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Northeast Energy Direct pipeline in the hands of FERC

The proposal for a controversial natural gas transmission pipeline through southern New Hampshire is now in the hands of federal officials.

And while the Northeast Energy Direct pipeline’s path and specifications are similar to what Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. LLC officials proposed in their pre-filing paperwork last year, the route has changed in some communities, including the Cheshire County towns of Richmond and Winchester.

Officials with Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. LLC, a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan, announced early Friday afternoon they had officially filed an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission seeking approval for a “certificate of public convenience and necessity” to build the Northeast Energy Direct pipeline and related infrastructure.

The approximately $5 billion project will expand the company’s existing pipeline system in Pennsylvania, New York and New England, and connect it to low-cost natural gas supplies from northern Pennsylvania to New York and New England markets, according to a news release from the company.

“The NED Project is a transformative project for the northeast United States,” Kimberly S. Watson, Kinder Morgan East Region Natural Gas Pipelines president, said in a statement. “Despite being just a few hundred miles from the most abundant and low-cost natural gas production area in the country, consumers in the Northeast pay some of the highest natural gas and electricity rates in the continental United States. These higher prices are due, in large part, to natural gas pipeline infrastructure that is insufficient to meet the winter heating demand of local distribution companies (LDCs) and electric generators.”

The proposed Northeast Energy Direct pipeline would carry fracked natural gas from shale gas fields in Pennsylvania through upstate New York, parts of northern Massachusetts and into southern New Hampshire before going to a distribution hub in eastern Massachusetts. The route would cross about 70 miles of southern New Hampshire, including the local towns of Fitzwilliam, Richmond, Rindge, Troy and Winchester.

The project has been in the pre-filing stages with FERC for the past year, and has met strong resistance from residents and local officials in the southwestern New Hampshire towns slated to be in its path. Their concerns range from the potential environmental and health effects that the high-pressure transmission pipeline could cause to concerns about the federal government taking property by eminent domain for the project.

FERC spokeswoman Tamara Young-Allen confirmed late Friday afternoon that the agency had received Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co.’s application. By 5 p.m. the roughly 20,000-page document, which includes details about the pipeline’s construction, route, capacity, who it will be serving and why it’s needed, had been posted to FERC’s website.

The application, which has been filed under docket number CP16-21-000, is divided into three sections containing information accessible to the public, information that is privileged, and “critical energy infrastructure information.”

Young-Allen said FERC staff will now go through the filing to make sure it’s complete.

Related: Kinder Morgan files federal application to build Northeast Energy Direct pipeline

An ambitious timeline

Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. officials are requesting the federal commission authorize the “construction, installation, modification, operation and maintenance” of the pipeline during the fourth quarter, or fall of 2016, according to the application’s executive summary.

The date will allow company officials to “complete acquisitions of property for the pipeline and compressor station locations, environmental and cultural resource surveys, federal and state permitting activities, materials procurement, and the construction of the project in a time frame compatible with the proposed in-service date,” the summary said.

It will also keep with the company’s anticipated timeline of starting to prepare sites in January 2017 for construction of the pipeline, and building of meter and compressor stations, according to the summary.

Company officials plan to have the pipeline operating by Nov. 1, 2018 with “certain minor pipeline looping facilities” in Connecticut not expected to be online until a year later, the summary said.

The 419.66 miles of Northeast Energy Direct pipeline are divided into two sections, with 173.55 miles accounting for the “supply path” component from Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co.’s 300 Line in northern Pennsylvania to its 200 Line and Iroquois Gas Transmission System in Wright, N.Y, according to the FERC application.

The “market path” component will then run 246.17 miles from Wright, N.Y., east to Massachusetts, into New Hampshire, then back to Massachusetts, ending at Dracut. That section of pipeline will include six new compressor stations and 27 new and modified meter and regulator stations, the application said.

In New Hampshire, approximately 57 of the 70 miles of 30-inch diameter pipeline slated to pass through the state will be co-located on existing utility corridors, according to the application.

There would be a 41,000-horsepower compressor station in Hillsborough County, in New Ipswich, according to the maps included with the application, two new metering stations and the remaining lengths of two lateral distribution pipelines coming from Massachusetts.

While the maps show the Northeast Energy Direct pipeline following the route of high-tension power lines through the Cheshire County towns of Troy, Fitzwilliam and Rindge, that’s not the case in Richmond and Winchester.

Related: 85% of natural gas growth comes from the Northeast

Changing the path

In a cover letter attached to its application, Tennessee Gas Pipeline officials wrote that since they filed the second draft of the project’s environmental report in July, there have been changes to the project including two, approximately 7-mile re-routes in Amherst-Merrimack and Richmond to “accommodate town and regulatory agency requests.”

This past summer, company officials decided on two separate occasions to move the route through Winchester away from the power lines at the request of town officials. The new route avoids much of the town’s drinking water aquifer and the natural area of Pulpit Falls and Pulpit Rock, which is what town officials encouraged.

The maps filed Friday show the pipeline leaving the power lines in Warwick, Mass., and traveling northeast into Winchester to the east of Pulpit Falls, Pulpit Rock and Bent Pond. It then turns east, then north, crossing Route 119 and following the road into Richmond before turning northeast just over the town line.

The pipeline then connects with another high-tension power line corridor just west of Brickyard Brook, and follows the path east crossing Route 32. It then enters Troy at its border with Fitzwilliam and continues to move back and forth between the two towns until the pipeline crosses Route 12 and turns southeast toward Rindge where it continues to follow utility corridors.

In its news release Friday, Tennessee Gas Pipeline officials said they have executed agreements with seven New England local distribution companies to provide those businesses with natural gas from the market path component of the pipeline. They’ve also signed agreements with four of those seven local distribution companies to provide them with natural gas from the supply path component, along with two natural gas producers, one municipal light department and a power generator, according to the news release.

“Taken all together, these precedent agreements demonstrate the strong market demand for the NED Project pipeline capacity,” officials said in the news release.

Kathryn R. Eiseman, president of the Pipe Line Awareness Network for the Northeast, Inc., said in a statement Friday the pipeline proposal isn’t “transformative,” as Kinder Morgan officials say, but “regressive.”

The nonprofit group is working in both New Hampshire and Massachusetts to fight the pipeline.

“It would move our energy system in the wrong direction, and result in a destructive overbuild of gas infrastructure, leaving ratepayers to foot the bill,” she said.

She then referenced a study released this week by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey showing that “energy efficiency, demand response, and renewable energy are the responsible path forward, financially and environmentally.”

“Our governmental officials at all levels need to show the courage that Maura Healey has and help the Northeast stand up to this behemoth,” Eiseman said.

This article was written by Meghan Foley from The Keene Sentinel, N.H. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.