Selectmen push Hassan to oppose gas pipeline

AMHERST – Selectmen are keeping the pressure on Gov. Maggie Hassan for what they call her tacit support of the proposed natural gas pipeline that would run through 17 New Hampshire towns, including Amherst.

Earlier this summer the board wrote the governor asking her to take a stand. When she replied with what they called "a polite brush-off" they wrote another letter saying the town is prepared to sue Kinder Morgan to prevent "unconstitutional taking" of land and asking her again to take a stand.

"It is time for our state-level elected representatives to come down off the fence, or out from behind their clouds of platitudes, and tell the residents of New Hampshire what their position is on this pipeline and its December, 2014, rerouting through New Hampshire," said Selectman John D’Angelo in an email. "If they support it, what are benefits to New Hampshire for which the residents of 17 New Hampshire towns are being asked to give up their quality of life, peace of mind, and property rights to enable it to happen."

In response to a query from The Cabinet Aug. 14 the governor sent a letter to FERC Chairman Norman Bay the same day (see below) that stops short of opposing the pipeline but addresses some of selectmen’s concerns.

Hassan’s letter asks FERC to consider alternatives that would place the pipeline closer to communities that will be directly served and asks that Kinder Morgan develop proposals that ensure communities will see energy benefits from a pipeline. Hassan also asks the regulators to consider alternatives that would place the pipeline closer to communities that will be directly served.

D’Angelo, who is selectmen’s representative to the Amherst Pipeline Task Force, said in an email that he is glad Hassan mentioned concerns raised by the towns, but the selectmen "look forward to our governor taking a firm stand either for or against this proposed pipeline and its 71 mile excursion from Massachusetts into New Hampshire."

Amherst selectmen believe the pipeline was rerouted from Massachusetts last year as a political maneuver on the part of Kinder Morgan, because of intense pressure from residents and political leaders.

"Former Gov. Deval Patrick’s strong position against the pipeline was apparently the final nail in the coffin for the original plan for the NED project, but to date, KM has not had to contend with a hostile NH governor and other state leaders," said Selectman Nate Jensen in a statement to the Amherst board.

The Amherst Pipeline Task Force analyzed energy supplies and distribution and concluded that the plan would not serve the energy needs of Amherst or New Hampshire and would exploit New Hampshire for the benefit of other states. A Milford task force came to a similar conclusion, saying New Hampshire would use only 6 percent of gas that would go through the Northeast Energy Direct Project, as it’s called, a volume that would be served by a lateral line from Massachusetts.

In their Aug. 10 letter Amherst selectmen said Hassan has made public statements generally supportive of the pipeline.

"If you believe this pipeline proposal and its route through Amherst are good for the residents of our town and our state, please make the case to your constituents. Better still, please come to Amherst and address the issue directly with our residents in a town hall discussion," they wrote.

By recommending that Amherst take its concerns to the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee, they wrote, the governor suggests she is willing to accept Kinder Morgan’s proposal to shift the route back to New Hampshire.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the state committee are the major decision-makers on the route for what is called the Northeast Energy Direct project.

"The NHSEC lacks the authority and jurisdiction to tell Kinder Morgan to shift the route back to Massachusetts and out of New Hampshire," said selectmen. "Only the FERC can do that and the FERC is much less likely to instruct Kinder Morgan to do so if the representatives of the state of New Hampshire are AWOL on the issue during the pre-filing phase of the project."

Kinder Morgan is expected to file an application with FERC in October, and on Tuesday, Sept. 15 the company is holding an open house in Hampshire Hills athletic club from 6-8 p.m.

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

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

Full text of the governor’s letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC):

Norman C. Bay, Chairman

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

888 First Street NE

Washington, DC 20426

RE: Docket No. PF14-22-000

Dear Chairman Bay:

I write to request that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) require Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company (the Company) to respond to the questions and concerns of New Hampshire residents related to the proposed Northeast Energy Direct (NED) Project, as well as to ask the commission staff to closely review these concerns and consider potential alternative routes as they begin the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) process.

Over the past few months, I have heard from many communities and individuals along the proposed route with a number of safety, environmental, economic, and health questions and concerns. To address these issues, I request that FERC, or the Company, as part of the DEIS process, provide detailed responses to the concerns and questions of New Hampshire residents, including the following:

· The protection of drinking water is critically important to our state and our people. Many residents and municipalities have concerns about potential impacts on the region’s water supplies, water quality, and water supply infrastructure from the development of natural gas transmission infrastructure. Has Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company compiled a complete inventory of potential impacts to water supplies and water quality from the proposed NED Project? If not, we request that FERC require such an inventory. What efforts will be undertaken to avoid or mitigate any potential impacts to water supplies and water quality? What, if any, short-term and long-term water quality monitoring will the Company conduct?

· Many residents and municipalities, particularly those in New Ipswich and the surrounding towns, have concerns with potential air quality and emissions impacts from the proposed compressor station, as well as concerns about noise and the size of the proposed compressor station. What efforts will be undertaken to avoid or mitigate air quality impacts from the compressor station? How will Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company measure and control methane and other emissions from the compressor station? How will the Company measure any downwind air quality impacts? Are there alternatives to a 40,000 horsepower compressor station? To address noise concerns, we ask that the Company provide detailed information about noise impacts and mitigation related to the proposed compressor station.

· Some of the towns along the proposed route are rural in nature and may have only limited emergency response resources. Will Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company work with communities to enhance emergency response capabilities? How will the Company monitor for potential safety issues?

· There are many concerns that the project is not needed in our state, and that any regional benefits will not outweigh the impact on the communities along the proposed route. Does FERC’s public need review consider where any unsubscribed capacity on the proposed line will be used? Does FERC’s review consider any benefits that the project would have on system reliability and energy prices for all states in the region, including New Hampshire? It would be useful for stakeholders to understand the methodology that will be used to calculate these types of cost/benefit calculations in FERC’s review of the project.

· Many concerns have been raised that this natural gas will be exported to other nations. We ask that the Company provide a detailed response to these concerns, and to commit to using these supplies in New England.

· The current proposal traverses primarily through communities where residents and businesses do not have access to natural gas. While we recognize the potential positive impact that increased natural gas supplies could have on energy prices across the region, we urge FERC to give serious consideration to alternatives that would place the pipeline closer to communities that will be directly served. In addition, we ask the Company to develop proposals that ensure that any impacted community will see energy benefits from a pipeline.

· State agencies are currently reviewing the Company’s Resource Reports and other filings and may have additional questions. It is my hope that you will require the Company to respond individually to state agency questions and concerns, as well as to questions and concerns from municipalities.

In addition to requiring the Company to address the questions above, I ask that FERC staff looks closely at the proposed route and consider all potential viable alternatives. The siting of energy transmission projects must strike a balance between potential benefits in reduced energy costs and potential negative impacts. We must work to ensure that the potential negative impacts of the proposed NED Project do not disproportionately outweigh the benefits, particularly for the residents and communities that would bear the burden of hosting the project.

Thank you for your consideration.

With every good wish,

Margaret Wood Hassan

Governor