Pipeline meeting scheduled in Rindge, comment period extended to October

By Meghan Foley Sentinel Staff | Posted: Friday, September 4, 2015 12:00 pm

RINDGE — A federal agency has scheduled a meeting in Cheshire County for people to comment about a proposed natural gas pipeline.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will hold a “scoping” meeting about the Northeast Energy Direct project on Tuesday, Sept. 29, at 6 p.m. at the Franklin Pierce University Fieldhouse in Rindge, agency officials announced Thursday afternoon. The meeting is intended for the federal agency to gather public comments, including any concerns people have about potential adverse effects on the environment.

In addition, the time period for people to submit written comments about the proposal has been extended to Oct. 16. The original deadline had been Aug. 31.

Written comments about the project can be submitted through the “documents and filings” section of the FERC website at www.ferc.gov.

Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. LLC, a Kinder Morgan company, is proposing to build a pipeline carrying natural gas from shale gas fields in Pennsylvania through upstate New York, part of northern Massachusetts and into southern New Hampshire before going to a distribution hub in eastern Massachusetts.

The Northeast Energy Direct pipeline would cross 71 miles of southern New Hampshire, including the Monadnock Region towns of Fitzwilliam, Richmond, Rindge, Troy and Winchester.

Liberty Utilities, which is interested in buying natural gas from the pipeline for its customers, is considering building a line branching off the pipeline to supply fuel to the Keene area.

FERC officials have been holding meetings throughout the summer in all the states along the pipeline’s proposed route.

Originally, agency officials had scheduled two meetings in New Hampshire, in Milford and Nashua. The Cheshire County session comes following pressure from Gov. Maggie Hassan and the public to add meetings on the project.

It also comes the day after U.S. Rep. Ann M. Kuster, D-N.H, submitted letters to FERC and Kinder Morgan outlining concerns she shares with her constituents about the project.

“Many of my constituents have raised questions about the (Northeast Energy Direct) project’s impact on environmentally sensitive areas, public health and emergency preparedness plans,” Kuster wrote in the letter to Kinder Morgan officials. “I request that Kinder Morgan fully analyzes the specific concerns outlined in this letter during the decision making process.”

Kuster represents the state’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes a number of towns along the proposed pipeline route in Cheshire and Hillsborough counties.

The commission has the power to decide whether to grant federal approval for the project.

Separate from the FERC meetings, Kinder Morgan has scheduled five open houses this month to provide information to people about the project.

One of those meetings will be held in Fitzwilliam on Sept. 10 at 6 p.m. at the VFW on Route 12.

The other open houses will be held on Sept. 9 at Mascenic High School in New Ipswich, Sept. 15 at the Hampshire Hills Sports & Fitness Club in Milford, Sept. 16 at Rockingham Park in Salem, and Sept. 17 at the Merrimack American Legion.

The meeting announcement for Cheshire County comes after FERC officials originally submitted an event permit application to the town of Swanzey seeking approval to hold the meeting at the former Cheshire Ice Arena at the Cheshire Fairgrounds in early September. Selectmen approved the permit.

However, FERC officials decided to reschedule the meeting because of a concern that the date would not provide the public enough advance notice to prepare for the meeting, spokeswoman Tamara Young-Allen said last month.

She said Thursday that staff with the federal agency try to find meeting venues that are available, easily accessible and large enough to accommodate in excess of 700 to 800 people.

“The Franklin Pierce University Fieldhouse fits that bill,” she said.