FERC Scoping

July 10, 2015

 

by Kaela Law

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is the government agency which will either approve Kinder Morgan’s Northeast Energy Direct pipeline project or deny it.

On Wednesday, July 29, at 6:30 p.m. FERC will be holding a Public Scoping Meeting at the Nashua Radisson.  11 Tara Blvd., Nashua.

On Thursday, July 30, at 6:30 p.m., FERC will be holding a Public Scoping Meeting at the Milford Town Hall, One Union Square, Milford.

A third New Hampshire Public Scoping Meeting will be announced at a future date but is probably going to be held in Winchester.

The public is invited to these meetings to provide both written and oral input regarding the pipeline project.  According to FERC, “Your comments should focus on the potential environmental effects, reasonable alternatives, and measures to avoid or lessen environmental impacts.”

If this project receives approval, FERC will issue a certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity to Kinder Morgan, as well as to set “reasonable terms and conditions” to any certificate issued to allow Kinder Morgan operation in the state.  “Public Convenience and Necessity is a vague standard for determining whether a project should be authorized,” according to James H. McGrew, author of FERC:  Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Basic Practice Series.  “Section 7c provides that applicants for a certificate are entitled to a hearing.  However, in recent years, FERC has grown increasingly reluctant to set certificate applications for hearings with opportunity for cross-examination of witnesses.  Instead, FERC conducts “paper” hearings, in which it examines the documents filed with the Secretary’s office that constitute the “record” on which FERC bases its decision.”

Since January, residents in New Hampshire have been filing comments to the FERC paper hearings regarding the Kinder Morgan Northeast Energy Direct project.  To date over 3,000 comments have been submitted.  Massachusetts accounts for 1,151 of those comments and New Hampshire is responsible for 1,135.  Of those, only three comments are in support of this project.  The town of Pelham has the highest number of “Deny Survey Access” paper forms filed with FERC, largely owing to the fact that Pelham has the highest number of affected property owners by this project in a single New Hampshire town.

One recent FERC filing came from Marilyn Learner of Hollis.  The pipeline no longer crosses Hollis in Kinder Morgan’s plans yet many residents remain steadfast in their opposition.  “Scoping meetings are about where the pipeline should go,” Learner writes, “not if the pipeline should be built.”  She calls the FERC process flawed and calls for a “moratorium on the process and decisions until those processes are reviewed and made appropriately relevant to our 21st century energy and environmental goals, for the present and the future … The FERC approval process is out-of-date and encumbered with many procedural steps to appear “diligent.”

Learner’s sentiments that FERC is just going through the motions are shared by a number of pipeline opponents.  Although neither opponent nor proponent at this time, Senator Jeanne Shaheen wrote a FERC comment for the paper record suggesting that FERC holds a scoping meeting in any town that requests one.  Pelham is one of a handful of towns that requested a scoping meeting and is not receiving one.  In this case it would appear that the agency is scheduling and performing minimal requirements before issuing a certificate.

Another recent FERC filing from Kathy Chapman of Mason states that the “capacity of the Milford Town Hall is 500.  The capacity of the largest meeting room at the Nashua Radisson is 1,000.  These meetings are held on consecutive nights the last week in July.  The scoping meetings begin at 6:30 p.m. and the halls have been reserved until 11 p.m.  If each and every minute were devoted to attendee comments, and each comment lasted approximately three minutes, only 70 people can speak.”

If the paper hearing comments to date are any indication, the Nashua Radisson and the Milford Town Hall will host well over 70 individuals wishing to comment since this is one of New Hampshire citizens’ only opportunities to verbally express their interest favorably or unfavorably with this project.

At the Kinder Morgan Open House meeting in Hudson earlier this year, a table was set aside for FERC representatives to provide information regarding their processes.  Windham resident Gail Gumbel spent the evening talking with FERC representatives to learn more about their processes.  When Gumbel asked, the representatives from FERC could only site two specific case numbers for pipeline projects that the agency has ever denied.  They quoted her 30 percent of the projects become unprofitable for the companies and so the companies themselves pull their applications.

“The Northeast Energy Direct is a perfect example of a pipeline that should not be approved,” Learner writes, “and would not be approved, if FERC’s approval process accurately and impartially assessed public need, public interest, public health consequences and regional energy policies and goals.”