Monthly Archives: June 2017

Risk assessment requested for Weymouth compressor station site

Democratic senators Edward J. Markey and Elizabeth Warren are requesting the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to conduct a risk assessment of Enbridge’s plan to construct a compressor station in the Fore River basin.

“As you know, Enbridge intends to locate a compressor station within a short distance of nearly 1,000 homes and dozens of schools,” said Markey and Warren in a letter to the department. “Additionally, the station’s proposed location is one-tenth of a mile from a sewage pump and water treatment facility operated by the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority.”

Markey and Warren said the code of regulations for pipeline safety states a compressor station must be located far enough away from an adjacent property that is not under its jurisdiction to prevent it from catching fire if a possible blaze occurs at the facility.

Ria Convery, a spokeswoman for the MWRA said the agency would monitor the progress of the project as it proceeds through the approval process.

“The MWRA is committed to providing continuous wastewater services to its 43 member communities,…” she said in a written statement.

State Sen. Patrick O’Connor, R-Weymouth, said he is glad Markey and Warren are making sure every precaution is in place for the proposed compressor station.

“The government is giving us tools to use to find out how hazardous this compressor station is and we should use every tool,” O’Connor said.

He said every tool needs to be used to explore the risks of a compressor station being placed near the Fore River because the proposed facility would be located on four acres of land and in a densely populated industrial area.

“Four acres of land is not enough when you have compressor stations in other areas that are on 50 acres of land,” O’Connor said.

Alice Arena, co-director of the Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station, said the proximity of the proposed compressor station to the MWRA pump station is ‘absurd.’

“No one is talking about that or taking it seriously at all,” she said.

Arena said the proposed compressor station blow down stack would be located 100-feet away from the MWRA pump station.

“When they have a blow down there could be up to 15 million cubic feet of methane and that will go into the intake vent of the pumping station,” Arena said.

O’Connor said he believes a health risk assessment of the site should be done by an agency.

“I don’t think we should have to call for these assessments,” he said. “They should be done automatically because of the magnitude of this project.”

A health risk assessment of the site is being recommended by Dr. Curtis L. Nordgaard, a Boston pediatrician who has done cell biology research and conducted air quality monitoring in April on behalf of the Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station.

The two-week evaluation revealed the presence of benzene, methylene chloride, 1.2 ditchloropropane, 2 hexaanone, alkanes, hexane, acetone and ethanol, according to Nordgaard.

Nordgaard recently said during a meeting with the opposition group that the state Department of Public Health should conduct a health assessment in response to an air study he did within a two-mile radius of the proposed compressor station site.

Weymouth District 1 Councilor Rebecca Haugh said the population density near the proposed compressor station site warrants a full risk assessment of Enbridge’s plan.

“It is unlike any other compressor station site in America,” she said.

Congressman Stephen Lynch, D-Boston, recently made a similar request.

Lynch asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to put the proposed compressor station project on hold until a complete investigation is done into a natural gas pipeline rupture that occurred in Providence R.I. on March 29.

Haugh said it is great to have Lynch, Warren and Markey fighting on behalf of Weymouth with regard to its concerns about the proposed compressor station.

“It would be more powerful if the governor was on board,” she said.

Weymouth officials are asking the state Department of Environmental Protection to reject an application by Enbridge subsidiary Algonquin Gas Transmission for an air quality permit that is needed to construct the compressor station.

Attorney’s representing Weymouth to the DEP previously said the compressor station’s emission plan is deficient because it focuses on a single turbine while ignoring an eventual second turbine to be placed in the facility.

State law permits the DEP to deny an air quality permit to Algonquin if the agency deems the facility would pose hazards.

98-year-old woman arrested in pipeline protest: ‘My life has been devoted to trying to wake people up’

By Heather Bellow, Berkshire Eagle
June 24, 2017

SANDISFIELD – A 98-year-old woman with a long history of activism was arrested with seven others Saturday after stopping pipe-laying work in Otis State Forest.

Frances Crowe, considered a legend for her peace activism and anti-nuclear efforts, was pushed in her wheelchair to the edge of the open pipeline trench with seven other Sugar Shack Alliance members, causing Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. workers to stop heavy machine work and call police.

Surrounded by state police after her arrest, fellow activists pushed her uphill through the pipeline easement to the backseat of a sheriff’s cruiser, and when asked how many times she has been arrested, she smiled.

“Not enough,” she said, prompting loads of laughter.

This is the third time Crowe has been arrested since she turned 90, after a long life with numerous arrests.

The arrests Saturday were a third round of peaceful protests since the Kinder Morgan subsidiary began work last month to its $93 million Connecticut Expansion Project, a 13-mile natural gas storage loop, part of which will run through an existing pipeline corridor in Otis State Forest.

