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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Overwhelming opposition to natural gas pipeline at town meetings in Pepperell and Groton

Opposition is continuing in nearby Massachusetts towns to a proposed natural gas pipeline that would include a link through Hollis to Nashua.

On Monday, town residents in Pepperell, Mass., and in Groton, just to the south of Pepperell, voted overwhelmingly in non-binding resolutions opposing the pipeline. ...

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Opposition is continuing in nearby Massachusetts towns to a proposed natural gas pipeline that would include a link through Hollis to Nashua.

On Monday, town residents in Pepperell, Mass., and in Groton, just to the south of Pepperell, voted overwhelmingly in non-binding resolutions opposing the pipeline.

The voice votes came at special town meetings which drew hundreds of people each, according to reports in The Lowell Sun.

The resolutions tell selectmen to oppose the pipeline project proposed by Kinder Morgan via its Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. subsidiary, citing a variety of issues, including safety, property values and the environment.

Tennessee Gas Pipeline wants to build a 187-mile-long, 3-foot-diameter, buried pipeline to carry pressurized natural gas from shale fields in eastern New York state across northern Massachusetts. It would end in Dracut, south of Hudson, where the gas would enter the existing distribution systems.

As part of the project, now called Northeast Direct Energy Project, Kinder Morgan also is considering whether to build as many as a dozen offshoots to serve various customers, including a 10- or 12-inch buried steel pipeline that could run north from Pepperell, diagonally through Hollis to a Liberty Utilities facility on Route 101A in northwest Nashua.

The idea has met strong opposition in Hollis, partly because the initial proposed routes would cut through some preserved land owned by Beaver Brook Association.

The Sun reports that several Middlesex County towns along the proposed pipeline route are banding together into a coalition to oppose the project.

It’s not clear how much effect local opposition can have, however. If the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gives the project a positive finding – something that wouldn’t happen for at least a year – it would have legal authority to use eminent domain to place the pipeline in certain areas, despite landowner objections. FERC has a guide for citizens concerned about interstate gas pipelines at its website www.ferc.gov/for-citizens/citizen-guides/citz-guide-
gas.pdf

The attorney hired by Hollis told that town’s selectmen in May that “facts and policy arguments that … developed at the land-use level is more important than an expression of a position, an opinion, at a referendum.” Robert Ciandella, an attorney specializing in the development of large energy projects, was responding to suggestions that Hollis hold a non-binding referendum of its own.

The pipeline route is still up in the air. Kinder Morgan said it has not decided whether to pursue the
billion-dollar project as it continues to line up customer contracts.

New England has been hit by natural gas shortages in the past two winters, as more electricity plants switch to the fuel from more polluting fuels like oil and coal, and higher-cost nuclear power. When it gets cold, the amount of gas used for heating leaves insufficient supplies for electricity production.

This has led many people, including all six New England governors, to urge more pipelines be built.

Panelists at a discussion held Monday at Saint Anselm College, for example, called the situation a “looming energy crisis” that could bring much higher winter energy costs, even if pipelines are built.

David Brooks can be reached at 594-6531 or dbrooks@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Brooks on Twitter (@GraniteGeek).