Pipeline proposal ditched

Community leaders cite local opposition

After Kinder Morgan announced last week it is shelving plans for a 188- mile natural gas pipe­line that would have run through a number of New Hampshire towns, lo­cal political leaders said community opposition was probably a big factor in the energy giant’s deci­sion.

Kinder Morgan said it was a purely business decision – that it doesn’t have enough commit­ments from potential customers to continue with the multibillion-dollar project.

That was good news for local towns along its route and for residents whose properties would have been affected by the 30-inch pipeline. The Northeast Energy Direct project would have taken gas from Pennsylvania through New York, west­ern Massachusetts and 71 miles of southern New Hampshire.

Milford and Amherst had come out strongly against the plans, and Amherst had succeeded last year in getting Kind­er Morgan to make major route changes to avoid sensitive areas.

In letters and at public hearings, residents and of­ficials had appealed to the chief agency in charge of approving the project, the Federal Energy Regula­tory Commission, as well as to the governor and con­gressional delegation.

John D’Angelo, the head of Amherst’s Pipeline Task Force, said he believes the intense community opposition all along the pipeline’s pathway was a factor in Kinder Morgan’s decision, along with com­pany’s stated reason.

"The cumulative weight of the opposition in Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts and New Hampshire took its toll," D’Angelo wrote in an email to The Cabinet.

"However, I also be­lieve KM when they say they are shelving the proj­ect due to a lack of com­mitted customers. The FERC has never approved a pipeline that had only 40 percent of its capacity ‘booked’ before construc­tion, and given the record-setting volume of (mostly unsupportive) comments the NED project drew, I doubt the FERC would have made this pipeline the first one approved in that condition.

"That, plus the fact that 80 percent of the commit­ted volume of gas would have been unloaded from the NED pipeline before it entered New Hamp­shire made the entire 71 mile route through this state nonsensical."

D’Angelo also called the idea promoted by pipeline supporters that local elec­tricity rates would fall if more gas is pumped into New Hampshire "a com­forting delusion."

Amherst selectmen took a stand against the pipeline early last year and pressured Gov. Mag­gie Hassan to do the same.

"Sound rationale was developed that showed this pipeline should not be built in Amherst and New Hampshire, and this information will hopefully deter efforts to resurrect a similar plan in the fu­ture," Selectmen’s Chair­man Dwight Brew wrote in an email to The Cabinet.

In 2014, Kinder Morgan had moved its planned route up from eastern Massachusetts and put it through southern New Hampshire. Many New Hampshire residents and officials believed the company scrapped that plan because of lack of support from Bay State political leaders.

Executive Councilor David Wheeler, of Mil­ford, told FERC represen­tatives at a public hearing last year that "Granite Staters aren’t ‘pipeline patsies.’ " In a phone in­terview last week, he said he had been concerned about the conservation land the pipeline would have traversed, calling it a "skunk strip across our landscape."

The pipeline would have gone through nearly every municipality in his District 5, and he said it was clear it was being built for exporting gas.

"New Hampshire was being asked to take the hit … and they couldn’t justi­fy to FERC that there was a need," Wheeler said.

Gary Daniels, a Milford selectman and state sena­tor, had been among the last of the officials to op­pose the pipeline.

"There were a number of questions they didn’t supply answers for," he said – especially the ques­tion of what benefit there would be to New Hamp­shire and whether there was a need.

It was not appropriate to consider eminent do­main when there was not going to be a benefit to the community, Daniels said.

Residents along the route had persistent con­cerns about gas leaks, explosions and environ­mental disturbances. Mil­ford Town Administra­tor Mark Bender said he is thankful for the sake of the homeowners who would have been directly affected.

"We will remain vigi­lant and work toward en­hancing this suspension to a more complete reso­lution," he said.

D’Angelo said the proj­ect might appear again someday.

"Kinder Morgan has spent tens of millions of dollars on the work to date, and they will not throw this work away, they will shelve it," he said. "And maybe someday, if the circumstances and economics change, the NED might ‘rise from the grave.’ However, I think we are all safe from that for at least a generation."

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