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The Pipeline Revolt

Massachusetts residents take to the roads to protest the Kinder Morgan gas line.

Comments (3)
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Anna Fessenden Photo

While representatives of Kinder Morgan are pitching a 129-mile gas pipeline through northern Massachusetts, opponents of the pipeline are on the march. The so-called “Rolling March/Statewide Pipeline Resistance Relay Walk” started July 6 near Massachusetts’ western border in Richmond, where Gov. Deval Patrick has a house, and will finish July 26 in Dracut. Dracut, near Lowell, is the planned terminus of the pipeline, which will carry natural gas extracted by fracking.

Owners of property along the route, and their neighbors, are walking to send a message to elected officials that the pipeline, now known as the Northeast Energy Direct Project (formerly the Northeast Expansion Project), is neither needed nor wanted. On July 30, pipeline opponents will present Gov. Patrick with a piece of polyvinyl pipe and a petition demanding that the pipeline not be built.

Rene’ Lake-Gagliardi organized the Athol leg of the walk, which covered 6.5 miles. Lake- Gagliardi lives in Athol near the Athol-Royalston line and received a request from Kinder Morgan to allow her property to be surveyed. She refused.

“We’ve asked for information: ‘Could you explain how this process is going to happen?’—and we don’t get any of those requests answered. We’ve asked about boring, about what kind of surveying they want to do,” she told the Advocate. “It sounds very innocent, but in fact they have to do boring, and they may cut down trees. We’ve asked questions and we haven’t gotten any answers. We have meetings and they promise to come and then they cancel. We have selectmen’s meetings with rooms full of people, and there’s no one there to answer questions.”

 

From the Berkshires all the way to Dracut, communities are passing resolutions against the pipeline—nonbinding resolutions, but they make their point. Twenty-one towns have resolutions and more are being drafted. Groups like the Middlesex County Coalition of Towns against the Proposed Pipeline, a counterpart to Franklin County’s No Fracked Gas in Massachusetts, keep local residents abreast of Tennessee Gas’s movements as well as offering information about fracking, the pipeline and the energy market in New England and Canada, where large energy companies are moving to have ports opened for the exporting of natural gas to foreign countries, just as they are doing here.

The export issue forms a part of the basis of many people’s objections to the Kinder Morgan pipeline. “Though Kinder Morgan says [the gas] is for use in New England, it doesn’t say that it’s not for export,” said marcher Pixie Holbrook of Conway. “We are convinced it’s headed for European markets.”

“As soon as there’s a need somewhere else, we’re going to be paying a higher price,” Lake-Gagliardi added.

Richard Wheatley, director of communications for Kinder Morgan, told the Advocate that the company does not yet know where the gas will go because it will go “where the customers want to send it. We take capacity commitments from customers. They tell us where they would like the gas to be transported. It could be foreign countries if the gas was moved to a liquid natural gas facility.”

Another issue for pipeline opponents is the estimated 8 to 12 billion cubic feet of natural gas lost to pipeline leaks in Massachusetts each year. A bill to repair the most dangerous leaks just passed the Massachusetts Legislature and was signed by Gov. Patrick last week (“These Old Pipes,” July 17, 2014), but the version that passed does not require the least hazardous leaks to be repaired within a definite time frame. These so-called Class 3 leaks are considered less hazardous than others because they may be farther from buildings, not because they emit smaller volumes of gas.

Even more important to pipeline opponents, however, is their contention that the new pipeline is not needed because of the growth of alternative energy sources in the region. They cite a study by ISO New England, manager of the regional electric grid, that shows that a net 700 megawatts of power will be lost when Vermont Yankee and all the oil- and coal-fired plants in Massachusetts have been shut down. That amount, they say, would be more than made up for by the 1,600 megawatts of solar power and 2,000 megawatts of wind power Gov. Deval Patrick has called for by 2020.

And the state is moving toward that goal; of the 464 megawatts of solar power are now installed in Massachusetts, 237 were installed in 2013 alone. “Massachusetts is doing such a great job,” said Lake-Gagliardi. “We’re ahead of schedule on renewables.”

