Tennessee Gas Pipeline: Windsor forum to include compressor station experts

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WINDSOR >> Town leaders and residents will have a chance to question Kinder Morgan officials about the Northeast Energy Direct gas pipeline project, and a local compressor station, which have stirred considerable anxiety and opposition in the rural hilltown community of 860 residents.

Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. will hold a public community forum from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27, at the Windsor Fire Department, 1205 Old Route 9. A light buffet will be served.

The announcement on Monday afternoon did not cite a specific reason for scheduling the event — one of three additional forums planned in the state. The others are in Northfield and Lynnfield.

The Kinder Morgan, parent company of Tennessee Gas, is planning to seek approval from federal regulators for the 412-mile pipeline from central New York to Dracut by way of the Berkshires, the Pioneer Valley and a swath of southern New Hampshire.

Many Windsor residents have been riled up not only about the pipeline itself, which passes through 4.5 miles of the town, including a slice of Notchview Reservation, but also about the compressor station proposed for a parcel of farmland off Peru Road, three miles south of Town Hall and Route 9.

The compressor station would house three units of turbines, motors and engines powered by a 41,000 horsepower installation, with several buildings and "ancillary facilities."

The major industrial facilities, located every 40 to 50 miles along the pipeline, propel the flow of natural gas en route to its terminal in Dracut. A similar station is planned in Northfield, where Kinder Morgan officials will hold a community forum on Oct. 28.

"People have understandable concerns about the compressor station," Kinder Morgan spokesman Steve Crawford said on Monday evening, "and we wanted to bring company officials to Windsor to see if we could try to respond to their concerns. We're committed to addressing citizens' concerns in transparent way."

He said the company would have "experts with experience installing and operating compression stations throughout the country" on hand at the forum.

In an Eagle interview last summer, Windsor Selectman Tim Crane voiced concern about the station.

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"When you put the thing in a community whose identity is all related to the natural environment, the rural character ... that's all we've got," he said at the time. "If you take that away, if you really have the stain of this industrial facility that everyone will know Windsor for, I think that's a highly unique and painful circumstance for this town."

Kinder Morgan has an option to purchase 89 acres on Peru Road owned by resident James Iwanowicz, a farmer and Crane & Co. employee, for the compressor station. He has declined comment on the transaction.

Town Clerk Madeline Scully has described the road as "pretty fragile," adding that the company would need to upgrade it and maintain it for heavy vehicles building and serving the project, if it comes to pass.

She has stated that the vast majority of Windsor residents oppose the pipeline proposal.

The pipeline route is adjacent to a high-tension electrical utility corridor, but requires its own 100-foot swath of land during construction, reduced to a 50-foot pathway thereafter. At least five homes are within a half-mile buffer zone surrounding the compressor station, with others just outside the perimeter.

About 20 residents have slivers of property that would be needed to create the pipeline corridor outside the electric utility line right-of-way.

In early September, a planned site visit to the compressor station by company officials and town leaders was canceled after angry pipeline opponents claimed it was a violation of the Open Meeting Law and an inappropriate private gathering of public officials and Kinder Morgan representatives.

The visit had been erroneously listed as a meeting in a Town Hall posting, but subsequently it was depicted as private and off limits to residents.

Selectman Crane described the incident as an "honest mistake." Crane and fellow Selectman Douglas McNally have come out in opposition to the pipeline.

Kinder Morgan plans to file a formal application for the project with the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission (FERC) late this month or early next month. The $3.3 billion pipeline from Wright, N.Y., to Dracut, north of Lowell, also would pass through six other Berkshire towns — Hancock, Lanesborough, Cheshire, Dalton, Hinsdale and Peru.

Contact Clarence Fanto at 413-637-2551.


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