Response to concerns over pipeline called a ‘brushoff ’
AMHERST – The governor’s response to a letter from selectmen questioning the value of a gas pipeline through New Hampshire amounts to a "polite brushoff," Selectman John D’Angelo told the board last week.
Selectmen had written to federal regulators, copied to state officials, explaining their objections to the plan from Kinder Morgan and its subsidiary, the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company.
Gov. Maggie Hassan "is not taking a strong position for or against, unlike former Massachusetts Gov. Duval Patrick," said D’Angelo who is the board’s vice-chairman and its representative to the Amherst Pipeline Task Force. He also said her letter of response suggests the governor has a "superficial understanding of the issues."
Selectmen have come out against what is called the Northeast Energy Direct project, the second attempt by Kinder Morgan to build a pipeline through New England to Dracut, Mass.
In December 2014, the company dropped its original route that would have put the pipeline through northern Massachusetts, a plan that met with fierce resistance from Massachusetts and from Hollis, where a lateral line would have gone through conservation land.
The Amherst selectmen’s nine-page letter, sent to the Federal Energy Regulary Commission in June, questions the need for a 36-inch natural gas pipeline going through 71 miles of southern New Hampshire.
The idea that New Hampshire needs more power generation it calls a "phoney problem," and it says Massachusetts would be the major beneficiary of a pipeline that would exploit New Hampshire for the benefit of Massachusetts.
Kinder Morgan’s proposal also distracts from the real need, it says, for expanded and reliable electric and natural gas distribution systems.
Since Kinder Morgan only has one confirmed customer in this state, "I don’t know why they want to go 71 miles through New Hampshire," D’Angelo has said. "One customer would be served just fine by a lateral line from Massachusetts."
FERC will be coming to the area July 30 for what it calls a scoping meeting in Milford Town Hall to gather comments on the pipeline’s potential environmental impact.
Saying they want to maintain some leverage in case the current plan is approved, selectmen have asked for a better route through Amherst that avoids dense residential neighborhoods and sensitive environmental areas.
"Some people ask why we are working with Kinder Morgan," board Chairman Dwight Brew said at the board’s July 13 meeting, and D’Angelo replied that it is because "virtue and goodness" don’t always win and it is important to prepare for a bad outcome.
Towns, such as Merrimack, which has refused to deal with Kinder Morgan, have lost their opportunity to negotiate a better route for themselves, Amherst selectmen agreed.
Kinder Morgan representatives met with the Amherst Pipeline Task Force on June 30 and in a letter to FERC, Town Administrator Jim O’Mara said the town is still looking for more route changes to avoid dense residential neighborhoods, including an approved workforce housing project.
Milford has also come out against the pipeline, and its task force also concluded that there is insufficient need for the pipeline in New Hampshire potential benefits to the town would not make up for the harm it would do.
Kinder Morgan is still in the pre-filing stage of the process and must get approval from FERC and from a New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee.
D’Angelo told Amherst selectmen Kinder Morgan is not going to be ready to file its NED project with FERC in September, as it had planned.
The overall project would expand the existing Tennessee Gas Pipeline system from Pennsylvania through New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut.
Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.