Opponents to a proposed 36-inch natural gas pipeline that would cross through more than a dozen New Hampshire communities will hold an informational meeting this month.
“This meeting on Dec. 13 has been organized because a lot of people haven’t begun to realize what is going on,” said Douglas Whitbeck, a longtime volunteer with New Hampshire 350, a non-profit dedicated to raising awareness for Global Warming. “Kinder Morgan, the third largest energy company in North America, is purposefully vague. They don’t like to give you a lot of advance notice of what their plans are. We aren’t working against the same deadlines Massachusetts was working on when the initial pipeline route was proposed. They were notified last spring and had enough time to organize and hold a relay march across the state. They presented 11,000 signatures opposing the pipeline to the governor. We need to move quicker.”
But Allen Fore of Kinder Morgan said the company is just beginning the pre-filing process and wouldn’t even begin applying for permits for several months.
“Based on our construction schedule, we’re talking about being in service in 2018 with construction beginning in 2017,” he said. “Pre-filing is a time to review the scope of the project and have public meetings and open houses. We have a yearlong process ahead of us to do exactly that – hear people’s concerns and have a good dialogue. We won’t even apply for any permits until the fall 2015. There’s a lengthy period for review.”
Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith said although he first learned of the pipeline by reading about it in the newspaper, he was contacted soon after by Kinder Morgan representatives to set up a meeting, which they had on Dec. 4.
At their last meeting, members of the Conservation Commission expressed concern the route may pass through their easement at Sunnycrest Farm.
Smith, who had an opportunity to review detailed maps of Kinder Morgan’s preferred route at his meeting with representatives from the company, said it doesn’t appear to go through Sunnycrest.
“But it does go right next to the Elwood Orchards. It’s not a very long stretch that goes through Londonderry. It runs between the West Road Fields and Elwood Orchards. Most of it goes along the current PSNH power line right-of-way,” he said, noting part of the PSNH right-of-way runs by Elwood Orchards.
Smith said Kinder Morgan representatives hope to go before the Town Council for a public discussion at their Jan. 5 meeting.
The meeting sponsored by 350 New Hampshire and concerned citizens will be held at the Mason Elementary School, 13 Darling Hill Road (Route 123) in Mason from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Presentations will describe the pipeline and the proposed route, talk about the approval process, and explain what residents may do if they are opposed to the project.
Speakers will include representatives of New Hampshire Pipeline Awareness and the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund; and a 20-minute film will show what it’s like to have a compressor station as a neighbor.
Both the compressor station and meter station will be sited in Hillsborough County, according to information provided by Kinder Morgan.
Residents of any affected town are invited. Those who wish to attend are asked to respond to firstname.lastname@example.org to ensure adequate seating.
The 17 New Hampshire communities that may be affected by the project are Winchester, Richmond, Troy, Fitzwilliam, Rindge, New Ipswich, Greenville, Mason, Milford, Brookline, Amherst, Merrimack, Litchfield, Londonderry, Hudson, Windham, and Pelham.
In October, Hollis residents passed several warrant articles opposing a proposed route for the pipeline that would pass through the town. As a result, the energy company designed an alternate route in which the pipeline avoids Hollis and passes through Londonderry.
Richard Wheatley of Kinder Morgan said that alternate route was to be filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee (FERC) on Dec. 8, which begins a year-long review process.
According to the proposal for the project, the pipeline would follow a route of existing power lines in New Hampshire to minimize impacts to the environment and landowners. The power line route would be approximately 70 miles of mainline routed through Southern New Hampshire, with approximately 64 miles being co-located with an existing 345 kV power line corridor.
Proponents of the pipeline argue that it’s critical to bringing down high energy prices in the region.
“New England gas prices in the winter of 2014 were the highest in the nation, a direct result of natural gas transportation constraints caused by insufficient pipeline infrastructure in New England, resulting in consumers in the region spending at least $3 billion per year for electricity. This annual cost paid by New England consumers for electricity would pay for the additional pipeline infrastructure needed in just one year and would meet the energy needs of the region for years to come,” according to Kinder Morgan.
Estimated property taxes in the first year after the project goes into service include $11.1 million in taxes to be paid to the towns and $5.7 million in taxes to be paid to the State for local school taxes. The total estimated taxes to be paid statewide amount to $16.8 million.
“The argument in favor of the pipeline is based on this cry that we don’t have enough natural gas at peak demand,” Whitbeck said. “This is a massive overbuild. They based their claim of need on peak demand, which isn’t functioning all the time. The capacity of these pipelines far exceeds the state’s energy needs. The purpose is to get gas to the world market. If the idea is to get a pipeline funded through a tariff on our electric bill to provide a private corporation a working pipeline for global export – that is a worthy discussion.”
Whitbeck said every town along the route needs to get involved.
“We stand a much better chance of beating this by making one united, loud noise,” he said.
But Fore said the constraint on the state’s gas supply is a real challenge that has caused New Hampshire to have some of the highest gas prices in the region.
“Getting more gas to the region is a serious concern, particularly for low income folks struggling to pay the bills,” he said. “These types of projects are necessary to address those needs and concerns.”