Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Kinder Morgan gains important victory in pipeline project

Posted: Wednesday, July 1, 2015 12:00 pm
By Sentinel Staff

If it smells like fish...

The state’s Public Utilities Commission staff gave the proposed Kinder Morgan natural gas pipeline project a key boost Friday. They gave the thumbs-up to a contract that would allow Liberty Utilities to buy space on the proposed pipeline, called the Northeast Energy Direct line, that would run through southern New Hampshire, including five local towns.
The state’s oversight panel is now one step closer to approving the contract between Liberty Utilities, the state’s largest natural gas distributor, and Kinder Morgan, according to an article in today’s Union Leader of Manchester.
Next up is a formal vote by the three-member commission, which will come after a public hearing July 22. But the endorsement by commission staff is an important victory for proponents of the pipeline.
Opponents told the Union Leader they plan to contest the agreement at the July 22 hearing.
Members of the Pipeline Awareness Network (PLAN) argue the agreement came despite testimony from the PUC’s expert witness and consumer advocate strongly recommending against the plan.
Ultimately, the final decision will be made by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, whose five members were appointed by President Barack Obama.
Pamela Young-Allen, the federal commission’s spokeswoman, told The Sentinel last month that the commission will evaluate the possible environmental impact of the pipeline — and whether alternatives exist — before issuing a draft environmental impact statement that will be available for public comment. A final statement will then go to the commission.
Young-Allen also told The Sentinel that the federal regulatory commissioners rarely recommend against a project.
The state’s role, through the Public Utilities Commission, is to determine whether Liberty Utilities is warranted in looking to the Northeast Energy Direct pipeline for gas for its customers. Thus, Friday’s approval by the PUC’s members is an important victory for Kinder Morgan.
It comes despite testimony by the PUC’s own consultant, Melissa Whitten, who said in May that the deal would leave Liberty with “substantial excess capacity that it would not completely absorb or grow into over the life of the contract,” the Union Leader reported. And assistant consumer advocate Pradip K. Chattopadhyay testified the deal should not be approved because it’s not in the best interests of Liberty’s customers.
Consumer Advocate Susan Chamberlin said she didn’t know why the PUC staff came to conclusions that seem to contradict testimony by its own experts. “I can’t explain the discrepancy,” she told the Union Leader.
The agreement between Kinder Morgan and Liberty Utilities was first announced in November.
The proposed pipeline would extend from Pennsylvania to Dracut, Mass., where it would connect with a pipeline to Canada. It would cross through five local towns along the way: Fitzwilliam, Richmond, Rindge, Troy and Winchester.

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