Gas pipeline takes a detour

Kinder Morgan confirms will bypass county; opponents still wary
CHATHAM–Kinder Morgan and its subsidiary, Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company (TGP), announced last week that they are changing plans to add a new gas pipeline that would have gone through the properties in the towns of Chatham, New Lebanon and Canaan.

The original proposal was met with organized opposition in both Columbia County and in Massachusetts, and one group of opponents says the new route does not address the basic issue involved–the country’s heavy dependence on fossil fuels. The companies now plan to reroute the pipeline, called the Northeast Energy Direct (NED) program, through existing utility rights of way in other parts of New York and New Hampshire. The new plan skirts all of Columbia County.

In the press release announcing the change the company wrote, “Following a thorough evaluation of feasible route alternatives for the market path of the project from Wright, New York, to Dracut, Massachusetts, the company plans to submit an amended resource report filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Monday, December 8.”

The release says that the new route would enable the pipeline to avoid and substantially minimize crossing “areas of critical environmental concern in Massachusetts.”
The company plans to adopt both the New York Powerline Alternative and the New Hampshire Powerline Alternative, “which will utilize existing utility corridors to lessen the environmental impact of the project.”

“Powerline alternatives result in less land disturbance and environmental impacts, as stated in the press release,” wrote Richard N. Wheatley, Kinder Morgan’s director of corporate communications and public affairs, in response to an email from The Columbia Paper’s questioning why the company changed the route.

The release quoted East Region Pipelines President Kimberly S. Watson, who said that “by adopting the New York Powerline Alternative and the New Hampshire Powerline Alternative, TGP will be able to construct significantly more of the pipeline adjacent to and parallel with existing utility corridors in portions of New York, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, reduce the need for construction in undeveloped portions of the market path region and lessen environmental impacts.”

Ed Simonsen, chair of the county’s Environmental Management Council, said in a phone interview that the rerouting means the county would avoid having to suffer the potential hazards of having the pipeline. “I think it is terrific,” he said. And he credits the community members’ efforts of coming together to oppose the pipeline.

Last January members of the Chatham Town Board received letters about the original NED project and local residents attended several board meetings this fall to express concern about the project. As proposed by the company, the new pipeline would be three times larger than each of the three existing pipelines through northern Columbia County. Greater volumes of gas and the pressure of the gas would also be much higher. The existing pipelines currently cross at least 17 properties in Chatham.

A group called Stop NY Fracked Gas Pipeline presented its concerns about the project at the town a meeting in September, saying that the gas in the pipeline was obtained through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which they believe represents a threat to human health and the environment. Also, they talked about safety issues with pipelines, citing the potential for leaks and pipeline explosions.

Representatives from Kinder Morgan held an information session with town officials in New Lebanon in late October. Several representatives from the town boards of the three towns along the line as well as landowners and residents in the area attended to ask the company about its plans and the possibility of a compressor station being built in New Lebanon.

There is already a gas pipeline compressor station for the current pipelines in Malden Bridge in the Town of Chatham.

The representatives stressed they were only in the planning phase of the project and that the demand for gas was what would determine the size of the pipe, though all new pipelines will be high pressure.

In the release from the company, they wrote, “The NED Project is being developed to serve specifically the New England region. The New England region, as a whole, stands to benefit from the NED Project as it will bring additional gas supplies to meet the growth needs of local distribution companies, enable New England to sustain its reliance on natural gas-fired generation and lower energy costs by providing scalable transportation capacity attached to lower cost, nearby domestic and abundant Marcellus natural gas supplies.”

“Marcellus” is the name of the shale formation in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and other areas where fracking is used to extract large deposits of natural gas. The Marcellus shale formation extends into the southern tier and central regions of New York State, but this state currently has a moratorium on fracking, while the health and environmental impacts of the process are studied.

Chatham Supervisor Jesse DeGroodt said in an email this week that he just gotten word from the company about the new route, confirming, “I received formal notification that the route will not take the pipeline through Columbia County.”
The proposed revised route will now include “approximately 188 miles of new and co-located mainline pipeline facilities, including about 53 miles of pipeline generally co-located with TGP’s existing 200 Line and an existing power utility corridor in western New York.”

When the pipeline was proposed in Massachusetts several municipalities opposed having pipeline expanded and Governor Deval Patrick said there needs to be more information before the pipeline could be expanded, according to the members of the Stop NY Fracked Gas Pipeline group.

In an email comment to  The Columbia Paper, Robert Connors, co-founder of Stop NY Fracked Gas Pipeline, wrote, “Kinder Morgans’ proposed use of ‘existing utility corridors’ in its ‘New York Powerline Alternative ‘ (NYPA) does not equate to less environmental damage; Kinder Morgan would clear a hundred-foot-wide path next to existing power line corridors in its expected ‘NYPA’ announcement today.”

He went on to quote members of his organization writing that “Stop NY Fracked Gas Pipeline does not have a preferred pipeline route; our preferred path forward is away from fossil fuel dependence period.”

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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