Last week 24 activists were in Southern Berkshire District Court for a civil trespassing hearing stemming from those May charges.

The project, which was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last year, has stirred anger from local residents and activists for many reasons, and particularly because the company – after a court battle with the state – won an easement of roughly two miles of state-owned and protected land.

Crowe, who lives in Northampton, said she’s been at this since 1945, when she was 26.

“I was against Hiroshima,” she said of the American atomic bombing of the Japanese city during World War II.

After becoming a peace activist, and later a war tax refuser, she said she was part of Shut It Down, a group that helped close the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station in 2014.

Now it’s hydro-fracked gas she is working against.

“I am very much opposed to taking our fuel out of the ground,” she said. “We can meet our needs with wind and solar. This is the answer for the future.”

“My life has been devoted to trying to wake people up,” she added.

Sugar Shack, a group working for renewable energy, started out in the morning with a theatrical rally at Lower Spectacle Pond to begin their “summer days of resistance.” There they wrote evils like “money in politics” and buried them in a cardboard casket they would later lay down next to the pipeline trench – for which some were arrested – while someone played taps on a trumpet.

Several state police troopers stood near the pond in good spirits, watching the group of around 60. They said they weren’t expecting any civil disobedience. And wasn’t it a glorious day after the hard morning rains, they said – and bug free.

“We just don’t want anyone to get run over here,” said Major Michael Habel, gesturing to all kinds of blocked traffic on this rough rural road. “We understand that they have the right to do this.”

The protesters then walked the road to their staging ground, holding up tractor-trailers carrying pipes and other workers, who rolled down their windows to talk to police.

One spoke his mind.

“They drive 26 miles in their cars to protest gas and oil,” one company contractor was overheard saying, referring to the activists, who are mostly from Franklin County. “If you’re going to protest this you should be a minimalist about what you’re protesting. Our company does solar and wind also.”

Kinder Morgan’s statement on climate change says the company is working toward solutions and expects “that future energy demand will be met in part by a growing proportion of renewable energy sources.”

The company says it is building new natural gas lines “to make access to lower carbon and renewable energy more feasible,” and says it is, among other environmental strategies, “reducing emissions of methane and other greenhouse gases from our operations.”

At the Thoreau Cabin Pipeline Barricade, built by Sugar Shack on private property that abuts the pipeline easement, no one believed the company.

The group sang and cheered as Crowe was arrested.

While six were put in the van headed for jail, Connie Harvard got arrested partly so she could stay with Crowe.

Watching the scene, which again stopped traffic, activist Terran Giacomimi said Crowe was an inspiration.

“She’s a fighter,” she said. “For the people.”

Reach staff writer Heather Bellow at 413-329-6871

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FERC says no environmental review for ‘heavy-duty’ vehicle use variance, says it will trust Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co.

By Heather Bellow, Berkshire Eagle
June 21, 2017

SANDISFIELD — Environmentalists are claiming a bait and switch after Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to allow “heavy-duty” vehicle use on two access roads that were given environmental approvals based on “light-duty” use.

And FERC said that because it already approved the project, additional environmental reviews won’t be required.

The Kinder Morgan subsidiary filed with FERC for a variance on June 16, saying a “clerical error” in its original 2014 application for the project is to blame for the incorrect description of access roads MA-1 and MA-3 in Otis State Forest.

The company says it needs the variance approved by Friday, June 23, citing “an immediate need.”

The roads are part of an easement for the company’s Connecticut Expansion Project, a 13-mile natural gas storage loop. The ongoing project is still steeped in controversy after a legal ruling last year forced the state to give the company an easement for roughly two miles of protected land. The new line will run through a corridor that has two existing pipelines.

The variance request comes about a month after 24 anti-pipeline protesters were arrested for blocking two of the access roads, including MA-3.

The area around access road MA-1 is considered highly sensitive, as it abuts an ecosystem of wetlands, vernal pools and forest. As a result, the state Department of Conservation Resources told Tennessee Gas in 2015 to take great care with this area, and that this area should be included in the DCR’s permit review process.

But in a response to the variance request filed with FERC, Massachusetts Pipeline Awareness Network’s Cathy Kristofferson wrote that this DCR review was waived when, after a legal battle over the easement, the state settled with the company.

FERC spokeswoman Tamara Young-Allen told The Eagle as long as Tennessee Gas says there won’t be any environmental ramifications from this change to heavy-duty use, FERC will not force the company to go through another review since the agency already vetted the project before approving it.

“It is our expectation that [Tennessee Gas] is going to tell us the truth,” she said.

Tennessee Gas told FERC “light-duty” consists of “rubber-tired, non-tandem vehicles only.”

