Natural gas line extension through Hollis has some people upset

HOLLIS – Hollis selectmen set a public hearing for next week regarding a proposed extension of a natural gas line that would run through the town.

Representatives of Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. have been approaching homeowners in Hollis, Pepperell and other communities, asking to survey property in preparation for extending a natural gas line into New Hampshire from northern Massachusetts – and not all those homeowners are happy about it.

“We would have to go on paying taxes on land that no longer belongs to us, and mow it?” said Carrie Kepnes, of 37 West Hollis Road, Hollis. Her family was approached Feb. 28 by a representative of Kinder Morgan, the firm that owns Tennessee Gas Pipeline, asking to do a survey. The company proposes to run the line along the back and western edge of the family’s two-acre lot, according to some preliminary maps she has been shown, using a 50-foot-wide swath for the buried pipeline.

The proposed pipeline would be a lateral connection – 12 inches in diameter, according to preliminary maps given to Hollis – carrying natural gas north from a proposed main line running across northern Massachusetts. Judging from preliminary maps that have been shown around communities, the line would connect with the proposed main line around Jewett Street in Pepperell, cut north through a town-owned orchard, crossing into Hollis, pass through land owned by Beaver Brook Association, cross under Nissitissit Brook and under Route 130, and end up near Nashua Airport. There is probably would connect to a natural gas line that runs along Amherst Street, Route 101A, between Nashua and Milford.

That proposed main gas line in Massachusetts, 179 miles of pressurized, 36-inch-diameter pipe, is known formally as the Northeast Expansion Project. It would stretch between existing pumping stations that connect to natural gas lines, one in Pittsfield in the Berkshires and the other in Dracut, just south of Hudson.

Hollis selectmen have scheduled a public hearing for Monday, April 14, at 7 p.m. in Town Hall to discuss the issue.

The Hollis selectmen’s announcement about the meeting says, “Unfortunately, Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. has not provided the board of selectmen with specific information at this time.”

“The board of selectmen has not granted survey permission yet” for lines on any town-owned property, the announcement says.

The Northeast Expansion Project, which would open in 2018 at the earliest, is one of two new major gas lines designed to move more shale gas into New England from fields in New York and Pennsylvania. The other line, Algonquin Gas Transmission owned by Spectra Energy, would run through Connecticut to Boston.

Dracut selectmen had a public hearing on Tuesday, April 8, to discuss the matter.

Proponents say the lines would ease the squeeze on natural gas that sent prices soaring this winter – at one point they quadrupled because of shortages in supply, affecting heating and electricity bills. The low cost of natural gas in recent years has made it by far the most important fuel source in the region, driving out coal-fired and nuclear power electricity plants.

Opponents say that the lines would encourage fracking in shale fields with its accompanying problems, and would trample on property in Massachusetts. Many are particularly alarmed by the possibility of Tennessee Gas using eminent domain to override property owners objections.

The firm has not applied for Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license that would give them eminent domain authority, but is likely to do so.

Kepnes said the line alongside her property would require cutting down all the trees in the right of way and perhaps some adjoining areas, and moving the small barn the family built for their chickens.

“When I’m in the kitchen, I like to look out at my yard, at the trees, at my chickens in the yard, in our garden,” she said. “That would be ruined.”

Kepnes is also concerned about the effect on property values. Preliminary discussions indicate that Kinder Morgan proposed to pay the family around $30,000 for the easement on roughly half an acre of property, based on the assessed value of her land – but not the home.

South of the state border, the situation is the same in Pepperell, Mass., where home owners have been contacted but no formal plans submitted.

“Everyone’s been contacting me, asking what do we do,” said Paula Terrasi, conservation administrator for Pepperell. “They’ve been knocking on doors asking for permission to do a survey. … It covers topographic, land ownership. septic, drainage, buried lines, swimming pools, structures.”

No formal plans have been submitted to Pepperell, Terrasi said.

David Brooks can be reached at 594-6531 or Also, follow Brooks on Twitter (@GraniteGeek).