Concerns, Information Gaps Noted at Gas Pipeline Session

An open house and information session Tennessee Gas Company hosted at Windham High School last week to discuss its proposed Northeast Energy Direct (NED) pipeline project drew a noticeably small crowd.

Of those in attendance, many who went up to the microphone to speak at the Rockingham County event had traveled from Dracut, Mass., where the Market Portion of the pipeline is to terminate.

Faces in the crowd from Londonderry were those who have been following the project since initial public discussions began early this year.

Cherylann Pierce of Londonderry said it appears people are busy with the holidays, work, their commitment to family – or, “they have just given up.”

For Pierce, the project represents an issue much greater than the potential impacts to her hometown.

Looking to the future, Pierce is concerned about the impact the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure in New England and beyond will have on the global environment – and particularly, how burning fracked gas will affect the region’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Having praised the Londonderry Town Council’s vote to take the position the pipeline project will not bring any identified benefit to the Town of Londonderry that could outweigh the potential impacts, Pierce opposes the project and is calling for a greater investment in sustainable, renewable energy sources, like and wind and solar.

In their presentation of the project at the Dec. 1 informational session, Tennessee Gas officials argued it’s “not either/or with renewables, there’s an integrated approach.”

“We thoroughly believe natural gas is symbiotic with renewable energy. Wind and solar can’t grow without natural gas,” Tennessee Gas Business Development Director Curtis Cole said.

Cole noted the reason New England’s energy prices are so much higher than the national average is because “gas-fired generation sets the prices for electricity 70 percent of the time in New England,” and access to natural gas in the region is limited.

“When access to natural gas drops off, you turn to coal and oil. From an environmental standpoint, natural gas is by far the way to go,” he said.

However, opposition groups maintain that increasing the quantity of natural gas in the region would not serve to benefit the environment.

“Natural gas does offer certain advantages. An important one is that the emissions that are produced by burning gas are considerably lower than those produced by burning coal or oil. If the fuel pumped through the proposed pipeline were destined to replace these other fossil fuels, New England’s carbon emissions would be reduced and its air quality would improve,” Stephen Spaulding of Hollis wrote in an opinion published on the website of local opposition group NH Pipeline Awareness. “The fact is, however, that this replacement has already largely occurred, with natural gas currently supplying more than half of New England’s needs for heat and electricity, while the combined share for coal and oil has declined to less than 5 percent. Furthermore, although relatively clean, natural gas is a fossil fuel that does add carbon to the atmosphere. Thus, an increased gas supply would offer virtually no gain in terms of regional environmental goals.”

In addition to concern about the environment, attendees asked how the project would affect the landscape of their communities and local property values.

Londonderry residents Cindy and Pat Wang, whose home abuts the Eversource easement through which both the new transmission line and the pipeline are to be installed, attended the information sessions to learn what they could about the project, including how impacts to their property could be mitigated.

“We’re going to get hit twice,” Tom Wang said. “They going to start cutting trees in 2016-2017.”

And when Eversource and Tennessee Gas do start cutting trees, the Wangs’ view of the power lines behind their home, previously obscured by the forested land, will open up.

When asked during the question and answer session how the proposed pipeline project will impact local home values, Tennessee Gas officials said studies in New Hampshire referenced in their filing with the FERC conclude any decline in the value of properties as a result of the pipeline project would be negligible.

But Wang said that has not been her experience.

“We have neighbors who can’t sell their house now. It has been on the market for months. They had two potential buyers, but as soon as they say Eversource or pipeline, they’re out,” she said.

Wang noted she and her husband still haven’t gotten any real answers about how Kinder Morgan and Eversource will work together to mitigate the impact the two substantial projects will have on their property during and after construction.

“When we talk to Eversource, they have no idea how Kinder Morgan’s project will work,” she said.

Dave Hennessey of Pelham called on Tennessee Gas officials and the SEC to delay the pipeline project until the energy infrastructure company and Eversource reach an agreement to collaborate their construction in the right-of-way, conduct joint environmental impact studies and form joint agreements with underlying owners of power line easements.

“I want to thank Kinder Morgan for agreeing to go before the SEC, because it’s not required. They only need federal approval. And for staying so consistent in their argument about co-location,” he said. “I have heard Kinder Morgan needs more information on this agreement, and you have talked numerous times about environmental impacts, doing surveying, and the fact you needed an agreement with the power line companies; and yet, the power line companies are telling us they don’t have any such agreement with you. We have a single project in terms of impacts to the homeowners with two different companies. I think you should delay this by at least six months until these projects can be coordinated.”

Other concerns raised at the informational session included the safety of the pipeline, long-term maintenance and how residents living near the proposed pipeline route will be affected during the estimated two-year construction period, scheduled to begin late in 2017.

Tennessee Gas Officials assured attendees they have a proven record of safety and that their standards for construction are very high.

Tennessee Gas X-rays all wells and tests its pipelines with water to make sure they can hold pressure, according to Huse, who said the company completes all those checks before gas is entered into the system.

Huse added the company will continue to monitor the pipeline once it has been installed, and that there are safety measures included in the installation, such as valve spaces along the pipeline that have remote control operation, allowing the company to shut in gas at a location where a leak has occurred.

“We are highly regulated and have strict safety standards,” he said. “Because of the pressures we’re dealing with, if there’s any sort of leak, there isn’t a grading system on natural gas systems. We take care of it immediately.”

The informational meeting was one of three scheduled in New Hampshire in advance of Tennessee Gas Company’s filing with the SEC for a Certificate of Site and Facility.

Kinder Morgan officials said if the project progresses according to schedule, they anticipate the pipeline will be in service for the winter heating season in 2018.

When asked if the Town will see an abutter list for the project in the near future, Kinder Morgan Public Affairs Director Alan Fore said the company has already identified the parcels along the proposed route, but will not be releasing a list of property owners abutting those parcels.

“Those names are confidential,” he said.

Kinder Morgan has been sending notifications to all property owners who abut the proposed pipeline, and Fore noted residents could use a map identifying the involved parcels to identify potential abutters.