Kinder Morgan filing confirms revised Berkshire pipeline route
Energy giant Kinder Morgan has submitted its first draft environment impact report for its 430-mile, nearly $5 billion Tennessee Natural Gas pipeline proposal, including responses to initial reaction by federal regulators.
The 2,120-page resource report sent to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) doubles down on the company's revised pipeline route first outlined on Dec. 8. The 36-inch pipeline would carry natural gas from the Marcellus shale fields of southwest Pennsylvania to the company's Dracut terminal north of Lowell.
Kinder Morgan confirmed it has settled once and for all on a route through upstate New York, entering Berkshire County from Stephentown and passing through parts of Hancock, Lanesborough, Cheshire, Dalton, Hinsdale, Peru and Windsor.
It moves on to Plainfield in Hampshire County, eight towns in Franklin County, and 17 communities in southern New Hampshire before re-entering Massachusetts.
Most of the route would be on a 100-foot wide construction pathway parallel to existing utility corridors.
However, the company put off until later this year details on a planned compressor station in Windsor. The preferred route appears to run through Notchview Reservation, according to Kinder Morgan maps.
There was no further detail on expansion of an existing meter station along a pipeline offshoot in North Adams.
Kinder Morgan also notified regulators that it will not build new liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants or recommission existing LNG facilities. Pipeline critics have suggested that the company could seek to export some of the new pipeline's supply offshore.
The report expanded on the company's reasons for shifting its original route away from Richmond, Lenox, Washington and a sliver of southeast Pittsfield to the now-finalized route to the north.
In addition to the advantages of running alongside existing power lines, the company stated, the final route bypasses residential areas of Pittsfield and Dalton, reduces environmental impacts, prevents "habitat fragmentation" and affects far fewer Berkshire property owners.
It also avoids the Lenox watershed as well other wetlands and environmentally sensitive areas such as Kennedy Park and Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary shielded by a provision of the state constitution.
Compared to 160 property owners affected on the original route, 81 are now listed by the company. Across the state, there are 279 landowners along the 400-foot wide path to be surveyed by Kinder Morgan, down from 955. All together, 522 properties in Massachusetts would be involved, a decline from 1,468 on the first route.
The largest pipeline and terminal operator in North America continues to maintain that the pipeline is essential to meet the New England region's growing demand for natural gas, a less expensive alternative to supply electricity-generating plants compared to other fossil fuels.
From start to finish, the project is designed for a capacity of 1.2 billion to 2.2 billion cubic feet a day of additional natural gas supply.
Kinder Morgan also offered its first reaction to a so-called "Access Northeast" project by Spectra Energy, working with Eversource (formerly Northeast Utilities and other suppliers) and National Grid on a proposed expansion of the Algonquin pipeline along the New England coast.
The company asserted that the project could not serve Tennessee Gas Pipeline shippers in New England, New York and New Hampshire without a new set of pipelines that are not under consideration.
Earlier this month, Kinder Morgan announced that TGP had signed final, binding contracts with seven major "anchor shippers" — including National Grid and Berkshire Gas — to purchase about 500 million cubic feet daily.
But Northeast Energy Solutions (NEES), a nonprofit advocacy organization, filed a three-page document with FERC on Monday challenging the financial model of the pipeline project. It represents the Trustees of Reservations and the Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition, among others.
NEES accused the company of providing "inconsistent information to mask the true facts about the proposal's progress."
A letter to FERC by NEES legal counsel Vincent DeVito contended that Kinder Morgan's public statements were "designed to trumpet progress when, in fact, no real progress has occurred." He claimed that this month's TGP announcement of contracts reached with major shippers was "misleading" because the same companies were listed last July.
"In view of the time lapse since TGP's initial announcement of shippers, the probable unavailability of additional shippers, recent state regulatory rulings, and TGP's continuous representation that it does not intend to export outside the United States, it is quite likely that TGP already knows that NED is not financially viable," DeVito wrote.
In response, public affairs director Richard Wheatley asserted that "information about the NED Project has been and continues to be disseminated in a timely and accurate manner." He pointed out that the recent announcement confirmed that agreements had been reached and, for the first time, included details on how much natural gas some distributors would purchase, including a major commitment from National Grid.
Discussions with other potential customers and shippers continue, including electric distributions companies, Wheatley added in an e-mail statement, and more commitments are expected to be announced later.
On the web: To read Kinder Morgan's draft environmental impact report, go to http://1.usa.gov/1GB6E37
Timeline. . .
Pipeline Project Deadlines. . .
June 2015: Kinder Morgan to submit its second draft environmental impact report.
September 2015: Kinder Morgan to file formal application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for its pipeline project, plus its final environmental report.
November 2016: FERC to issue ruling on the proposed Northeast Energy Direct project.
January 2017: If approved, construction activities to begin.
November 2018: The 430-mile pipeline could go on line.
Sources: Kinder Morgan, FERC.
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