While Kinder Morgan spokeswoman Sara Hughes declined to comment further on the variance or about what vehicles are considered heavy-duty, the company’s FERC filing said the change would not cause harm, and that it would take precautions and repair any damage. Tennessee Gas has environmental monitors on site.

In its response, MassPLAN said it was suspicious of the company’s strategy.

“Casting the access road classification that has stood for nearly three years, in multiple documents, as a `clerical error’ would deprive all interested parties of a meaningful opportunity to reevaluate the access roads for a newly proposed use,” Kristofferson wrote.

And Kristofferson pointed out to The Eagle that tractor-trailers and tree feller-bunchers have already been using both access roads, and wondered what could constitute heavier vehicles.

But FERC is the only agency that can address any of it at this point.

Sandisfield Conservation Commission Chairman Paul Gaudette said it is out of his hands.

State Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Catherine Skiba said while the agency does inspections for aspects of the project, “the permit we issued does not address equipment” on “existing access roads.”

And DCR spokesman Troy Wall said the agency is aware of the variance request but “does not plan to intervene at this point.”

Reach staff writer Heather Bellow at 413-329-6871

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From PLAN-NE: A vote on Natural gas for Keene; Clean Energy Future Tour in MA

from PLAN-NE Newsletter
June 15, 2017

We have been watching with some concern as Liberty Utilities attempts to expand its reach across southern New Hampshire.

Tonight, the Keene City Council will vote on plans for a temporary compressed natural gas facility in Keene, where compressed natural gas is proposed to be trucked in and then piped throughout the city.

As we told the Keene Sentinel, this vote for new gas infrastructure is an odd juxtaposition with the City Council’s planned vote tonight on a resolution in solidarity with the Paris Climate Agreement.  While the situation in Keene is unusual because of its aging propane-air distribution system, Liberty Utilities’ solution – more  natural gas infrastructure – is of course the same as its proposal for Hanover and Lebanon to the west.  And Liberty is already expanding in the east in Pelham, Windham and Concord.

Unresolved is whether Liberty Utilities has the legal authority to distribute natural gas in Keene at this time.  Liberty has filed a request for a declaratory ruling with the NH Public Utilities Commission, claiming that the company does not need new franchise rights to distribute natural gas in Keene because it already has such rights relating to its propane-air system (a claim that is apparently contrary to the PUC staff’s understanding).  A hearing on this matter has not yet been scheduled; the filings are available here.

Meanwhile in Massachusetts, the Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change has been conducting a listening tour around the state to gauge support for clean energy legislative initiatives.  The next stop is Pittsfield on June 19th, then Danvers on June 20th.  Full schedule and more information here.

Whether you attend in person or submit a comment, this is an important opportunity to voice your legislative priorities.  The Kulik/Eldridge DPU Reform Bill, H.3400/S.1847, would address many of the flaws we have encountered with the way the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities operates, particularly with respect to proposed new gas capacity and public participation in decision-making.

Finally, we have been making steady progress towards meeting our summer matching grant challenge – we’re now about one-third of the way there.

Thank you, as always, for your support!

Activists question if Keene’s part of effort to create demand for natural gas infrastructure

By Meghan, Keene Foley Sentinel
June 14, 2017

Area climate change and renewable energy activists plan to hold a vigil ahead of Thursday’s Keene City Council meeting to highlight what they say are contradictory discussions likely to take place.

The 15-member City Council, provided it suspends its rules of order, is slated to discuss a resolution submitted by seven councilors last week to have Keene join other U.S. cities in the Climate Mayors network “in adopting and supporting the goals of the Paris Agreement.”

Councilors are also expected to decide whether to accept a recommendation from a council subcommittee to discontinue part of Production Avenue so Liberty Utilities can install a temporary compressed natural gas facility.

It’s the final approval the firm needs for the project, which the planning board gave the go-ahead to last month.

Instead of a natural gas system, Keene has a decades-old propane-air distribution system that has been problematic in recent years.

Liberty Utilities purchased the system in January 2015 from N.H. Gas Corp.

In December of that year, a malfunction at the system’s production facility caused by a power outage led to pure propane being distributed to customers.

The result was a city-wide emergency that included four people being taken to the hospital, more than 1,000 homes and businesses being checked for carbon monoxide exposure, and 75 fire departments from across New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts, as well as several state agencies, responding to the city.

The system experienced a similar, but smaller-scale, malfunction in February 2016.

Liberty officials have said they eventually want to replace the temporary facility with a permanent one.

Stances at odds?

“It will be an odd juxtaposition if the City Council simultaneously affirms a commitment to the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement while approving plans to install new fossil fuel infrastructure throughout the city,” Kathryn R. Eiseman, president of Pipe Line Awareness Network for the Northeast Inc., said in an email to The Sentinel.

