Friday, December 11, 2015

The pipeline boondoggle

For more than a year New Hampshire residents have been asking for straight answers from Kinder Morgan, a Tennessee-based corporation, about its plan to build a $5 billion natural gas pipeline that would head north from Massachusetts into New Hampshire, passing through 17 of our towns in a 70-mile swath.
During this time our questions about the pipeline’s benefits to and environmental impacts on New Hampshire’s residents and businesses have been met with corporate obfuscation, misdirection and outright lies. Finally, on Nov. 20, the company filed a 20,000-page report with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission asking its approval to build the pipeline. One would expect that answers to residents’ questions would be directly addressed in this voluminous report. Yet hidden in this latest wall of words are four fundamental lies that Kinder Morgan tries to keep hidden. Let me shed some light on them.

Lie 1: Fracked gas that this pipeline will carry is intended to meet N.H.’s energy needs. The truth: Most of the natural gas that the pipeline will carry through the state will wind up in Dracut, Mass., where it will continue on to the seacoast to be shipped to foreign markets.

Lie 2: The pipeline will lower N.H.’s energy bills, the underlying claim in KM’s huge advertising campaign carried in newspapers and on radio, TV and lawn signs. The simple truth: Most of the gas won’t even reach N.H. Furthermore, there is evidence that the average N.H. gas customer (via locally based distributor, Liberty Utilities) will incur a cost of about $600 per year — for 20 years — should the pipeline be approved. That number stems from testimony submitted to the state commission from Francisco C. DaFonte, vice president for energy procurement for Liberty Utilities.

Lie 3: Building the pipeline will create N.H. jobs. The truth: Not only will those jobs be temporary, for pipeline construction only, they will be filled by out-of-state union workers hired by Kinder Morgan.

Lie 4: As a good corporate citizen, Kinder Morgan will keep N.H. communities and residents informed of their plans every step of the way. The truth: Despite a few well-orchestrated “town meetings” replete with well-rehearsed and uniformed company representatives providing canned PR materials and free food, drinks and snacks for attendees, town officials and residents, especially those directly in the pipeline’s path, have been kept in the dark. What it couldn’t hide in its report, however, are the severe environmental impacts that building the pipeline will have on communities.

Now the truth about the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, whose job it is to decide whether the pipeline will be built. It’s about as “federal” as I am. FERC is totally funded by the energy industry, Kinder Morgan’s friends. Yet it has been given the power not only to approve this pipeline but if it does, to invoke its powers of eminent domain to seize the homes and lands of N.H. residents whose properties stand in the way. We have to ask ourselves, can this really happen in America?
The truth: Yes!

Massachusetts recognized these truths over a year ago. Their governor and legislators strongly opposed the pipeline, fought hard and won. Kinder Morgan’s response: Reroute the pipeline through N.H.. Now, after a year of sitting on the fence, Gov. Hassan, Sen. Ayotte and Rep. Kuster finally came out against the pipeline on Dec. 2. All three did so the same day, after Bernie Sanders and Susan Sarandon publicly denounced it. Were they thinking about facing reelection next year or the interests of N.H. residents? Only time will tell.

With Kinder Morgan, New Hampshire residents are facing a well-financed Trojan Horse, unabashed corporate greed masquerading as a public gift. We have to wonder how Kinder Morgan executives and shareholders, seemingly concerned only with finding more markets for their fracked gas, can sleep at night. In our quiet Currier & Ives corner of New Hampshire, we can only hope FERC will see the light and tell Kinder Morgan to take its rhetoric and its pipeline back to Tennessee.

Bob Weekes

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