Sounding the call

Last modified: 5/12/2015 9:05:22 AM
NEW IPSWICH — Atop a tool chest in the back of a pickup truck parked in front of the town office is an amplifier, set to play a recording of a 80,000-horsepower compressor station at a precise 98 decibels. Mark Mansfield turns it on, making normal conversation impossible. Inside, an audible hum is heard as the Select Board meeting begins.

The noise, Mansfield said Tuesday, is meant to replicate the sound of a “blowdown,” or venting of gas, from half a mile away.

“Is this the kind of thing we want for New Ipswich?” said Mansfield. “I don’t think so.”

Compressor stations are required by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to produce no more than 55 decibels — about the sound of a normal conversation — at noise-sensitive areas such as schools, hospitals or residences. But while the impact on residents may not be as extreme as the noise Mansfield’s amplifier was producing Monday, he said the intent was to demonstrate to the Select Board the potential consequences of a compressor station being sited in New Ipswich, particularly for residents who value the quiet and rural nature of the town.

Some in attendance at the Select Board meeting applauded Mansfield’s display.

Resident Steve Riggs commented that Mansfield had executed the idea before he could.

Select Board Chair George Lawrence, however, noted the compressor station, if located in New Ipswich, would most likely be sited on Skinny Cat Road, which is for sale in a large, wooded section of town, not near residential neighborhoods.

“I think that it’s loud, there’s no doubt about it,” said Lawrence. “But how many people would it affect [on Skinny Cat Road], I don’t know.”

Mansfield is one of multiple residents coordinating efforts in opposition to a natural gas pipeline proposed to run through New Hampshire, on its way to deposit gas in Dracut, Massachusetts. Along with the pipeline, will come a compressor station that will be sited somewhere in New Ipswich, Greenville or Mason.

Several Monadnock towns are stretching their resources, calling on citizen committees to help gather information and determine impacts the pipeline or compressor station might have in their towns, including Mason, Rindge and Temple.

The New Ipswich Select Board has retained a neutral stance on the pipeline. There were continued calls from residents Monday for the board to take a stand against it, with a petition of 768 signatures to back the request. Though the board will be discussing the petition at its next meeting, for now, it’s keeping neutral.

Select Board member Woody Meiszner — who attended a meeting Tuesday of a coalition of towns on the pipeline route that meets weekly in Brookline — questioned whether New Ipswich would see such strong support for spending money to fight the pipeline. During the coalition meeting, towns interviewed two potential lawyers to represent the group’s interests. While Meiszner said he felt a coalition was the only way to meaningfully address the issue on any scale, it would likely come with a price tag in the form of legal fees to represent the group that could start as high as $250,000 . With all 14 coalition towns pooling funds to meet that goal, New Ipswich would likely have to come up with a minimum of $18,000.

“It’s one thing to say ‘I’m against it,’ and another to fund it,” said Meiszner.

The board agreed to hold an informational session, at a date to be announced, with input from Conservation Commission Chair Bob Boynton on potential environmental impacts to the town, and potentially a technical report compiled by Mary Ann Harper of Rindge. The board also agreed to invite the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to hold a scoping meeting to gather public input in New Ipswich.

Pipeline committees

Several town-authorized committees are being formed to help keep up with emerging information, and in several cases to help create a cohesive argument against the pipeline.

Rindge is currently forming a pipeline task force, and is seeking two community members to sit on the committee. The two community members will join the police and fire chief, department of public works director, planning director, a member of the conservation commission, the town assessing clerk, town administrator, and Franklin Pierce University professor Katherine Koning.

According to Rindge Town Administrator Jane Pitt, the task force will have specific goals, all tied to assessing potential impacts of the pipeline on Rindge. Among the focuses are public safety both during and after construction of the line, impact on environmental assets, economic impacts — both in tax revenue and impact on property values — impact of construction on town roads, infrastructure and traffic patterns and land use patterns.

“There is a specific set of charges for this group,” said Pitt. “I see this as a fact-finding group, that will likely break into smaller study groups to address some of these issues.”

Residents interested in joining the task force may contact Pitt at the town offices.

Rindge isn’t the only town dedicating a group to studying the pipeline. Mason is similarly asking residents to join an advisory committee. In March, voters allocated $80,000 for the town to spend in opposing the pipeline. Part of the responsibilities of the group will be finding the best ways to use those funds, said Select Board Chair Charlie Moser.

Temple, which is not on the pipeline route, but could be impacted if a compressor station is built near the town line, has also created an advisory committee.

The Temple group is planning an informational forum on the pipeline, tentatively scheduled for June. Temple also plans to request intervenor status in the approval process, once an application is filed with FERC.


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