Energy company Kinder Morgan hosted a large open house at Londonderry High School last week for local residents and residents of neighboring communities to learn more about a proposed natural gas pipeline.
More than a dozen Kinder Morgan representatives were present to answer questions as guests walked around the cafeteria reading large poster boards mounted on easels and studying large maps of Kinder Morgan’s preferred route for the pipeline on tables in the center of the room.
Most residents attended the informal meeting to gather more information about the project and have yet to take a position on the pipeline.
“It is going through some sensitive areas and wetlands. If they could accommodate by altering the plan to avoid impacting wetlands, it certainly could change our opinion of the project,” said Conservation Commissioner Marge Badois, noting it’s too early for the Commission to take a position on the pipeline, but members would be discussing and studying the project as plans move forward.
Kinder Morgan has started the pre-filing process with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and is now holding open houses to discuss the project, as required.
The preferred route for their 36-inch natural gas pipeline would cross into New Hampshire from Massachusetts, cutting through 17 communities, including Londonderry, before leaving through Pelham.
Most of the 2.5 mile route through Londonderry is located in the Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH) power line right-of-way. It’s estimated the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company’s annual property tax payment to the Town would be $280,000.
The corridor Kinder Morgan is considering as the route for the pipeline enters Londonderry at the Litchfield town line near Morway Drive, running along the PSNH power lines, across the West Road Fields, and heading southeast past Elwood Orchards into Hudson.
Kinder Morgan’s Vice President of Public Affairs, Allen Fore, said 39 landowners in Londonderry are included in their 400-foot study corridor.
“Each of those property owners will get a private consultation with our land surveyors about the survey process. Through the survey process, we are able to learn more about the property and ways we may adjust construction. The earlier the discussions, the better,” he said.
If a landowner does exercise the right to refuse the survey, Fore said Kinder Morgan’s team would do their best to survey the land from abutting properties and records of the land that are available.
Fore said specific details of pipeline construction aren’t set in stone and it’s possible they may alter the route or construction to address environmental issues and concerns of landowners identified in discussions and through the land surveys.
However, the potential effects of making such a change – for example, if the adjustment results in an additional five homes being affected – must be taken into consideration.
Additionally, Fore confirmed the size of the pipeline is still under consideration as well.
Opponents have said a 36-inch pipeline is much larger than would be needed to satisfy demand for natural gas in the region.
“It could be a 30-inch pipeline,” Fore said, noting the size of the right-of-way that would be needed for a 30-inch pipeline is the same as would be needed for a 36-inch pipeline. “We will identify the size of the pipeline when we file our application in the fall.”
With regard to questions about demand for gas in the region, Fore said there is definitely a need, particularly in New Hampshire.
“When we design a project, we must meet two criteria – there is commercial certainty, and it can be permitted,” Fore said. “We’re always evaluating and re-evaluating the project. The early discussion is important.”
But Richard Bielinski of Londonderry is concerned residents’ feedback won’t be taken into consideration during the planning process.
“We can’t go in with the attitude we don’t want it at all. I just want to make sure it’s done the right way. I want it built with the best materials,” he said. “When they built the pipeline behind the schools, we had to fight to get the pipe upgraded. It was encased in concrete, but we had to fight for that. I want it done the right way.”
The cost of the project is expected to come in around $4 billion, according to Fore.
Bielinski said he asked a representative at the open house if they would be using upgraded materials to build the new pipeline through Londonderry, and said he was informed they aren’t far enough along in the pre-filing process to confirm those details.
“The materials should be upgraded. I want to see automatic shut-downs, not manual shutdowns in the pipe. And they’re definitely far enough in the process to know,” Bielinski said.
Fore said pipelines are the safest means of transporting any material, and that Kinder Morgan’s lines are well maintained and always include shut-downs in case there is an emergency.
“In some cases, we have homes that are located right up along our right-of-way,” he said. “We have shut-downs in case there is an event and we have tools we send through the lines to detect any degradation of the lines. We maintain our pipelines properly. Education is extremely important, and we inform residents of ‘Call Before You Dig.’”
Over the next several months of the pre-filing process, Kinder Morgan will be holding several open houses and public meetings to discuss the project with the public.
“I really like this format,” State Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry said of the open house. “It allows residents to engage with the material and have their questions answered face-to-face. I think that’s important. This is a good first step. It’s important for the company to talk to people and I’m glad to see Kinder Morgan came out in force to answer questions.”
Carson said she has received about 10 phone calls from her constituents about the proposed pipeline and encourages all those who have questions or concerns to contact Kinder Morgan and attend the open house events to get more information.
Once all public input has been considered and revisions to the plan are complete, Kinder Morgan expects to file a formal application for the project in the fall.
“We have heard generally a positive response from Londonderry regarding the project,” Fore said. “The main concern we have heard has been, ‘make sure you keep us informed.’”
If the company obtains its state and federal approvals, construction could begin in the spring of 2017, with the pipeline in service by the winter of 2018.