Sunday, March 1, 2015

As pipeline project moves forward, residents opposing it continue to mobilize

By Ella Nilsen Sentinel Staff

JAFFREY — The main room in the Jaffrey VFW was silent at the start of Saturday’s community meeting on the proposed Kinder Morgan natural gas pipeline.
More than 100 area residents sat in rows of chairs and watched a photo slideshow of area lakes, meadows and mountains with somber piano music in the background.
It felt like being at a memorial service for the natural environment that opponents of the pipeline plan fear could be altered if the 36-inch wide pipeline cut through the local towns of Fitzwilliam, Richmond, Rindge, Troy and Winchester .
Though the mood in the room was somber, it wasn’t one of defeat.
“Our water, our land, our way of life,” the last slide read. “Stop N.E.D.”
The acronym refers to the Northeast Energy Direct project, another name for the pipeline. If approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the pipeline will traverse approximately 70 miles of southern New Hampshire.
If the project continues on schedule, the Houston-based pipeline company will file its formal application with federal regulators at the end of this year.
Since the first announcement that Kinder Morgan moved its preferred route from Massachusetts to New Hampshire, concerned residents have jumped into action, forming groups against the project, including Rindge Pipeline Awareness.
On Saturday, that group’s main message to local residents was: Say no, and say it often.
Rindge resident and group member Maryanne Harper said she hopes everyone in the room would write to their legislators, town officials and FERC commissioners protesting the route through New Hampshire, no matter if their land is affected or not.
“No one can be silent on this,” Harper said. “The more of us that work together, the more effective we can be.”
Harper also had the numbers of properties affected by the project, which she got from Jim Hartman of the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, a Kinder Morgan subsidiary.
Rindge has the highest number of potentially affected properties, with 73. Fitzwilliam has 40; Winchester, 32; Richmond, 21, and Troy, 15.
Rindge property owner Joseph Desruisseaux is one of those property owners. Although his house isn’t right on the pipeline route, he estimates it’s about 1,000 feet away. He hasn’t had Tennessee Gas Pipeline surveyors knocking on his door, but his neighbors have.
Still, Desruisseaux is afraid of what being so close to the pipeline could do to his property value.
When asked if he’s thought of trying to sell his house and move away, he said, “The thought has crossed our minds, but what are we going to get for our properties? It’s a serious impact.”
Besides property values, Harper also discussed the safety record of Kinder Morgan pipelines as well as the question of whether the project would bring jobs to the region.
“This is all union work,” Harper said, adding that she had spoken about this with a Laborers’ International Union of North America representative at a recent Kinder Morgan open house in Winchester.
“Many of these jobs are not just out of town, but out of state,” she said.
Other presenters talked about natural gas being exported to foreign countries and questioned whether the new natural gas pipeline is needed to supply energy to New England residents.
Presenter Stephen Wicks of Plainfield, Mass., showed a short video he made about natural gas compressor stations. Wicks traveled to a compressor station in Nassau, N.Y. He said the noisy compressor station runs 24 hours per day and sits on 40 acres.
The meeting was attended by local state representatives, including Susan Emerson, R-Rindge, Jim W. McConnell, R-Swanzey, Carol R. Roberts, D-Wilton, and Christopher R. Adams, R-Brookline.
Emerson and Roberts said they were heartened by N.H. House Majority Leader Jack Flanagan’s recent letter asking federal regulators to deny the Kinder Morgan pipeline.
Flanagan, who represents two towns on the route, wrote a letter to FERC in which he favored another pipeline project in Massachusetts by Spectra Energy, which seeks to expand an existing line.
Roberts said she hopes Flanagan’s comments will also change the mind of Gov. Maggie Hassan, who has not explicitly come out for or against the pipeline.
In her 2014 state of the state address though, Hassan mentioned the New England governors’ energy infrastructure collaboration “that prioritizes natural gas capacity.”
“This effort has already made progress, and the regional grid operator, along with our utilities and pipeline owners, are working on how to put additional natural gas in our region as quickly as possible,” Hassan said in that speech.
After Kinder Morgan announced its plans, Hassan’s spokesman William Hinkle said she will “continue to urge the company to listen to communities, take steps to reduce impacts, and ensure local benefits.”
The local residents and representatives who will be affected said they hope Hassan and New Hampshire’s delegation in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives will take more of a stand against the project.
“If they really listen to (the residents), then we have a chance,” Roberts said.
Ella Nilsen can be reached at or 352-1234, extension 1409. Follow her on Twitter @ENilsenKS.

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