Fighting KM on fronts both big and small

Last modified: 5/25/2015 2:01:00 PM
Mason is covering all its bases when it comes to opposing Kinder Morgan’s proposed natural gas pipeline that would run through southern New Hampshire.

The town already plans to pool funds with nine municipalities — all members of the New Hampshire Municipal Pipeline Coalition — to hire a lawyer to represent the towns’ interests. It also has plans to hire its own lawyer to deal with Mason’s individual concerns.

“We have special, unique interests. I would like to see someone that’s focused on us,” said Select Board Chair Bernie O’Grady during a meeting of the board and its Pipeline Advisory Committee on Tuesday. He said he was speaking in particular of a 12-inch diameter lateral line that drops down from the main line of the proposed pipeline, cutting across the middle of Mason to the south to deposit gas at a hub in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. “That’s a problem other towns don’t have,” said O’Grady.

Select Board member Charlie Moser, who called in to the meeting because he could not be present, told members that he had just that morning attended a meeting of NHMPC, which actively opposes the Northeast Direct Project. The group meets weekly in Brookline. Nine of the towns have agreed to pool some amount of funds to pay for a lawyer to represent the group in order to oppose the pipeline. On Tuesday, the coalition agreed to hire Richard Kanoff to represent their interests. Kanoff estimated that it would require as much as $75,000 to represent the coalition through the end of 2015.

The towns have not yet divvied up how much they will contribute toward the cost, as most representatives have to get board approval, said Moser. Mason and Brookline are the only towns in the coalition whose taxpayers allocated funds to oppose the pipeline during their Town Meetings this year, with Mason raising $80,000 for the purpose. Greenville, for example, was only able to offer about $2,000 for the effort this year. Rindge did not have any funds to allocate, but has offers from citizens’ groups to attempt to raise monies to do so, said Roberta Oeser, Rindge Select Board member.

Moser suggested that Mason earmark $20,000 for the legal costs associated with the New Hampshire Municipal Pipeline Coalition, but the board did not take a vote.

Pipeline Advisory Committee Chair Bob Dillberger submitted a list of ways to oppose the pipeline, including hiring a lawyer, hiring an environmental consultant to prepare an environmental assessment of the town’s resources, and hiring a lobbyist to work with the state Legislature and federal lawmakers on the town’s behalf.

Dillberger also suggested that the town establish a fund, to be managed by the Trustees of the Trust Funds, earmarked for opposition of the pipeline, and to accept private donations to supplement the money appropriated at Town Meeting. He also suggested the town look into the legality of using the town’s forestry fund to oppose the pipeline.

The board and committee decided that the best course of action was to first hire an attorney, and use his or her suggestions on the best places to spend the town’s resources.

Kanoff also represents the Pipeline Awareness Group of the Northeast, or PLAN. PLAN was recently granted intervenor status in a crucial step for Kinder Morgan in proving that there is a need for the proposed pipeline: Demonstrating sufficient demand.

Kinder Morgan can show there is a demand for the gas in the region by securing contracts to purchase the supply once the pipeline is built. Those contracts have to be approved by the state — in New Hampshire, by the Public Utilities Commission. Seven distributors have signed up to receive the natural gas. Among them is Liberty Utilities, which is the largest natural gas supplier in New Hampshire, providing gas to Merrimack River corridor from Nashua to the Lakes Region, as well as Berlin.

PLAN has members who are also Liberty Utility customers, qualifying the group to be an intervenor in the PUC’s approval of the contract.

House bills on the pipeline

The Senate is considering HB572, which would require that if a pipeline developer takes a piece of land by eminent domain, they would be required to purchase the entire property if the owner wished. The bill passed in the House, but amendments have been proposed in the Senate.

Though state laws can be superseded by federal approval in the case of the Kinder Morgan line, they may be taken into account during the approval process.

One amendment, proposed by Sen. Andy Sanborn (R-Bedford) would specify that the amount paid to a landowner be 300 percent of the value of the tax appraisal. The other, proposed by Sen. Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro) and supported by several state representatives, would require pipelines be sited at least 100 yards away from a residence or business and at least 300 yards away from of a public building. Bradley’s amendment would also require that no noxious fumes, including volatile organic compounds, be emitted from the pipeline, and that developers secure a $100,000,000 bond for liability resulting from catastrophic events.


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