 

Not all the property owners along the proposed pipeline route have made the same choice Gagliardi made, however. Wheatley said that the company has “about 50 percent of the permissions that we need. We have about 1,650 landowners in Massachusetts and we have permission from about 50 percent of those.”

Kinder Morgan intends to do a preliminary filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in September, he said, and that filing will open a process that allows for public comment.•

 

 

 

Comments (3)
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While this is a great article, one clarification is needed. The argument on how to replace power plants with renewables is not exactly what most pipeline opponents are saying. This is because you cannot replace a 700 Megawatt nuclear plant with 700 Megawatts of solar panels; to do that, the sun would have to shine bright all the time.

Instead, you can replace those Megawatts with a combination of several forms of power: Solar for hot days when people run their a/c use in the summer, winter use of hydropower stored in dams in Canada, wind power, and most importantly, energy efficiency.

Almost all homes are cutting electricity use by installing efficient bulbs. We have programs all over New England that allow hundreds of thousands of homeowners to weatherize their homes for a minimal cost ($500 to $700) that they will recoup in a couple of years. Utilities have designed these programs to reduce the amount of new power plant construction. The idea that we need to build four new power plants and a $6 billion pipeline from Pennsylvania to replace the 2 coal and 1 nuclear plants that are closing is not true. Efficiency has reduced the number of plants we will need, and applications have been filed for much smaller pipelines expansions that can alleviate natural gas bottlenecks.

The Mass Department of Public Utilities has shown that of all of the options, energy efficiency is the least cost option. An analysis by ICF International in May 2014 showed that a $2 billion pipeline would be even more expensive than imported gas. Well now, Kinder Morgan says its pipeline will cost three times that amount.

We do not need this behemoth.

Posted by Rich Cowan on 7.23.14 at 17:58

Everything you commented, Rich, is true, with one big exception: "Storing" or using hydropower from Canada is not a solution for New England. Transmitting energy from so far away is another "big energy" plan that is extremely wasteful, and so destructive to the environment between there and here that for New Hampshire folks, the Northern Pass hydroelectric proposal IS THEIR PIPELINE. Northern Pass and the proposed pipelines that threaten us here and in Vermont were all planned in the same utility-dominated process over the past two years. Even the governor of New Hampshire, who was part of that planning process, has withdrawn her support for Northern Pass.

I'm a great fan of hydropower, under the same criteria as any other technology: Right-Source, Right-Size, Right-Site, minimize and mitigate all harms to health & the environment.

I've heard estimates that super-insulating every existing building, including factories, would cut energy demand in New England by 50 to 60 percent. Even if that is not the correct figure, it is clear that spending the estimated $4 to $6 billion cost of this pipeline, plus the estimated $1.4 billion cost of Northern Pass, on a massive weatherization effort would save far more than the energy we will lose when all of our coal & nuclear plants have ceased operation.

....And did someone say "JOBS...?"

Posted by Ariel Elan on 7.23.14 at 20:16

I think where we all agree is that the alternatives to a pipeline have to be practical. I was not advocating the use of hydro for "base load" electricity; as you say, sending the power a very long distance is wasteful. On the other hand, using reservoirs or "pumped storage" to provide variable power to make up for those times when renewable energy is not producing, is about as green as you can get.

The concept of a dam that stores up water when power is not needed and then releases it for electric generation during "peak" times is very simple to understand. And it is one of the least expensive ways to provide power for when the wind is not blowing, or the sun is not shining. If Solar and wind are to reach 20% to 30% of our electricity mix we are going to have to start doing what countries like Denmark are doing: reducing the output of fossil fuel plants while using dams to meet peak demand.

See for example, the presentation at 4:28:00 into this video:
http://www.forumspb.com/en/2014/sections/19/materials/190/sessions/743

I understand that there is legislation at the state house that might encourage expansion of hydropower. If that legislation can be amended to allow smaller scale hydro projects to compete and there are assurances that this energy source would be used in tandem with wind and solar power, then wouldn't this be one of the best ways to undermine the case for more fossil fuel infrastructure?

Posted by Rich Cowan on 7.23.14 at 23:08
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