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."

Scoping meeting

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 kcleveland@cabinet.com.