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Tennessee Gas Officials Meet With Residents To Discuss Proposed Pipeline

Jun 25, 2014 09:20AM ● By Bill Gilman
The latest chapter in the relationship between Kinder Morgan and the people of Tewksbury has gotten off to a rocky start.
More than 70 residents gathered Tuesday night at the Tewksbury Senior Center for a special meeting of the Board of Selectmen, featuring an informal presentation by representatives from Kinder-Morgan, the parent company of Tennessee Gas, which is hoping to construct a new natural gas pipeline from Pennsylvania to a hub terminal in Dracut. A 1.3 mile stretch of the pipeline would pas through land in North Tewksbury, near and on the Andover border.
The first problem was the company's PowerPoint presentation, which was so small and far away that most residents were unable to see it clearly. Company representatives promised it would be available on the company website.
The second problem was a group of letters received by some of the residents, through whose property the pipeline is proposed to run. Residents said the letter had a threatening tone and hinted that if permission were not granted for Tennessee Gas employees to come onto their property for surveying work, that steps would be taken that would allow the employees to come onto the land without permission.
State Rep. Jim Lyons, R-Andover, attended the meeting along with state Rep. Jim Miceli, D-Wilmington. Lyons said several residents had called his office about these letters and that he had read them himself.
"I was caught off guard by the tone of the letter," said Lyons. "I read (a second) letter and the tone was threatening. I was pretty surprised by an agency like yours."
Mike Lennon, field operations manager for Kinder Morgan, took responsibility for the letters and apologized to all who were offended and felt threatened. He said the letters were only meant to be educational regarding the process. If denied access, Kinder Morgan can appeal to the Massachusetts Department Of Utilities, which does have the right to grant them access.
But at least one resident says it will take a lot more than that.
"If you try to come on my property, you'd better bring the handcuffs and a court order," said Charlie Lucier of Vale Street. Lucier said he has waited more than 25 years for the state to build a promised noise-reduction wall between his home and I-93. His negative experience with the state has left him in a rather uncooperative mood when it comes to major projects like this.
The proposed Tennessee Gas pipeline has been dubbed the Northeast Energy Direct Project. According to Allen Fore, director of public affairs for Kinder Morgan, it was carry methane gas fracked from shale deposits in Pennsylvania into Ohio for sale to companies operating in New England. Current Tennessee Gas clients include Unitil and National Grid.
Fore said he believed these new shale deposits could supply natural gas for up to 100 years.
"We believe this is a long-term solution, we believe a permanent solution, to the energy needs of New England," said Fore, adding that his company has been transporting natural gas into New England via pipelines for the past 60 years.
Currently, there exist several miles of Tennessee Gas 8-inch and 20-inch pipelines underground in Tewksbury. These were originally installed more than 30 years ago. The new project would also call for 20-inch piping to be used.
Many of the residents who spoke out t the meeting had concerns about safety. Project Manager Hamarich stressed that his company has an excellent safe record and pointed out that any time there is a leak or rupture to the pipeline, there is an automatic shutoff to the gas flow to minimize damage.
Resident Rene Levesque said he and his family have lived in Tewksbury for 37 years and that an existing Tennessee Gas pipeline runs within 50-70 yards of his home. He said there has never been a problem and that the site is kept clean and the brush cleared.
Town Manager Richard Montuori concurred that in his four years working in Tewksbury, there have not been any problems with any of the gas pipelines running under the town.
Kinder Morgan officials said not only would the pipeline provided needed energy to the Northeast, it would also be good for the economy. Fore claims the construction will create 3,000 union jobs and will generate $25 million a yer in tax revenue to Massachusetts.
On several occasions, Fore stressed that the project is in its most preliminary phase. In fact, he said, there technically is no project yet. Meetings such as the one held in Tewksbury are being held in towns all along the pipeline as part of an exploratory process.
Fore also made clear that the proposed route for the pipeline would likely change, in part, because of concerns expressed by residents at these meetings.
"We are listening," said Fore. "And one of the things we are hearing is that you have concerns about the route. That will all be taken into consideration and alternatives will be looked at."
Fore said if the project moves forward, they would enter into negotiations with impacted landowners to purchase needed easements on their property. He said the intent is for all agreements to be voluntary.
If it moves forward, the pipeline project will take four years to complete, said Fore. It would not be operational until the winter of 2018.
"If we decide to go through with the project we would be starting the permitting process this fall and we would present a preferred route," he said. "The regulatory agencies are the ones who will ultimately tell us where the route can go."
Montuori and Selectman Todd Johnson told residents that the town knew none of the details about the project before Tuesday night. While they had been informed Tennessee Gas had plans that involved Tewksbury, no details were provided.
In fact, said Montuori, the town was so much in the dark that officials refused to allow company surveyors onto town owned land until more information about the project was revealed.
Fore and his team promised to return to Tewksbury for another meeting with residents later in the year as the project starts to take shape.

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