The nonprofit group works at the state and federal levels to prevent the overbuild of fossil fuel infrastructure, including natural gas. It formed in opposition to the proposed Northeast Energy Direct pipeline project, which would have crossed a broad swath of southern New Hampshire.

Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. LLC, a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan, proposed the pipeline in November 2014 to carry fracked natural gas from the shale fields of northern Pennsylvania to a hub in Dracut, Mass. The firm withdrew its application for federal approval for the project in May 2016, saying that not enough customers had signed up to buy natural gas from the pipeline.

Monadnock Region residents Stephanie Scherr and Susan L. Durling — members of ECHO Action, a local group that formed to fight the pipeline project and promote the use of renewable energy — agree with Eiseman’s assessment.

“It’s crazy they could pass this in one breath, and then consider the Paris Climate Accord in the next,” Durling said.

ECHO Action is coordinating Thursday’s vigil, which will start at 5:30 p.m. outside Keene City Hall, and is also encouraging people to attend the 7 p.m. meeting in council chambers. They’re also asking people who oppose Liberty Utilities’ Keene project and the expansion of natural gas infrastructure statewide and nationally to contact Mayor Kendall W. Lane with their concerns.

Scherr noted that the city has a climate action plan and a climate adaptation plan. And it has been at the forefront in the region and state for combating climate change and promoting the conservation of electricity and use of renewable energy sources, she said.

While backing the Paris Agreement is much in the city’s character, supporting the Liberty Utilities project, is out of line for the community, Scherr said. And she described Liberty Utilities’ proposal as part of a larger effort to make New England and the nation more dependent on natural gas.

Eiseman, Scherr and Durling say city officials, residents and others must look at the larger picture — specifically, at what they say is an effort by Liberty to create a demand to restart the Northeast Energy Direct pipeline project.

Liberty Utilities through its spokesman, John Shore, denied the claim. Kinder Morgan spokesman Richard N. Wheatley said he didn’t “have a comment to offer.”

“Looking at Liberty Utilities’ expansion plans throughout southern New Hampshire, it’s hard to conclude that new natural gas infrastructure is a bridge to anything other than more natural gas dependence and infrastructure,” Eiseman said.

Other projects

Liberty is the largest natural gas distribution utility in New Hampshire. It has more than 90,000 customers in more than 30 cities and towns. It’s also the subsidiary of Algonquin Power and Utilities Corp., which was participating in the development of the Northeast Energy Direct pipeline.

Besides the Keene project, Liberty Utilities is expanding natural gas service to Windham and Pelham off existing pipeline infrastructure in the region.

Liberty also has a petition pending before the N.H. Public Utilities Commission to construct a natural gas distribution system to serve Hanover and Lebanon.

Last year, the N.H. Public Utilities Commission approved Liberty Utilities’ $1.9 million purchase of Concord Steam’s assets, including its customer information, provided customers gave consent.

According to the Nov. 10, 2016 order, Liberty planned to use the information in “facilitating conversions of Concord Steam customers to gas service in an orderly fashion.”

Concord Steam, which was created in 1938, operated a system that burned wood chips at a power plant to make steam sent throughout underground pipes used for heating. Facing financial difficulties and unable to fund necessary upgrades to its power plant, the company and its system shut down on May 31.

As a result, many of the company’s customers, including the N.H. State House, 25 state office buildings, and Concord School District having to find an alternative heating source. Both the state and school district have chosen natural gas.

“None of these projects you listed are in any way an attempt by Liberty to create artificial need in order to revive the NED project. It is important to look at each one of these projects on their own, as they each have their own set of circumstances,” Shore said in an email.

When Liberty purchased the Keene franchise, it stated its intent to convert the system to natural gas, he said. The franchise has 1,250 customers.

“It will lower pricing for customers and it will increase reliability. The fuel will be provided by a third party, who was selected by a competitive solicitation. The third party will truck in natural gas that will be taken off pipelines unrelated to the withdrawn NED Project,” Shore said.

He also noted that former Concord Stream customers have “a number of choices on what fuel to use to heat their buildings. They are under no obligation to use natural gas.”

Pipeline opponents aren’t convinced.

“Personally, I do not think it is a coincidence that Liberty Utilities has focused on the most powerful economic centers in New Hampshire to expand their offerings. If the export plans go through, those towns; Concord, Pelham, Keene, Lebanon, and Hanover will be clamoring for pipelines to relieve the pressure on pricing,” Martin wrote in a letter Tuesday to Keene Mayor Kendall Lane, which she shared with The Sentinel.

Meghan Foley can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1436, or Follow her on Twitter @MFoleyKS.

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