NY, MA and NH Anti-Pipeline Groups Join Forces

Feb 2, 2015

Kinder Morgan's current route for it's proposed Northeast Energy Direct natural gas pipeline

In the latest anti-pipeline move, groups from New York, Massachusetts and New Hampshire have joined forces to combat a proposed natural gas pipeline that would run through the three states.

More than two dozen organizations are banding together against Kinder Morgan’s proposed Northeast Energy Direct project. The Tennessee Gas pipeline would carry fracked gas from the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania through New York’s Capital Region, western Massachusetts, southern New Hampshire and re-enter Massachusetts ending at Dracut, about 30 miles north of Boston. Before a change in December to run along power line corridors, the initial route kept most of the pipeline in Massachusetts. Katy Eiseman is with the Massachusetts Pipeline Awareness Network, a member group of the newly formed StopNED Coalition.

“Let everyone know that this is a unified front,” Eiseman said. “Nobody was happy that the pipeline got moved in large part to New Hampshire. It’s still in everybody’s backyard and it’s everybody’s problem.”

Eiseman says the coalition plans to work with landowners and towns in the region to combat the pipeline, making their presence known at open houses Kinder Morgan is planning throughout the area.

“There are various campaigns on a number of different issues,” she said. “From conservation land that is threatened by the proposal to looking at all of the alternatives to natural gas expansion.”

Eiseman says the coalition hasn’t decided whether it will file for intervener status in the federal regulatory process or let member groups decide to do so on their own. Kinder Morgan says their project is being driven by a need for additional gas infrastructure expressed by their customers—local distribution companies who have cited rising energy costs due to a supply logjam. Kinder Morgan’s vice president of public affairs, Allen Fore, spoke with WAMC News in December when the pipeline route was shifted into New Hampshire.

“The New Hampshire piece opens up the possibility for gas service to some new communities that didn’t previously have it,” Fore said. “We’re working with Liberty Utilities, the major gas provider in New Hampshire, on just that. We’ll be talking about that over the next several months. So the adjustment is part of a process and the way the process is supposed to work. You make a proposal that you think is a needed proposal for the region. You take input and you respond to that. That’s what we’ve done.”

David Moloney lives in Hollis, New Hampshire, where a lateral pipeline was originally proposed. He helped form the New Hampshire Pipeline Awareness Network after Kinder Morgan held an informational meeting in town. Now part of the StopNED Coalition, Moloney says anti-pipeline sentiment has grown massively in his state.

“They don’t take very kindly to the idea of eminent domain and the takeover of private property,” Moloney said. “It’s just not really in their vocabulary.”

Project opponents have raised concerns about whether the gas that runs through the pipeline would be exported. Kinder Morgan says that is a possibility since those decisions would be up to the distribution companies, not Kinder Morgan. Moloney says New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan’s message on the proposal is confusing.

“Kind of in one sentence we hear that renewable energy and a diversified energy portfolio is essential to our future,” he said. “Then in the same breath we hear that its essential that we build out pipeline infrastructure.”

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker does not support the current proposal, but says there is a need to expand capacity. Meanwhile, in New York, Bob Connors, co-founder of Stop NY Fracked Gas Pipeline says opponents are quickly mobilizing in Rensselaer County, which was not included in the original route. Kinder Morgan is now proposing a compressor station in the county, along with another in Windsor, Massachusetts.

“We know our best chance is to force Kinder Morgan to drop out of the process because if it gets to the point where they officially ask for a permit, they’re going to get it,” said Connors.

Another group called Northeast Energy Solutions formed last year looking at energy alternatives and whether the pipeline is needed. If approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the $5 billion pipeline is expected to be in service by Nov. 2018.