MANCHESTER — U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is the first presidential candidate to publicly take a position on the proposed Northeast Energy Direct pipeline. And the Democratic hopeful’s opposition to the project has many Northeast Energy Direct pipeline opponents praising him.
In prepared remarks given during the New Hampshire Democratic Party’s annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner Sunday night, Sanders said he’s against the proposed natural gas transmission pipeline because “climate change is the greatest environmental challenge of our time.
“And that is why — right here in New Hampshire — I believe the Northeast Energy Direct pipeline that would carry fracked natural gas for 400 miles through 17 communities is a bad idea — and should be opposed,” he said.
The pipeline route is planned to run through southern New Hampshire communities including Fitzwilliam, Richmond, Rindge, Troy and Winchester, and continues to meet strong resistance from residents and local officials in towns along the proposed path. Among their concerns for the pipeline are its potential environmental and health effects, and the federal government possibly taking property by eminent domain for the project.
“God bless the Brooklyn-born Senator from Vermont for taking a position that our very own local elected officials have been too cowardly to do till now,” Richmond resident Seth Reece said this morning in a Facebook message.
Susan L. Durling, co-founder of the pipeline opposition group Winchester Pipeline Awareness, likewise praised Sanders, saying, “Here’s a politician out there brave enough to say what needs to be said.”
She said in a Facebook message that elected officials need to “start worrying about the planet they will leave their kids and grandchildren, and not about the campaign contributions they get.”
Besides Sanders, Democratic presidential candidates Martin O’Malley and Hillary Clinton gave their pitch for the Oval Office at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester. But neither O’Malley nor Clinton referenced the pipeline in their prepared remarks.
Matt Sheaff, O’Malley’s N.H. deputy state director, said after the former Maryland governor gave his remarks, he met with reporters, one of whom asked about his position on the pipeline.
O’Malley responded that he’d “be inclined to be against it,” Sheaff said.
“We use our eminent domain power for things that serve the public’s interest. And pipelines for fossil fuel extraction generally do not support our public interest,” O’Malley said in response to the question, according to Sheaff. “Lines that actually allow us to bring in clean energy do support our public interest.”
Harrell Kirstein, spokesman for Hillary for New Hampshire, said in a email this morning that Clinton addressed the topic during a town hall meeting in Keene last month.
Clinton said the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission process doesn’t give “enough weight to public opinion in the locations where pipelines are going through,” according to Kirstein.
It also doesn’t pay enough attention to other issues including health and safety, Clinton said, and therefore, she is going to do what she can to make sure the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has to pay much more attention to local communities, according to Kirstein.
Tennessee Gas Pipeline, a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan, has proposed building the high-pressure pipeline to carry fracked natural gas from shale gas fields in Pennsylvania through upstate New York, parts of northern Massachusetts and into southern New Hampshire before going to a distribution hub in eastern Massachusetts. The route would cross about 70 miles of southern New Hampshire.
The project had been in the pre-filing stages with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the past year.
On Nov. 20, Tennessee Gas Pipeline officials filed the project’s application with the FERC, putting the federal agency in a position to decide whether the pipeline is approved, which it has the power to do.
Tennessee Gas Pipeline officials are asking the commission to approve the pipeline by the fourth quarter of 2016.
In the filing, company officials described the pipeline as “transformative,” saying the influx of natural gas into the Northeast, specifically New England, would drive down high winter energy costs, and help prevent an energy shortage in the region.
Sanders also cited climate change in why he’s opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil from the tar sands of Canada to the United States.
President Barack Obama vetoed the project earlier this year.
The four members of the N.H. Congressional Delegation and Gov. Maggie Hassan have sent letters to FERC calling for transparency in the pipeline approval process, but have yet to take positions on the proposed Northeast Energy Direct pipeline.
Karthik Ganapathy, Sanders’ N.H. communications director, said in an email this morning that Sanders has known about the Northeast Energy Direct project for a “long time, and after studying it, decided that its impact on climate change would betray the responsibility we have to future generations.”
In addition to climate change, Ganapathy said, there are “justified concerns” about eminent domain being abused to seize private property, the route going through historic towns and conservation sites, and, as with all pipelines, the potential for leaks or spills.
“Now that the review process with FERC is officially under way, Senator Sanders wanted to ensure all of that was taken into consideration,” Ganapathy said.
Meghan Foley can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1436, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @MFoleyKS.