A new proposal to ship fracked gas across New York & Massachusetts

The proposed pipeline.

 By Scott Waldman 11:18 a.m. | Feb. 6, 2014

ALBANY—A proposed multi-billion dollar pipeline would ship natural gas fracked in other states across the Capital region of New York and into New England.

The 250-mile Northeast Expansion pipeline would cross Albany, Rensselaer and Columbia counties before it enters Massachusetts, according to a map of the project obtained by Capital.

The application is still in the planning stages and has not yet been filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which would have oversight of the project, said Richard Wheatley, a spokesman for Kinder Morgan, the company that has proposed the pipeline. Kinder Morgan has already begun approaching landowners in Massachusetts and will soon do so in New York, Wheatley said.

The proposed pipeline would connect to a pipeline in Schoharie county and cross to Berkshire County in Massachusetts. Wheatley said customer and shipping commitments are needed before the project moves forward. He cautioned that the first draft of the maps do not show the exact route yet.

“It’s a generalized depiction we can discuss with elected officials and other key stakeholders,” he said.

If the pipeline is approved by the federal government, landowners along the route would be compensated for their property, while those who refuse could have their land taken by eminent domain. The cost for the project could exceed $2.5 billion.

Wheatley said the gas would be coming from the Gulf Coast and Louisiana, but would connect to gas producers in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale region as well as Ohio’s Utica Shale formation. Both of those shale formations extend through New York, where fracking has been under a moratorium for five years, with no signs of a resolution coming soon.

The pipeline would mark a significant expansion of fracked gas to the Boston region. If approved, it would be in service by November 2018. There is an increasing demand for natural gas, which is cheaper than oil and has lower emissions than coal, in the Northeast. Even as Cuomo delays New York’s fracking industry, he recently pushed for a coal-burning power plant in Western New York to be converted to natural gas.

In New York, the maps depict the pipeline following an existing right of way, but crossing new tracts of land across rural Massachusetts.


Clips from The Montague Reporter coverage:

2/13/14Montague Selectboard Demands More Details;
Water Commissioners Grant Surveying Rights


On Monday night, in its first discussion of the matter, the Montague selectboard unanimously rejected a request by Kinder Morgan’s subsidiary Tennessee Pipeline Company for access to survey a wooded parcel of town property near Millers Falls.

But on Tuesday, the Turners Falls Fire District’s… Board of Water Commissioners gave the company permission to survey the area around Green Pond, part of the town’s Water Supply Protection District.

The company, which seeks to build a three-foot-diameter, 250-mile-long natural gas transmission line, is plotting out a possible route from the Pittsfield area to Dracut it reportedly identified via satellite imagery, making heavy use of transmission line right-of-ways.

The route apparently passes from Deerfield into Montague near Hatchery Road, and on through Millers Falls into Erving and Northfield…..

[full text not available]


Montague Reporter
January 23, 2014

Planned Natural Gas Pipeline Would Cut Straight Through County


MONTAGUE CENTER – Over the next four years, Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan, plans to build a new 250-mile main line from Wright, New York, through the Pittsfield area to Dracut – running straight through Franklin County, and quite possibly crossing the Connecticut River at Montague.

The company has begun contacting area landowners, including residents on Greenfield and Hatchery Roads, to secure surveying rights for the pipeline.

Driven by the shale gas boom, the midstream section of the industry, which includes pipelines and related infrastructure, is also expanding at a rapid pace, and Kinder Morgan, the largest midstream company, is one of three giants expanding into the New England market.

The company’s “Northeast Upgrade Project,” which included new and existing pipelines across the state’s Connecticut border, was finalized and came online this fall, and its attention has turned to the next phase, the “Northeast Expansion Project.”

Existing maps of the Northeast Expansion Project provided by Kinder Morgan show a major pipeline entering Franklin County around Ashfield, running east-northeast, turning briefly northward and then east again, and leaving the county near Orange.

The high-pressure line would deliver a half a billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of gas, initially, much of it processed from the Marcellus and Utica shale deposits. By design, that flow could eventually increase to 1.2 billion cubic feet per day.

The majority of Massachusetts’ electricity is generated using natural gas, but the industry views delivery to the region as constrained, resulting in price spikes during periods of high energy demand.

On November 15, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a new rule permitting interstate gas pipeline operators and electric transmission operators to share confidential information about their networks.

