TOWNSEND — A proposed natural gas pipeline running through parts of northern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire has met with strong opposition.
New Englanders are objecting to the pipeline that could go through or near their properties and open space. They also question the need for the new infrastructure.
Kinder Morgan’s proposed Northeast Energy Direct project is a moving target. Since the project was first proposed it has changed many times. The first preferred route, released in 2014, cut across the northern tier of Massachusetts. Grassroots organizations coalesced in affected towns.
Boards of Selectmen and town meetings voted against the pipeline. Groups tried to make sense of the available maps, which showed the pipeline bisecting buildings and water supplies.
In December, Kinder Morgan changed the preferred route, bumping part of the route up into New Hampshire. Approximately 87 percent of the 71 miles would be adjacent to or collocated with an existing power line corridor, the company said in a January 2015 document at www.kindermorgan.com/content/docs/Benefits_2015.pdf.
Townsend and Lunenburg are the only local Massachusetts communities that are still in the path of a new pipeline. The Fitchburg lateral is planned to run between the main pipeline and an existing pipeline in Lunenburg.
New Hampshire communities have joined the battle. A compressor station, slated for Townsend under the original preferred route, is now proposed for nearby New Ipswich. A new website, www.newipswichpipeline.info, gives residents a place to voice their concerns and learn more.
Townsend’s Carolyn Sellars began her fight when the first route would have plowed through family land in Winchendon. The next iteration, with the main pipeline shifted north, showed the lateral running near her home in Townsend.
Later, she got a letter. The lateral’s proposed route had shifted, now running through her property.
Even without the newest incursion, the self-proclaimed climate-change battler would be fighting the pipeline. “Once you start looking into this project, you realize how stupid it is,” she said. “It’s hard to walk away from a fight like that.”
“A month ago it really came into my backyard,” she said.
Folks in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Pennsylvania are all pushing back against the pipeline, she said. Their concerns are varied.
The route is not truly collocated with existing rights-of-way, she said. According to Kinder Morgan documents it will be adjacent to existing corridors, a plan that she says will widen cuts through open space. Power lines that were once hidden behind trees may become visible.
Property values could be affected. Property with environmental protection and historical properties will be changed, she said.
On July 24, Kinder Morgan released 6,500 pages on environmental and social impacts of the project, she said, but questions remain unanswered. One opponent counted 1,000 items that still need to be determined in the statements required by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
And while a pipeline accident is unlikely, if one occurred it could be catastrophic, she said. “Things are likely to go up in flames right away. There’s no chance of firemen coming to save your house.”
Opponents also question the need for the pipeline.
“This is an overbuilt project that is not needed in Massachusetts or New England now,” Sellars said. Instead, it seems that the pipeline will allow natural gas to be exported through Maine to Canada, she said.
“Kinder Morgan has not denied their market is the export market,” she said.
If the natural gas is exported, it could mean higher prices domestically, she said.
Sellars provided a study done in 2012 by the United States Energy Information Administration. If gas is exported, different scenarios show between a 10 and 15 percent increase in the cost of gas at the wellhead by 2035. The same study shows a less than 10 percent increase in price if there are no additional exports.
Local FERC scoping meetings will be held in Dracut on Aug. 11 at 7 p.m. at the high school and in Lunenburg at the high school on Aug. 12 at 7 p.m.
FERC will take comments at the meetings and use the information to determine if the project meets the threshold of convenience and necessity to get a certificate, Sellars said.
Usually anyone can speak at these meetings and FERC limits comments to three minutes, she said.
Sellars plans to be at both sessions. “I have my own things to say,” she said. Some of them might be questions.
“It’s hard to provide comments for consideration, particularly if we don’t know what the project is,” Sellars said. “It keeps changing.”
Information on the proposed pipeline from Kinder Morgan is available at www.kindermorgan.com/business/gas_pipelines/east/neenergydirect/.
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