An issue that’s far from dead, buried

Heed, you pipeline foes, the words of John D’Angelo, a member of the Amherst Pipeline Task Force, who said: "Kinder Morgan has spent tens of millions of dollars on the (pipeline) work to date, and they will not throw this work away, they will shelve it."

He’s spot on.

No corporation that isn’t self-destructive spends millions on planning for a major project just to abandon it and go on its merry way. Certainly Kinder Morgan has shelved the project, but the company said the issue was not having enough commitments from potential customers. That’s a purely economic reason, and when economics change, projects like this – a natural gas pipeline that would have, and still might, run through several New Hampshire communities – have a tendency to return.

D’Angelo said as much, although he doesn’t think it will happen anytime soon.

"I think we are all safe from that for at least a generation," he said. Perhaps.

But in a recent discussion on New Hampshire Public Radio, some members of the business community said projects like Kinder Morgan’s pipeline are needed here because of our region’s relatively high energy costs. In the world of supply and demand, more energy means less cost. Theoretically.

But one of the issues broached by opponents of Kinder Morgan was that there was no indication that the pipeline would benefit our area. The natural gas would pass through our region, but on its way to somewhere else to benefit businesses there.

We don’t dispute that our region’s businesses and industries might need newer and cheaper supplies of energy, but perhaps this pipeline wasn’t the answer, anyway. What the Kinder Morgan project did, for sure, was get people to mobilize, and that is never a bad thing. Opposition was quick to form, and that opposition didn’t just go away in the face of the pipeline firm’s initial determination to stay its course. That’s encouraging on one level: It says that people are willing to fight when they see something they believe must be opposed.

But from the beginning, it was clear that this was a not-in-my-backyard issue, too. We don’t blame people for standing up, but the project failed to garner much out-of-the-area philosophical, or economic, opposition. No one, for instance, came down from Bow or Greenland to call this a bad idea for reasons A, B or C. The opposition was local, and while there were undoubtedly philosophical and economic engines driving it to some extent, it was more about location than concept.

Now, that’s fine. We all understand anyone’s eagerness to protect their land and nearby land. The vast majority of us would do the same.

The problem is, the Not in My Backyard argument isn’t necessarily a persuasive one to the regulatory commissions that determine whether a project is acceptable and accepted, so if the Kinder Morgan pipeline comes back to, as D’Angelo said, "rise from the dead," who knows how things will turn out?

And there is every reason – primarily economic, of course – to believe that rise it will. Perhaps it won’t be in this generation, but opponents shouldn’t rest on their laurels. Remember what happened to Troy when its citizens, weary after 10 years of war, were happy to assume that the Greeks had indeed gone home. Think of us, in the pipeline case, as a Cassandra to whom it might be wise to listen. Never rest on your laurels.