Three Tennessee Gas Pipeline representatives participated in a November 19 teleconference hosted by ISO-New England, the grid’s regional coordinating body. Representatives from Northeast Utilities and National Grid were also in attendance.

In a January 8 letter to the town of Montague, the company wrote that it “anticipates that it will be able to locate a significant portion of the pipeline adjacent, or generally parallel, to existing pipeline and electric utility corridors.”

The letter also said that the company would “begin to contact landowners along the proposed project route in the coming weeks.”

Tom Sharp, administrative coordinator for the town of Erving, confirmed that the same advance materials were sent to his town this month, and Northfield’s town secretary Sandra Wood confirmed the same for hers.

Gill administrative assistant Ray Purington and Wendell town coordinator Nancy Aldrich both told the Reporter that, to the best of their knowledge, their towns had not received them.

This week, a Tennessee Gas Pipeline LLC representative came knocking on the doors of homes on Hatchery Road and Greenfield Road, leaving his number and telling residents the company is seeking to secure easements there.

“One of my teenaged sons was home, and spoke to him. He left a placard with a tearoff on it, with a number – it’s a Central New York number – and his name, just ‘Joe’,” said Laura Chapdelaine, whose house is the northern dead end of Greenfield Road.

“I’m hesitant to even call them back. My parents live in fracking central, in upstate New York… I know what they’re going through out there. I’m very, very cautious when it comes to anything involving energy.”

She added, “I definitely would not grant permission for any kind of survey work. I would make them go through the proper channels.”

Last October 24, Tennessee Gas Pipeline LLC filed a Petition for an Order Authorizing Surveys with the state’s Department of Public Utilities, to gain access to the property of Nicholas Hryckvich of Sandisfield, MA, as part of its Connecticut Expansion Project.

The petition includes a map indicating the company intends to run part of the 36” pipeline across the corner of Hryckvich’s parcel. It noted that, between July and October, it had obtained permission from ten of twelve affected landowners in Sandisfield.

“No one’s spoken to me about anything,” said Hryckvich. “I haven’t heard anything from anybody in a few months now.” When asked about the petition to the state, Hryckvich replied, simply, “I guess they can do that.” The petition appears to still be open on the Department’s docket.

At some point, the Northeast Expansion pipeline would have to cross the Connecticut River. Unlike transmission lines, it cannot simply hang over the river. If it crosses at Montague, it might make use of the General Pierce Bridge between Cheapside and Montague City.

In fact, Berkshire Gas currently pipes a small amount of natural gas over that bridge, and underground up Montague City Road to Turners Falls, and Turnpike Road to the airport industrial park. It is difficult to imagine, though, major pipeline construction continuing through any of those residential neighborhoods.

The next bridge south along the river, the Canalside Rail Trail bridge, is abandoned by rail but serves as a walking and bike path. Were the pipeline to cross this bridge, it would still have to travel parallel to Greenfield Road along the river for quite a distance before reaching Hatchery Road.

The state Department of Transportation (MassDOT) is currently planning a $6 million upgrade to Greenfield Road, a project that has encountered environmental and legal challenges for over a decade and is finally set to go forward.

Town administrator Frank Abbondanzio said he could “not see either the state or the town permitting a pipeline to run along or across Greenfield Road, given all the work that has gone into the present plan.”

Continuing to the south we reach the Springfield Terminal Rail Bridge. Pan Am Railways runs trains over this bridge from its yard in East Deerfield and into Montague, between the severed ends of Greenfield Road, once a major east/west traffic artery, and continuing southeast. They then turn northeast through Lake Pleasant and into Millers Falls.

Some combination of existing rail and utility corridors – which also include Northeast Utilities’ electrical transmission lines, which run north and south through what is now the Montague Plains Wildlife Management Area – may be what the pipeline company had in mind when it included that northward jog in its provisional map.

Cynthia Scarano, executive vice president at Pan Am, said that she was not aware of any contracts being signed with the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, in her words, “yet.”

And according to WMECO spokesperson Priscilla Ress, “Northeast Utilities owns two gas companies: Yankee Gas in Connecticut, and NSTAR Gas in Massachusetts. Other than speaking to Tennessee Gas about how this pipeline could benefit the supply of natural gas in Massachusetts, we are not aware of any conversation regarding the use of our transmission rights-of-way.”

