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 email@example.com.