Selectmen Oppose Kinder Morgan Pipeline as Proposed

May 8, 2015

 

by Barbara O’Brien

At the urging of Windham residents who might be affected by the proposed Kinder-Morgan pipeline, selectmen agreed to send a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission voicing their opposition to the project, as currently proposed.  Identical letters will also be sent to Kinder Morgan, National Grid and Eversource Energy (formerly Public Service of New Hampshire).

Determining how to word the letter seemed to be the biggest obstacle for town officials, although all five of them agreed in substance.  The reason for selectmen’s opposition to the interstate natural gas line project is due to the likelihood that it will encroach on private property.  According to the current proposal, 46 Windham property owners could be affected.  Selectmen want the new pipeline to be laid within the utility right-of-way, already existing in the northwest section of Windham.

The letter to voice opposition to the proposal was approved by a unanimous decision (5 to 0).  A second condition added to the letter, however, did not result in unanimous agreement, but did pass.  This second condition stated that, not only would the new pipeline not encroach on these private properties, but also that any construction work done during the project would not impact these parcels of land.  The second stipulation put forth by selectmen passed by a vote of 3 to 2.  Voting in favor of the second condition were Chairman Al Letizio, Jr. and Selectmen Ross McLeod and Bruce Breton.  Voting against the second condition were Vice-Chairman Joel Desilets and Selectman Roger Hohenberger.  Desilets said he was opposed to the second stipulation as he feels Kinder Morgan should just come back with another plan.  Town officials shouldn’t be doing Kinder Morgan’s work for them, Desilets said.

The second demand came about after Windham resident Don Johnson said he believes that, even if the pipeline is put inside the existing right-of-way, construction companies would still need to clear a significant area to provide access to the right-of-way.  Johnson said the proposed location for the pipeline could cause problems with his artesian well.  Johnson expressed his appreciation to selectmen and Town Administrator David Sullivan for their “tenacious efforts” in attempting to get answers from Kinder Morgan, as to the status of its proposal.

During presentations given by representatives of Kinder Morgan earlier this year, it was intimated that the company was discussing the possibility of the new pipeline sharing space with National Grid and Eversource Energy.  Sullivan said it has been difficult, however, to get a direct answer from Kinder Morgan as to what the status of those “discussions” might be.

In recent communication with National Grid, Sullivan said he was told that the electric company is not actively negotiating with Kinder Morgan, but, rather, is still in the process of ascertaining the feasibility of sharing the right-of-way.  National Grid representatives also said that they would commence negotiations with Kinder-Morgan only if it is determined that there would be no detriment to their electricity transmission lines.

Through communications with Eversource Energy, Sullivan learned that Eversource would be willing to consider Kinder Morgan’s proposed use of the existing right-of-way, but is not negotiating with the firm at the present time.  Selectman Breton said he feels that Kinder Morgan’s proposal “is at the mercy of Eversource.”

Kinder Morgan has reportedly said that it has “an active agreement to consider the feasibility of co-location” in the existing right-of-way, including in the Town of Windham.  Kinder-Morgan’s current proposal, however, shows the new pipeline would be located approximately five feet outside the existing right-of-way.

Sullivan was told by several representatives of these companies that a feasibility study could take about six months to complete.  This raises concerns with local officials and affected property owners, as Kinder Morgan is expected to file its proposal with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission this coming September; only four months away.

Selectman McLeod said he generally supports enhancing energy infrastructure and likes the idea of more tax revenue being brought in by the completion of the pipeline, however, he also said he is very concerned about the lack of response and information forthcoming from Kinder Morgan.

Selectman Desilets said he doesn’t believe it’s Kinder Morgan’s intent to install the new pipeline within the existing cleared right-of-way.  “I don’t believe it’s feasible to have all those lines in such a compact area,” Desilets said.  Both Desilets and Hohenberger also said they don’t oppose infrastructure development in general.  “I feel there’s a way for Kinder Morgan to do this without a significant impact to Windham,” Desilets added.