New Lebanon board hears pipeline foe

NEW LEBANON—The New Lebanon Town Board held a special session before the regular meeting August 12 to discuss a proposed natural gas pipeline that would run through the town. The company behind the proposed pipeline is Kinder Morgan, the fourth largest energy company in North America, according to its website. The board allotted 30 minutes for a presentation by a group that is opposed to the project.

Bruce Shenker, a New Lebanon resident who owns property through which the pipeline would need to run, led the presentation. It began and ended with a request that the board pass a non-binding resolution “similar to the resolution that’s been passed in 26 towns in Massachusetts” voicing the opposition of the town to the pipeline proposal.

There is already a right of way through the town for three pipelines. But the largest of the three existing pipelines is 10 inches in diameter. The proposed pipeline could be up to 35 inches in diameter. The new pipeline would also send gas at triple the current maximum pressure of 500 psi (pounds per square inch).

No one from the pipeline company attended the meeting.

“The need for the pipeline is unclear,” said Mr. Shenker. He said that, while there were minor natural gas shortages last winter, the new pipeline would provide triple the amount of gas needed to make up for those shortages. Mr. Shenker noted that Kinder Morgan is attempting to get approval for gas to run both ways on a pipeline that currently only brings gas one way from Canada to the United States. He suggested—emphasizing that this was only speculation—that Kinder Morgan might use this pipeline to export gas to Canada, and from there to other parts of the world. Mr. Shenker also said that the pipeline would probably not actually provide gas directly to New Lebanon. “We’re not getting any gas from this thing,” he said.

Among Mr. Shenker’s concerns were:

  • The potential use of eminent domain to acquire a right of way for the pipeline
  • An additional compressor station that may need to be built
  • The potential for accidents
  • Decreased property values
  • What he and other opponents believe will be “the toll on our infrastructure,” including roads.

In terms of potential accidents, Mr. Shenker said that “the kind of accident that these things cause are not the kind of thing that our fire department is trained to deal with…. My house is about 200 feet from the pipeline and I assume that would be in the kill zone.”

Mr. Shenker also said that any economic benefit for the town as far as jobs or increased traffic to local businesses would be temporary. “Maybe for one month, you’re going to have more people at Bucky’s or whatever,” he said.

In response, Town Supervisor Michael Benson said, “It’s just a matter of hearing from both sides of the issue. And the public.”

During the public comment section at the end of the regular meeting, six other people voiced concerns about the pipeline. One man said that he had contacted his insurance company and was told that if the pipeline comes within 500 feet of his house, his insurance would go up by about 30%.

“If that happens, we’ll have to leave,” he said.

Several people, including Mr. Shenker, also voiced concerns about increased noise and pollution from a new compressor station.

There is presently a gas pipeline compressor station in the Town of Chatham.

Another man—the only person to voice unequivocal support for the pipeline—said, “I know there are a number of people, including myself, who have no objection to the pipeline.” He said that he would want further discussion on both sides of the issue before any resolution was passed—a sentiment shared by residents on all sides of the issue.

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