Gas pipeline co. sends warnings to property owners
Some property owners along Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co.’s planned 179-mile pathway have received new requests for access to their property, this time mentioning that landowners who don’t consent to allowing the survey may be subject to a formal process through the state Department of Public Utilities.
The letters, from right-of-way agent James D. Hartman, explain that TGP seeks permission to perform civil, geotechnical, archeological, wetland and stream surveys as well as surveys for rare, threatened or endangered species, all of which will become part of the company’s application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and other federal and state agencies when it formally proposes its pipeline between Wright, N.Y., and Dracut, just north of Lowell.
As now planned, the transmission pipeline would be cutting through nine Franklin County towns as well as parts of Berkshire, Worcester, Middlesex and Essex counties.
Unlike letters that residents began receiving this past winter, the new letters explain, “It is Tennessee’s preference and intent to continue to work with each landowner that has not consented to the survey without having to petition the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (MA DPU), as provided under Chapter 164, Sections 72A, 75B and 75D, for an order to enter your property to perform the requested surveys ... Tennessee remains hopeful that you will allow us the opportunity to continue to work with you through this survey request process and that you will agree to this survey. Tennessee prefers the one to one relationship and direct communication with you regarding this survey request rather than pursuing the MA DPU process.”
At an April 7 meeting with Montague selectmen, Allen Fore, public affairs director for TGP parent Kinder Morgan, said that 10 of 18 landowners in that town had granted permission for survey work and he explained that the DPU process was an option that the company would pursue “as a last resort.”
“We want to work with the owners, we want to work with the community,” he told the selectmen and residents at that meeting. “We would much rather work with you, get onto your property, learn about your property, learn about your concerns, and we do want to be open about that. So that would be our goal.”
The letter was “sobering to get,” said Laura Chapdelaine, one of the Montague property owners who has refused to allow the survey work to be done.
Jim Cutler of Ashfield has written a letter to TGP refusing to allow the survey to be done, arguing that natural gas transmission pipelines “pose a very serious risk due to possible explosion and fire from leaks” and “is considered storage of hazardous materials” that would violate terms of his homeowners insurance agreement, as well as potentially reducing the value of his property or preventing future sale or subdivision of the property.
“Based on my inability to grant a (right-of-way) easement for the above stated reasons, it would be inconsistent to allow you access to my property for surveying or for any other purpose,” Cutler wrote to James F. Blais Jr., a TGP contract land agent.
According to state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs spokeswoman Krista Selmi, the state’s process for a Petition for an Order Authorizing Surveys requires the company to first send a notice to each landowner describing the petition, the proposed project and the need for a FERC Certificate of Public Necessity, inviting written comments over what is normally a two-week period.
After the comment deadline, she said, the DPU will consider the petition and comments and draft an order that may impose conditions on the company if it grants permission to survey.
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