Latest news on the pipeline

Well, things just keep getting more interesting for Kinder Morgan, the energy company that wants to run a natural gas pipeline through parts of Amherst and Milford and several other New Hampshire communities, to wit:

? The state Office of Energy and Planning says the pipeline can’t go through Amherst’s Scott conservation land.

? Milford selectmen don’t want the company surveying town-owned land for the pipeline.

To the first we say hurrah. We don’t think anything, particularly something privately owned and possibly problematic, should go through conservation land. Problematic how, you ask? Well, here is some information from an Associated Press story run in the Jan. 28 issue of the Boston Globe.

“Three powerful accidents in recent years highlight weaknesses in the oversight of how natural gas providers maintain their largest pipelines, investigators said (Jan. 27) as they issued more than two dozen safety recommendations.”

The story quoted the National Transportation Safety Board as saying that more improvements are needed “to prevent catastrophic gas transmission line accidents …” And it mentions a few specific accidents including one in 2010 in California in which a “massive section of pipeline was blown out of the ground, igniting a giant pillar of fire … Nine people were killed and 70 homes destroyed.”

Now, of course that story goes far beyond dealing with a pipeline running through conservation land and illustrates, we think, at least one of the reasons local residents are opposed to the project, but the conservation ruling is still important in light of the almost constant (but recently quiet) attempts by some members of Congress to open up the Alaska wilderness to oil drilling. There seems, to us, a correlation.

The issue with the Milford selectmen seems to speak to a general negative feeling about the pipeline project. The board voted 4-1 against letting Kinder Morgan survey, even though such a survey would in no way obligate the town to support the pipeline. We base our conclusion about the general feeling on this comment from Selectman Kevin Federico as reported in last week’s Cabinet:

“I have no interest in making it easy for them. “

We have no idea how this is going to play out. We don’t have much faith in the state or national boards that regulate the gas and oil industries given that these industries often seem to get what they want, at least in part. Witness the cell tower industry and the regulatory commissions that say, in essence, “Blight the landscape? Sure, go right ahead.”

Now it is true, of course, that we all benefit from the work of the oil, gas and phone industries and we need to ensure that we are able to get the products when we need them which is, really, all the time. And we know that pipelines have to go somewhere and they certainly aren’t going to go through urban centers.

So what’s the answer? Some sort of incredibly complicated zig-zag route that only goes through fallow land? Hardly seems possible.

Still, we stand with the residents who are asking, really:

“Why here? Why us?”

We’re not sure that Kinder Morgan has answered that yet, especially in light of the company’s decision to abandon a route in Massachusetts in the face of public protest. We ask about that route:

“Why not there? Why not them?”

And what about the safety issues?

Let’s get those questions answered in public forums as soon as possible.