday, May 7 at 7 p.m. in Amherst Town Hall.