Amherst says pipeline exploits New Hampshire for the benefit of Massachusetts

AMHERST – Massachusetts would be the prime beneficiary of a the proposed natural gas pipeline through 71 miles of southern New Hampshire, according to a letter to federal regulators from the town of Amherst.

The nine-page letter analyzes energy supplies and distribution and concludes that the 36-inch pipeline proposed by energy giant Kinder Morgan would not serve the energy needs of Amherst or New Hampshire and would exploit New Hampshire for the benefit of other states.

Calling the idea that New Hampshire needs more power generation “a phony problem,” the letter describes the state as a “net exporter of power,” having “one of the highest ratios of power generation versus consumption in the country.”

The letter goes on to argue that there is no proof that the proposed pipeline will result in decreased power prices.

“The simplistic view is that if there is more gas available in New Hampshire, more power will be produced here, thereby driving down costs. This view is refuted by New Hampshire’s current status as a major power exporter … that also has very high electric rates.”

What New Hampshire needs, the letter says, are expanded and reliable power distribution systems for electricity and natural gas, and the proposed pipeline “is a distraction from the capital improvements we need in our state to improve the reliability of energy supply for our residents and industries.”

Comparing New Hampshire’s power-generating capacity to that of the five other New England states, the letter provides data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration from 2012 and 2014 showing electricity generation and usage by state. It shows New Hampshire, and four other New England states have a surplus, while Massachusetts has a deficit.

New Hampshire “is more than self-sufficient in power production to the point where we export a substantial share of the power we produce.”

The letter references the New England State Committee on Electricity and the tax on electric rate payers NESCOE proposed.

“Using NESCOE regional data as a cover,” Kinder Morgan “proposes to subject New Hampshire property owners to potential losses in value, use and enjoyment, due to easements “negotiated” under the background threat of seizure by eminent domain.”

Calling NESCOE a
“quasi-governmental authority that has rejected any form of accountability,” the letter says it has proposed the tax to demonstrate to the federal government there is financial backing “for the private enterprise that is the NED (North East Direct) gas transmission pipeline in order to justify the potential seizure of private property.”

Yet, “federal policy says pipeline expansions are not to be subsidized by existing customers to ensure that there is a market need for the project,” says the letter and urges FERC to do its own analysis.

Since the benefits of a number of different proposed pipelines for the New England region “accrue primarily to Massachusetts,” those pipelines should be built in Massachusetts – as was originally proposed, the letter says.

Last year, a pipeline route proposed for northern Massachusetts was scrapped after resistance from towns along the route, as well as from Beaver Brook Association in Hollis, where a lateral line going through conservation land was proposed.

The original route’s lateral line that would have supplied “the sole confirmed customer in New Hampshire,” was a better attempt to assign the burdens caused by the project onto the residents of the state that would receive the majority of the benefits.

After deciding against the Massachusetts route, Kinder Morgan came up with the current proposal that mostly runs parallel to electric power lines through 17 towns.

“The decision to reroute this proposed pipeline through 71 miles of New Hampshire, to the detriment, harm and potential taxation of New Hampshire residents, and for the ease, comfort and convenience of residents of Massachusetts would be an unconstitutional taking from residents of New Hampshire for the benefit of residents of another state,” the letter concludes.

The letter is based on information gathered by the town’s pipeline task force and dated June 8, the same day Milford’s Pipeline Task Force presented selectmen with a report that also says there is insufficient need for the pipeline in New Hampshire.

“Clarifying whether any New Hampshire energy needs will be served by the pipeline is not only common courtesy to the people of the state of New Hampshire, but a legal requirement,” says the letter.

Signed by Amherst selectmen, the letter is going to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, state and local officials.

This is the second Amherst letter to FERC. The first focused on the impact of four miles of pipeline through the town.

In April town officials met with representatives from Kinder Morgan and its subsidiary, Tennessee Gas Company, and asked them to change the route to avoid residential neighborhoods and sensitive conservation land. Company representatives said they would consider the suggestion to move the route south to the area of the Bon Terrain Industrial Park.

Kinder Morgan says it plans to officially file with FERC later this year.

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