Lowell Pipeline “Modernization”

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This pipeline project is called the “Lowell Area Gas Modernization Project.”  It’s a new $30M fossil fuel infrastructure investment.

There’s an existing pipeline corridor running between Tewksbury and Chelmsford. National Grid wants to decommission the pipe that’s there now, and install a brand new pipe along a similar path (See map on back). In many places, the new pipe will be more than twice the size of the current pipe (current pipe: 6”; new pipe: 12”). They plan to expand two above-ground facilities at both ends of the pipeline, and they want to construct a new mid-line above-ground installation.

National Grid wants to increase pipeline capacity to meet higher projected demand for natural gas through 2040; the city of Lowell has already committed to transitioning to 100% renewables by 2035.

Project Timeline:
– 2018, early 2019: permitting phase
– Spring 2019: Begin construction
– November 2020: Construction complete
– “By October 2021:” First inspection of new pipeline

The pressure of the new pipeline will be 610 psi. This is a very high pressure for a pipeline running through a densely-populated city. Local pipeline experts estimate a more reasonable/common pressure for a gas line in a similar location may be around 200 psi.

Same pressure as existing pipe, with 4x volume given new 12” pipe.

According to the Home Energy Efficiency Team’s city maps of gas leaks, there are no leaks in the existing pipeline where construction is proposed.

The Incineration Zone is roughly 300 feet. Within the incineration zone are:
– 50 homes in the highlands
– Bailey Elementary School
– Emmanuel House of Prayer Church
– Gas Station, Showcase Cinemas, Crosspoints Towers, businesses, etc.

National Grid will be horizontal drilling under the highway crossings.

Significant parts of the project go through protected wetlands, which will require additional permits and hearings.

The pipeline would cross the Middlesex Canal, which is a historic and protected site.

A primary strategy pipeline companies across the country are using to sneak in larger pipelines is taking advantage of pending federal regulations, like National Grid has done in its PR material about this project. There currently is no “federal program” requiring this type of inspection equipment.

Permits Required:

US Army Corp of Engineers Section 404 General Permit
– Section 106 Review Historic Preservation
– US EPA NPDES General Permit (Storm Water Discharge)

MA Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) Review
– MA Energy Facility Siting Board (EFSB) approval
– MA Historical Commission Review
– MA DOT Highway Access Permit
– MA DEP 401 Water Quality Certificate

Lowell, Chelmsford, and Tewksbury Conservation Commission
– Other local Permits

Northern Middlesex Council of Governments (NMCOG) regional planning agency had the following concerns.
– Canal crossing
– Impact on wetlands (“temporary but significant”)
– What’s up with the water that will be discharged after being used to pressure-test the pipe? Where will it go?
– Tree cutting/land clearing
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