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Officials Celebrate Suspension Of Natural Gas Pipeline Plan, But Is It Really Dead?

Apr 21, 2016 05:59PM ● By Bill Gilman
Public officials were quick to applaud the announcement Wednesday by Kinder-Morgan that it was "suspending" plans for its  $3.3 billion Tennessee Gas Northeast Energy Direct Pipeline, a project that would have cut through dozens of Massachusetts communities, including Tewksbury.

However, at least one anti-pipeline activist is saying they may want to hold off on a victory dance, as the Kinder-Morgan project is not dead and buried.

"This is nothing more than a press release. There is nothing meaningful here. They need to put their money where their mouth is," said Atty. Karin Theodoros Zaroulis, of Tewksbury. "They have neither withdrawn their application with FERC, nor their petition at MA DPU, nor otherwise said the project is dead."

Zaroulis said her major concern was that in their release, Kinder-Morgan said the project made no sense because, "there are currently neither sufficient volumes, nor a reasonable expectation of securing them, to proceed with the project as it is currently configured."

"They can come back tomorrow under the same FERC application and the same DPU Petitions with a smaller diameter pipe along the same or a different path," said Zaroulis. "Until the application at FERC and the DPU petitions for survey orders are withdrawn, this project is alive and well and can move forward in a heartbeat. People should not be celebrating. It is not over until the pending FERC application is withdrawn or denied and the Petition at the DPU is also withdrawn or denied. The DPU still might try to order the surveys, given that a pipeline is planned at some point."

Zaroulis' concerns may have merit. On Thursday, Tennessee Gas Chief Counsel James Messenger filed a request with the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities, asking for a 20-day stay "on all proceedings, including responses to outstanding matters, until May 26, 2016."
Messenger said a status report would be submitted by that date.

Tennessee has been worked diligently to finalize responses to the Information Requests, but requests that the Stay encompass any filings, including Responses to the Information Requests," said Messenger.

Zaroulis said the delay may seem innocent but that "anything can happen" if the additional time is granted.

While the final nail may not have been driven into the pipeline project's coffin, elected officials were pleased with Kinder-Morgan's announcement on Wednesday.

State Sen. Barbara L'Italien, D-Andover, said she believes Kinder-Morgan succumbed to pressure exerted by state and local officials, working closely with grassroots organizations across the state that strongly opposed the project because of concerns with public safety, impact on lifestyle and opposition to the fracking process.

“Kinder Morgan said inadequate commitments from potential customers and changing market conditions were the primary reasons for stopping the project, but I give credit to the hard work and determination of many residents, environmentalists and government officials who fought back against a bad proposal and a corporate giant,” said L’Italien, whose Senate district includes Andover, Tewksbury and Dracut.  “Sometimes the little guy does win. Congratulations and thanks to everyone who worked together to beat back this bad proposal and made this news happen.” 

"It's good news for the residents of Tewksbury, the Commonwealth, and the entire northeast,"said Bruce Panilaitis, chairman of the Tewksbury Board of Selectmen.

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren also hailed the decision by Kinder-Morgan, saying a pipeline extension was not needed to meet the energy needs of the region.

"Across Massachusetts, residents raised significant concerns about the impact of the proposed Northeast Energy Direct pipeline on homes, businesses, and our environment. This announcement confirms what our citizens have been saying since the beginning - this project simply isn't necessary to meet our energy needs," said Warren. "The Kinder Morgan pipeline was the wrong project at the wrong time, but as Massachusetts works to modernize our energy system and ensure that prices remain affordable for families and businesses, it is urgent that we upgrade aging infrastructure and invest in clean technologies of the future."

U.S. Sen. Edward Markey said he was pleased that New England would not be used as a trade route to ship American national gas to overseas markets.

“I have opposed Kinder Morgan’s proposed pipeline through Massachusetts and New England because of concerns that it could have led to the export of American natural gas to foreign countries, the impact it would have had on local communities in Massachusetts, and its potential to worsen climate change," said Markey. "Using New England as a throughway to export U.S. gas to overseas markets might be good for the bottom lines of pipeline companies but it could raise prices and be a disaster for consumers and businesses in our region."


BREAKING: Kinder-Morgan Pulls The Plug On Northeast Pipeline Project

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