Pipeline foes greet Hassan, council at Town Hall

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Last modified: 10/26/2015 6:57:13 PM
When Gov. Maggie Hassan and five members of the state’s Executive Council arrived at Town Hall, they were greeted by a line of signs protesting the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline.

The Executive Council is made up of representatives of five state districts, and typically tries to hold one business meeting in each of its districts at least once a year. On Wednesday, the council held its regular meeting in Mason.

First, the group stopped at Parker’s Maple Barn on Brookline Road to have breakfast. Owner Ron Roberts spoke briefly with the delegation about the history of the property and sugar barn, and its success as a tourist draw for the state. Parker’s serves in excess of 100,000 customers per year, meaning over $100,000 in room and meal tax goes to the state.

Following that, the council made its way to Town Hall, where it held its regular business meeting. There was no public comment allowed at the meeting, but that didn’t stop residents from attending. The meeting involved the regular business of the state, which includes approving expenditures, nominating and confirming appointments, and authorizing payments.

Though the governor and Executive Council did not discuss the pipeline, many pipeline opposers made their presence felt, both in the audience, holding signs or wearing anti-pipeline shirts, and outside, where protesters gathered around an anti-pipeline float.

Protesting the pipeline

Some of the protesters gathered outside Town Hall suggested that in the coming local and state elections for 2016, they have become one-issue voters.

“People talk a lot about Gov. Hassan’s pro-environment record, but you can’t be pro-environment and pro-pipeline. It doesn’t mix,” said Joe Desruisseaux of Rindge. “There are people that supported her for governor that will not vote for her over this.”

Hassan is challenging incumbent U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte in the 2016 race. But the former’s stance on natural gas worries those opposed to the Kinder Morgan pipeline that would run through southern New Hampshire, including Mason.

Hassan has stated she is favor of expanding the state’s natural gas infrastructure, and the benefits that a cheaper fuel source could have for the regional energy grid New Hampshire participates in.

Al Lefebvre of Rindge was among the protesters Wednesday. While he said he has little hope of changing Hassan’s mind, he said he hoped to sway the members of the state’s Executive Council, two of whom — Dave Wheeler of District 5, and Colin Van Ostern of District 2 — have already stated firm opposition to the pipeline.

Van Ostern and Wheeler represent the towns that would be directly impacted by the proposed line and have both offered testimony against the pipeline at information gathering sessions hosted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

“I think [Gov. Hassan] has earplugs and blinders on,” said Lefebvre. “But I hope we’re getting to the Executive Council.”

Jeff Parker of Mason said the pipeline would impact several of his neighbors, and he has concerns about the impact the maintenance of the cleared right-of-way would have on his quality of life, if pesticides are used.

“Would you want that, after feeding your kids organic vegetables, to have someone coming by and spraying pesticides?” said Parker.

Several residents of Rindge, another town impacted by the proposed pipeline, traveled to Mason to show dissent for the project.

Several said they were unimpressed by a recently announced proposal by Liberty Utilities to use gas from the pipeline to feed a gas distribution system on Route 202 in Jaffrey and Rindge, and Route 119 in Rindge.

“It’s a big carrot,” said Lefebvre. “This is something they can put before the people and say, ‘See, there’s a need for this gas.’” But Lefebvre doubted many homes or businesses would be interested in investing in the hookup costs for switching to natural gas.

Bill Preston, also of Rindge, suggested that Liberty Utilities numbers for the amount of businesses on routes 119 and 202 that would be able to access the gas were inflated.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244, or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaari.


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