Group aims to block any Kinder Morgan effort to revive pipeline project


A group that helped lead the fight against the suspended gas pipeline across Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire is asking federal regulators to seal the demise of parent company Kinder Morgan's $5 billion project.

A motion to dismiss and deny the company's application for the 412-mile Northeast Energy Direct pipeline has been filed to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by the Pipeline Awareness Network for the Northeast (PLAN-NE).

The document posted late Monday by PLAN-NE President Kathryn Eiseman, of Cummington, calls for the application dismissal "with prejudice," a legal term meaning a final judgment barring the applicant from refiling for the same project.

"We plan to submit a status report to the FERC no later than May 26, as previously stated in filings with the commission," according to Richard Wheatley, Kinder Morgan's director of corporate communications and public affairs, in an e-mail to The Eagle. The company has no comment on the PLAN filing with the regulators, he added.

Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. put in its formal application for the pipeline last Nov. 20. Its parent company, Kinder Morgan, announced the suspension of the highly controversial project on April 20.

It cited insufficient demand for the additional natural gas from distributors as well as failure by state regulators to allow construction costs to be passed on to electricity customers in exchange for savings after the pipeline went into service.

Kinder Morgan's board had previously approved spending $3.3 billion for the distribution segment of the pipeline from Wright, N.Y., to Dracut near Lowell, but it had not signed off on the $1.7 billion supply segment to funnel natural gas from shale fields near Troy, Pa., to Wright, 40 miles west of Schenectady.

The company's decision was seen as a massive victory for opposition groups, communities, Attorney General Maura Healey, several state lawmakers and individual citizens along the route that included seven Berkshire County towns. But PLAN-NE wants to ensure the project does not live to see another day, Eiseman said.

In its document to FERC, she described her nonprofit group as "a broad-based coalition of organizations, municipalities, businesses, impacted landowners, citizen groups, legislators, ratepayers and concerned citizens, working to prevent the overbuild of natural gas infrastructure in the Northeast."

Eiseman described PLAN's goal as seeking "to prevent the negative economic and environmental impacts associated with overbuild, and to promote lower-impact energy solutions." Last Dec. 28, the organization became an official intervenor in the application process before the federal regulators.

In its filing, PLAN pointed out that Kinder Morgan had commitments from gas and electricity distributors such as Berkshire Gas and National Grid, among a half dozen others, for only half of the 30-inch pipeline's natural gas capacity.

Acknowledging the company's announcement that it had "suspended further work and expenditures" on the NED project, the PLAN filing also cited notifications from Kinder Morgan to prospective customers that distribution contracts were being terminated.

"Like so many rodents on a grounded vessel, these would-be customers are indicating that NED cannot go forward," the document stated. "If the company develops a new project in the region, it can submit a different application to the commission. However, that will not be the NED project."

Eiseman contended that FERC has "entertained the NED proposal far longer than warranted. The commission has allowed the company to abuse the prefiling process and mislead the public. The commission improperly accepted an incomplete application."

He added that "the commission failed to review the investment in NED by parent companies of four of the would-be local distribution company customers, and how such ownership interest in the project may have caused the distributors' subsidiaries to subscribe for more capacity than necessary or reasonable, from a ratepayer perspective."

The PLAN document argued that FERC "has, time and again, allowed the company to drag out this process without justification The public — municipalities, thousands of landowners, and others — have expended untold hours and financial resources defending their land, communities and environment against this ill-conceived and obviously unnecessary project."

Eiseman also asserted that "the public has faced deceptive practices and obfuscation from the company and its agents since the beginning of 2014. The nearly 2,000 intervenors in this proceeding deserve closure, if not restitution."

Her group noted its opposition to the project "as an extreme overbuild of gas infrastructure. Even by the commission's own narrow definition of 'necessity,' the 'need' was never there. As to 'public convenience' — respectfully, the commission should now begin to rebuild its credibility with the public by denying the company's application immediately, with prejudice, and terminating this proceeding."

Contact Clarence Fanto at 413-637-2551.


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