Tennessee Gas Pipeline: Application date set, capacity grows slightly

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Kinder Morgan's Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. has set a date to formally file an application with federal regulators for the 412-mile, $3.3 billion Northeast Energy Direct natural gas pipeline.

The official, 7,000-page document slated to be sent to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Nov. 20 will include a 20 percent increase in the pipeline's volume capacity, a slight reversal of its move in mid-July to scale back the project.

Citing "increased interest" in the new supply of natural gas from unspecified additional distributors, the company now plans to seek approval for 1.2 billion cubic feet per day along a 30-inch pipeline, an increase from 1 billion in recent preliminary filings.

Initially, the project carried a $5 billion pricetag and called for 2.2 billion cubic feet of daily volume and 36-inch pipe diameter.

In late September, Kinder Morgan announced new long-term distribution agreements with more customers.

The new shippers did not wish to be named, said Richard Wheatley, a Kinder Morgan spokesman. He described them as "producers, local distribution companies and a New York end-use market participant."

The company stated that it also plans several pipeline route modifications "resulting from continued dialogue with local community stakeholders."

But it did not list the changes in its Wednesday afternoon announcement, though sources confirmed that Berkshire County is not affected by route revisions. According to the Manchester (N.H.) Union Leader newspaper, one of the route changes may affect Merrimack, N.H.

The formal application filing had been anticipated for late this month or early November. But last Thursday, FERC officials sent the company a letter including a 32-page listing of environmental issues they want to see included in an updated "resource report."

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The regulators are seeking more details about the project's impact on endangered wildlife, soils, water sources and other resources.

If the project is approved by FERC, Kinder Morgan still aims to construct it beginning early in 2017 and put it into service on Nov. 1, 2018.

The pipeline is slated to enter Berkshire County from Stephentown, N.Y., passing through portions of Hancock, Cheshire, Lanesborough, Dalton, Hinsdale, Peru and Windsor before exiting into Franklin County en route to a terminal in Dracut, north of Lowell, by way of 17 southern New Hampshire communities.

Opposition has been intense in many towns along the route in all three states, especially in Windsor, where a 41,000-horsepower industrial facility called a compressor station is planned to propel the flow of natural gas. The stations are sited every 40 to 50 miles along the pipeline route.

In response to community concern, Kinder Morgan scheduled an additional public forum from 6 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 27, at the Windsor Fire Department, 1205 Old Route 9, with station experts on hand to explain the facility and answer questions.

The same day, at a time to be scheduled, company officials and town leaders will visit the proposed site of the compressor station off Peru Road, according to Selectman Tim Crane. Next week, several town officials will take a field trip to a similar facility in Pennsylvania. Community members can take part in either one or both site visits.

The statewide Trustees of Reservations, whose holdings include Notchview Reservation in Windsor, has voiced deep concern over the potential impact of the pipeline route, which would travel over a portion of the popular all-season recreational site.

In early September, deluged by several thousand public comments, FERC extended the public comment period by 45 days, until this Friday.

Among the potential distributors of the new natural gas are Berkshire Gas and National Grid. The state Department of Public Utilities recently approved 20-year distribution agreements for the two companies as well as Columbia Gas, based in Springfield. Opposition groups are appealing the ruling.

Contact Clarence Fanto at 413-637-2551.


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