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Hearings postponed on natural-gas pipeline as company unveils possible alternate routes

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LOWELL — Kinder Morgan Energy Partners has postponed 12 open houses that were scheduled for November and December in order to allow stakeholders time to consider additional information about the company’s proposal for a natural-gas pipeline, including altermative routes the company is considering.

Kinder Morgan spokesman Richard Wheatley said that the extra time would allow residents, officials and others interested in the project to review new maps, environmental-impact reports and alternate routes that the company filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Nov. 5.

“There was more information in those resource reports that we thought was going to be important to the stakeholders in the project,” Wheatley said.

The open houses, which included meetings in Dracut, Pepperell, Ashburnham and North Reading, have not yet been rescheduled.

Of the alternative routes mentioned in the FERC filings, two were deemed viable by the company, though according to the filing, the initial proposal is still the “preferred alternative.”

One of the routes turns north at Northfield and travels into New Hampshire, going through Litchfield and Pelham, N.H., before re-entering Massachusetts in Dracut. That route would co-locate the pipeline along existing power lines in New Hampshire.

The other alternate is for a smaller portion of the pipeline. Under that route, the pipeline would travel east through Fitchburg, Leominster and Townsend, go north in Pepperell into New Hampshire, co-located along Route 13, and re-enter Massachusetts in Dracut.

Other alternatives for the Wright, N.Y. to Dracut portion of the pipeline, including co-locating along Route 2, the Massachusetts Turnpike or an existing powerline corridor, were deemed not viable by the company.

Wheatley said that it was necessary to look at alternative routes, but that concerns raised by some communities about the impacts of the pipeline on the environment and residents’ personal property played into the alternative routes.

“Whenever you go forward with a project plan you have to look at alternative routes, which is why you’re seeing a host of alternate routes, and some are more feasible than others,” Wheatley said.

Follow Chelsea Feinstein on Twitter and Tout @CEFeinstein.

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