It is also not clear whether it is permitted to install a natural gas pipeline on a working railroad bridge. The specifications for pipeline rights-of-way posted by several rail companies prohibit such a risk. A MassDOT packet put together for a recent project on a Somerville rail bridge shared by the MBTA and Pan Am trains included both companies’ standard specifications.

The MBTA’s say “Pipelines carrying flammable or non-flammable substances… shall not be installed on… bridges carting railroad tracks,” but then allows that “the Chief Engineering Officer may approve such an installation when it is demonstrated that no practicable alternative is available,” and provides details on how it would be done.

Pan Am’s specifications, included in the same packet, do not mention pipelines.

If the pipeline crosses the river into Montague, there are three other ways it might do so. The first is across a new structure. Kinder Morgan’s promotional materials note that 3,000 jobs will be created during the expansion project. Perhaps some of those will be in bridge-building.

The next two methods would have the pipeline going under the river. In October, Berkshire Gas used directional drilling to bore a new tunnel under the river between Hatfield and Hadley, for a 12” natural gas pipe. The river there is about 1000 feet wide.

If this method is employed, a much wider pipe would need a larger tunnel. Near the railroad bridge, the river is narrow – perhaps 400 feet across – but deep.

A final possibility for crossing a river with a pipeline is the “open cut, wet ditch” method, in which a trench is cut in the river’s bed, and the pipe laid in it and sealed with concrete. Any of these methods of crossing could face significant logistical, environmental, and regulatory challenges.

Calls to Kinder Morgan resulted in the company sending the Reporter a copy of the same two-page document it sent to the Town of Montague. The timeline on this document lists outreach meetings as “ongoing,” route selection and permit preparation as “ongoing,” proposed construction starting in April 2017, and proposed operation in November 2018.

In a statement released last week reporting strong fourth-quarter earnings, to the tune of $665 million in the company’s natural gas pipeline business segment alone, CEO Richard D. Kinder said that it “benefited from continued strong demand for its services, driven by ongoing growth in the Marcellus and Utica Shale plays and a number of expansion projects… including the Northeast Upgrade Project.”

From 1990 to 1996, Kinder served as president and chief operating officer at Enron. He left to form a new company, which purchased Enron’s liquid pipeline assets.

He is now the 112th-wealthiest person in the world, the 39th-wealthiest American, and the richest resident of Houston, according to Forbes, which valued him at $10.2 billion as of last September.

(Christopher Sawyer-Lauçanno contributed additional reporting to this story.)




Act Locally

Although this is an interstate project, making state and federal level legislation and regulation crucial, standing up town by town in opposition to the local ramifications of it can have an impact in slowing down or maybe preventing certain phases of it from moving forward.

Convince your select board to deny any request from TGP for permission to survey town land.  Follow Montague’s lead.

And consider drafting up and presenting a non-binding resolution as a way to state your intent and make your neighbors aware of the impact of this pipeline project.

Act Now!

— If representatives of Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company or their parent company Kinder Morgan approach you about permission to survey your property, SAY NO.  It will slow the process and let them know right away that you don’t approve of the project.  Letting your town’s Planning Board or Conservation Commission know may also be important information that they’re not getting from the company.

— If you’ve already said yes to surveying, you have a right to rescind permission by sending a letter like this to the company.

— If they start to mention the option of taking the easement on your property by eminent domain, don’t be intimidated. This may be your best legal option if it gets to that point. They would prefer not to because it’s the most costly for them and puts liability into their hands instead of yours and lets you retain the right to sue them if something goes wrong.
» See “Sign or Else! What Should I Do?”

— Contact your Elected Officials
Because this is an interstate project, it’s especially important to contact your federal congress people.  Action on all levels will help.
• Act Federally
• Act State-Wide
• Act Locally

— Contact the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)
FERC is the final regulatory entity that will say yes or no on the permitting process. Let them know early on why this project is of concern to you!

— Spread the word!
• Talk to your neighbors and friends about this project and let them know why it’s of concern
• Talk to your local selectboard, planning board, conservation commission
• Write Letters to the Editor to share your concerns with the public

— Get behind solutions!
• Encourage friends from out of state to contact their U.S. senators and representatives, and ask them to support the bills introduced by our U.S. Senator Markey to fix the leaks in the natural gas infrastructure, S.1767 and S.1768