Gas co. proposes new pipeline through Franklin County
A natural gas pipeline is being proposed to run through several Franklin County towns.
Residents in Shelburne and Montague have been contacted by representatives from the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. with plans for a proposed 250-mile project in Massachusetts.
While there is no application with detailed maps that have been filed with state environmental regulators, according to Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs spokeswoman Krista Selmi, similar letters have been received by planners and selectmen in Orange, Erving, Montague and Deerfield.
According to a Jan. 8 letter sent to Shelburne Selectman John Payne, the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. wants to upgrade its existing system through New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut, which will include the pipeline expansion, additional meter stations and modifications to its existing facilities.
The company is hoping to locate most of the new pipeline adjacent or parallel to, existing pipeline and utility corridors.
“In response to the increasing demand for natural gas and related transmission services into the Northeast,” the letter says, “Tennessee is proposing the Northeast Expansion Project to upgrade its existing pipeline system within New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire,” the letter says. “As configured, the proposed project will result in the construction of approximately 250 miles of new pipeline.”
The map and project overview, which was attached to a letter by public affairs Director Allen Fore, says the project is expected to create at least 3,000 jobs during the peak construction period and be up and running in time for the 2018 winter heating season, if all goes smoothly through the various permit processes. The project overview says “outreach meetings” are currently going on, along with a route selection process and permit preparations. If all goes as planned, construction would begin in April 2017.
Fore’s letter says the company “plans to explore this effort with interested stakeholders, including landowners, elected officials and local governments and their residents, as well as the appropriate state and federal regulatory agencies. Tennessee will begin to contact landowners along the proposed project route in the coming weeks.”
Berkshire Gas Co. spokesman Christopher Farrell said, “By no way is that a done deal. A lot of interstate pipeline companies are coming up with various proposals to increase capacity to Massachusetts and New England.”
Effect on Berkshire Gas
But he said of the Tennessee Gas Pipeline proposal, “If it happens, we would welcome it with open arms. That would give us a second source of supply for Franklin and Hampshire counties. We would be thrilled to see it, and it would allow us to increase capacity and deliverability at the other end of the market in Greenfield.”
Currently, Berkshire Gas serves only Greenfield, Deerfield, Sunderland and Whately, as well as Hatfield, Hadley and Amherst in Hampshire County with a line that comes from Southwick to Greenfield, Farrell said. “To have a secondary source of supply that runs through Deerfield gives us access to greater volumes of pipeline gas without having to invest to expand that line. Greater volumes could lead to expansion, if it’s cost effective. I think that would be good news for everyone.”
Now, Farrell said, “We have volumes for measured expansion, but we don’t have volumes to add new communities at this point. But that line would make it possible to certainly consider doing that.”
Franklin Regional Council of Governments Planning Director Margaret Sloan said she has seen no information about the proposed pipeline, but she said she expects that it will come before the Planning Board at one of its coming meetings and there may also be a filing under Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act provisions, depending on the scope of the project.
The New Hampshire Business review reported last year that Tennessee Gas’ proposed project would bring an added 636,000 dekatherms per day to the Northeast, with a 171-mile loop of mostly new pipeline across northern Massachusetts to Dracut, with legs reaching northward to Keene and Jaffrey, N.H.
Shelburne selectmen will invite a company representative to one of its meetings, to explain how their plans will affect the town.
On Monday evening, Payne told fellow board members the pipeline may be going through Franklin County, crossing the Deerfield River, near Bardwells Ferry, and “angling across Cosby land” into Greenfield.
“If there’s a gas pipeline coming into Shelburne, we, as the chief elected officials, ought to know about it,” Chairman Joseph Judd said. He said the board will invite fire district and public safety officials to the meeting.
James Wholey of Bardwells Ferry Road said he has been contacted by Tennessee Gas, which is currently surveying land, to see if it’s suitable for a pipeline. “They have a team that is coming around to do a profile of the proposed pipeline,” he said. “They have a team that does archaeological digs, and they have a team that does wetlands.”
“They might not even pick this route,” he added. “They’re basically following the powerlines from Pittsfield to Deerfield,” said Wholey.
Wholey said the company also has a pipeline that goes from Albany, N.Y., to Agawam, which could be expanded east to the Boston area.
In Montague, some residents have been contacted by a pipeline representative seeking permission to perform surveys on their land.
Laura Chapdelaine of Greenfield Road said a representative had visited her husband with a survey permission form and a more detailed map than that sent to town officials, which he took with him.
Chapdelaine said the map showed the pipeline crossing the couple’s property, the last before the dead-end created by the removal of the bridge over the railway, then crossing the Connecticut River by way of the railroad bridge leading into the East Deerfield Rail Yard. Heading east, the pipeline would run in a north-easterly direction across the Montague Plains Wildlife Management Area and continue as far north as Northfield.
“My husband is denying permission to survey, and that’s based on the advice I’ve seen coming out of the movement in New York that questions pipelines environmentally and on a bunch of other grounds,” Chapdelaine said.
What role the town might play in permitting a pipeline was unclear.
Town Administrator Frank Abbondanzio and Town Planner Walter Ramsey are unsure whether the town would have a role in permitting a pipeline.
Near the Chapdelaines on Hatchery Road, another resident said she had also met with a Tennessee Gas representative in the last few days. Lisa Adams of 16 Hatchery Road said the representative had requested permission to survey their property but did not say whether the line would cross the 1.3-acre parcel on the north side of Hatchery Road or the 18.6 acres of farmland across the street. Part of the property is under a state conservation restriction and part is protected under the Agricultural Preservation Restriction Program, Adams said.
The land is protected, the information was insufficient and the answer was “no.”
“We wouldn’t have done it anyway, because we’re also a gluten-free organic, non-GMO farm and so much work has gone into the farm that there is just no way we would allow that,” Adams said.
Adams said the pipeline is meant to be below ground, and didn’t like the thought of the work that would go into burying it.
Recorder staff reporters DIANE BRONCACCIO, RICHIE DAVIS and CHRIS CURTIS contributed to this report.