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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Nashoba Conservation Trust presents at Brookline pipeline hearing

BROOKLINE – About 50 Brookline residents met this week to learn more about a controversial proposed natural gas pipeline project and to strategize ways to stop its construction.

Ken Hartlage, president of the Nashoba Conservation Trust, gave a presentation to the Brookline selectmen on Monday about the background of the proposed pipeline, the approval process, and what is being done in Massachusetts to fight the pipeline. Hartlage and the trust’s vice president Paula Terrasi then fielded questions. ...

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BROOKLINE – About 50 Brookline residents met this week to learn more about a controversial proposed natural gas pipeline project and to strategize ways to stop its construction.

Ken Hartlage, president of the Nashoba Conservation Trust, gave a presentation to the Brookline selectmen on Monday about the background of the proposed pipeline, the approval process, and what is being done in Massachusetts to fight the pipeline. Hartlage and the trust’s vice president Paula Terrasi then fielded questions.

Residents questioned why the six New England governors even suggested the pipeline, as opposed to alternative sources of energy, and what can be done to stop it from being built.

Hartlage said governors in the six New England states have discussed ways to alleviate energy shortages during peak usage periods, especially as older power plants are shutdown.

One resident questioned how the governors were able to make this decision without public input, while another asked about the availability of minutes from these meetings, and whether they considered other energy sources. Hartlage said that while there are minutes available from the New England States Committee on Electricity, unfortunately there is no documentation pertaining to the meetings of the six governors.

“There is a website and material online, but what remains a mystery is the agreement that was struck,” he said. “We first learned about it in January, after it was all signed off.”

The pipeline in question has been proposed by Kinder Morgan, parent company of Tennessee Gas Pipeline. It would be 3 feet in diameter, and run for 187 miles across northern Massachusetts, to bring natural gas from New York State to existing facilities in Dracut, Mass. Kinder Morgan also has unofficially proposed building a dozen transmission-line offshoots, roughly a foot in diameter, including one through Hollis to a Liberty Utilities facility on Route 101A in Nashua. Because the proposed path cuts through Beaver Brook Association conservation land, alternate routes have been researched, including two that would run through Brookline. Brookline selectmen wrote a letter to Kinder Morgan opposing the project.

According to Hartlage, the pipeline would affect 750,000 people in 45 towns in Massachusetts, but it travels mainly through forest and wetlands, areas that are sparsely populated. Kinder Morgan is in the process of surveying towns and collecting data, with a goal of obtaining Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval by November 2016. Construction would begin the following January and the pipeline would be operational in late 2018.

“This pipeline has a capacity of 2.2 billion cubic feet of gas,” said Hartlage, “but the governors have asked for one quarter of that, so who is it being built for? We are not necessarily going to get the benefit of it going through. It could be for other commercial entities or for export. We’ve asked residents, and they see no benefit.”

Brookline resident Kari Bremer spoke at length about her firsthand experiences with the effects of pipelines and fracking during the time she lived in New Mexico and Colorado.

“There is no question that where this product comes from and its source is dirty and extremely shortsighted,” she said. “You are fracturing the continental crust; it really doesn’t make sense. We have been squashing alternative energy for the sake of oil and gas and they have been beefing up their profits, but fossil fuel is ancient and archaic and it is time for something new.”

Several residents expressed concerns over the impact the pipeline would have on aquifers, animal habitats and the environment, as well as potential safety hazards and the effects blasting would have on wells. Terrasi said Massachusetts residents have been writing letters to the governor and the attorney general, and urged Brookline residents to contact their elected officials.

Brookline resident Lindsay Van Schoick suggested that people make it difficult for Kinder Morgan by refusing to participate in the survey process, which would cause delays. He also encouraged his neighbors to support the efforts in Massachusetts, saying if the pipeline is stopped there, it won’t be coming through New Hampshire.

Irene Labombarde can be reached at 471-1867 or ilabombarde@nashuatelegraph.com.