Wednesday, March 02, 2016
The company seeking to build a new natural gas pipeline through Franklin County has asked the state Department of Public Utilities for the authority to enter more than 400 private properties to conduct surveys for the controversial project.
Over the past two years since the project was announced, many landowners who have found their properties squarely in the proposed 30-inch diameter, 420-mile pipeline’s path have denied the company access to their land.
Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. has responded over the same time with further letters asking for permission to survey and informing those landowners that it would ask the DPU for such access if necessary.
The company also asked for permission in separate filings to conduct geotechnical and vernal pool surveys on other various properties.
The company wants to conduct civil, archaeological, cultural resource, wetlands, waterbody delineation and endangered or rare species surveys to support information in its pending application for a certificate of public convenience and necessity before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which regulates interstate natural gas transportation.
That certificate would grant the company eminent domain powers, allowing it to seize parts of the properties along the route to create right-of-way easements.
TGP has argued that the project is in the public interest — a deciding factor in whether eminent domain can be used — because it would expand public access to natural gas in the northeastern U.S., which proponents of new pipelines claim is experiencing supply bottlenecks as demand for the fuel grows. Opponents have said they believe the pipeline’s expected capacity — up to 1.3 billion cubic feet of gas per day — is far larger than the region needs and that the true intent is to export the gas. That, they claim, could expose the gas to global commodity markets and drive up the price, not reduce it.
The filing specifically addresses actions taken over the past two years by two Franklin County towns, Deerfield and Conway, that have attempted to use powers granted to their health boards under state laws to ban pipeline-related activity from occurring within their borders. Twenty-two of the properties referenced in the filing are within those towns. The filing says the towns’ orders are preempted by federal law.
“To the extent the Deerfield and Conway Boards of Health seek to regulate the siting, construction, operation or regulation of an interstate pipeline, the Deerfield Order and the Conway Order are futile,” the filing reads. “Once FERC issues a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, the (Natural Gas Act) preempts the Orders because Congress has ‘occupied the field of matters relating to wholesale sales and transportation of natural gas in interstate commerce.’”
The document also note that the federal Pipeline Safety Act preempts the authority of any state to regulate pipeline safety, and that various state laws preempt the measures put in place by the town’s orders.
Kathryn Eiseman, director of the Pipeline Awareness Network for the Northeast, said: “These landowners are minding their own business and seeking to simply live their lives in peace. We are working to ensure that they have the legal guidance they need to deal with this assault on their privacy and unjustified intrusion on their property.”
If built, the $5 billion project would go into service in late 2018.
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