~~~UPDATE: The project has been officially scrapped its pipeline project May of 2016.~~~
Undoubtedly many of you had heard me speak about the proposed Kinder-Morgan/TGP Northeast Energy Direct pipeline project over the past year or so, and until now there hadn’t been any major developments. Before I dive right into the recent changes for the project as announced by Kinder-Morgan, let me begin with a bit of background.
The Kinder-Morgan pipeline project is “being developed to meet the increased demand in the Northeast United States for transportation capacity of natural gas” [ref]Kinder-Morgan, NED Project.[/ref] and will be capable of transporting up to 2.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. The 128 mile pipeline project was originally slated to use eminent domain for 91 miles of it’s route and pass through numerous state and local forests. While I am no expert, these numbers seemed high for a ‘public good’ project:
TGP described its preferred route through nine Franklin County towns as requiring 91 miles of new right of way and 37 miles of co-location with existing powerlines, affecting 1,554 total acres for construction, crossing 231 wetlands covering 85 acres, 118 bodies of water, affecting 357 acres of federal endangered or threatened species habitat, 1,139 forested acres, 118 acres of farmland, 30 acres of federal lands, 107 acres of state forest or parkland, and 52 acres of wildlife management areas. — The Recorder [ref]Check out the original article here.[/ref]
A plan which seems ignores the massive network of high-tension power lines, with their established support roads and buffer zones, just sounds like a poor idea right off the bat. In addition there is already two other pipelines which make a similar journey from New York to the Mass coast and Dracut and which could be upgraded to operate at a higher capacity. But like I said, I am no expert. Nevertheless this was a personal matter, and while I’d rather not resort to NIMBY arguments, this proposed project forced my hand. Below is an image of the Kelly-Hubbard Farm, location of the family run Old Dam Farm company, superimposed with the location of the proposed pipeline and buffer zone.
As you might be able to make out from the image, the pipeline would travel by our driveway and cut directly through our vineyard and mandate a clear-cutting of many acres of our 68 acre property (outlined). Who knows what would have happened to our 1880’s farmhouse and barn? As you can imagine, we dreaded the possibility of finding out.
Since they already operate an established and functional pipeline route in the region, I am curious as to why they decided that this new route with its obvious cost and concerns (per excerpt above) could be the most economical opportunity for the company. Clearly it must be, but having the chance to see the dollar figures underpinning all these decisions would be quite intriguing.
Fortunately for us, not only did the other impacted property work together to stop the project, but so too did our neighbors from miles and miles around. In an immensely fruitful blitzcrieg of marketing signs and civic groups were spun up.
Virtually every front yard within 20 miles of the proposed route sported one of two signs (or both):
And thanks to the work of countless individuals, the primary route for the project has since been altered to take advantage of power line cuts and other utility lands instead. Here is a map from the Boston Globe’s article [ref]Boston Globe.[/ref] on the change:
While there is certainly still a lot of uncertainty and a palpable amount of legal ambiguity in the Kinder-Morgan press releases, I am thankful for the step in the right direction and hopeful for the future. It just seems right that the pipeline, with its expansive buffer zones and relay station requirements, be relegated to existing utility-use lands rather than conservation, private, and public use lands as the previous plan entailed.
I’ve included the current map released by Kinder-Morgan as to their route alteration [ref]The press release map (pdf): NH_Map_Nov2014[/ref], but it is actually easier to use Google Map and simply follow the power line cuts as seen from the satellite view.