Town may ban pipeline forever

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 12/20/2017 6:13:32 PM

Two years after the town voted to officially oppose a major natural gas pipeline, one local is seeking to broaden the scope of that opposition.

Chris Balch of Wilton has submitted a petition warrant article to the town for consideration at Town Meeting in March. The main point of the article: Wilton opposes natural gas pipeline construction or expansion by any company.

The warrant calls for several points of action: That the Select Board stand in opposition to any proposed pipeline expansion or construction and not allow it within the town borders, that it opposes the use of eminent domain for the taking of property for pipeline construction, and that the board speak to the town’s state and federal legislators and executive branch officials regarding legislation that promotes more stringent energy   efficiency and adoption of renewable energy sources. 

Balch was in staunch op position to a previously proposed 36-inch Kinder Morgan pipeline that would have brought natural gas into the region. Though not proposed to pass through Wilton, the pipeline came close to its borders, and the town took a preemptive stance opposing it based on regional impacts. And this time last year, Balch made a trip to North Dakota to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline, another pipeline that was being constructed through the Standing Rock Reservation, sparking national attention.

His reasons are many-fold, said Balch, and mainly sparked by what seems to be a growing interest in natural gas by New Hampshire Utilities.

“The concern is that whenever you build a fossil fuel infrastructure, you use it until it pays for itself many times over,” said Balch. 

He’d rather see that money invested in renewable energy sources, he said.

There are also environmental concerns, said Balch. Natural gas can be obtained through a process known as “fracking” – drilling into the earth and using a high-pressure chemical mixture to cause cracks in the rock and release trapped gas. Fracking is controversial because of the potential for water contamination, released gasses and even the potential for increased seismic activity. 

“Fracked gas is just bad for the environment,” said Balch. 

Petition warrant articles require the signatures of 25 registered voters to be voted upon in Town Meeting. Balch said he had reached that threshold and submitted the petition article to the town. 

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