Area businesses briefed on Tennessee Gas Pipeline



Last modified: Thursday, December 04, 2014

Dozens of area business owners were briefed Tuesday on the state of natural gas capacity in the region and proposed Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. pipeline project during informational meetings sponsored by chambers of commerce in Hampshire and Franklin counties.

The invitation-only sessions were targeted for the chambers’ boards of directors and businesses that are among the largest natural gas users in the area, according to chamber leaders.

In Hadley, approximately 50 business owners were on hand for a two-hour luncheon held at the Hadley Farms Meeting House where they heard presentations by Tennessee Gas Pipeline parent Kinder Morgan, Berkshire Gas Co., Columbia Gas, The Northeast Gas Association, ISO New England, which is the region’s grid operator, and Associated Industries of Massachusetts, which co-sponsored the event.

“It was a briefing essentially for the large natural gas-users, to lay out the data on the restrictions on (natural gas) capacity and why that is, and the consequences,” said Suzanne Beck, executive director of the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce . “It was meant to inform people about the issue, it was not an advocacy event. It was to get the facts out on the table.”

While the meeting in Hadley went on without a hitch, the session at Greenfield Community College for a group of Franklin County Chamber of Commerce members drew an estimated 30 protesters, many of whom held “No Pipeline” signs and some of whom chastised the chamber’s co-sponsorship of the invitation-only event.

About 10 members of the protest group entered the meeting, during which representatives from the various companies, including Kinder Morgan, described what they called the region’s need for additional natural gas capacity for reliability and reducing energy costs.

Once inside, the protesters read a statement calling the proposed pipeline project unnecessary. It would bring Pennsylvania shale gas through Plainfield, Ashfield, Conway, Shelburne, Deerfield, Montague, Erving and Northfield.

There were several “outbursts,” by the group, according to Deerfield farmer Ben Clark, who was one of four chamber directors who attended the session.

Chamber President Ann Hamilton, who did not attend Tuesday’s meeting because she was recovering from recent surgery, said the organization has taken no position, including whether the need for additional pipeline capacity is genuine.

“We’re told by Western Massachusetts Electric Co. and Berkshire Gas that they need more gas, and we were hoping today might clarify how much gas there is, the other alternatives and what are the options,” she said. “This whole thing was AIM’s (Associated Industries of Massachusetts) party. I challenged them because I didn’t see the need to keep it closed. But we didn’t anticipate it would create such a storm.”

Hamilton said that agreeing to a closed meeting to which other chamber members were not invited had been “a mistake.”

The Greenfield meeting preceded the session in Hadley, which chamber directors described as informative and a good “first step” for many business owners to better understand the natural gas capacity issues and the impact on energy costs and resources in the region.

“There was a good dialogue,” said Don Courtemanche, executive director of the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce. “We learned a lot. We got up to speed on the challenges in the region. It was definitely a valuable investment of time.”

Beck, of the Northampton chamber, said businesses in the city’s industrial park and many large businesses along the King Street corridor were invited to the session in Hadley.

“I think people still have a lot of questions about solutions,” Beck said. “The briefing I think was very thorough about the situation and why (natural gas) capacity is constrained. I thought that was the real strength of the meeting.”

Asked about limiting the informational meeting to the chamber’s board and selected businesses helpful, Beck said there have dozens of public meetings about the proposed pipeline project and natural gas capacity in the region. She said chamber leaders plan to share the information they learned with the chamber’s wider membership.

N.H. route confirmed

Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. confirmed its plan Tuesday to alter the preferred path for its Northeast Energy Direct project through Northfield across southern New Hampshire rather than through Warwick, Orange and eastward through Massachusetts on its route to Dracut.

Clark, of Deerfield, confirmed that the maps discussed by Kinder Morgan representatives showed the preferred route the company plans to file Monday with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 95 percent of which would be co-located with either electric power line rights of way or existing pipelines.

The route from Wright, N.Y., into Massachusetts will be amended, reportedly entering Massachusetts through Hancock, Lanesborough, Cheshire and Windsor instead of six other Berkshire County communities including Pittsfield. Spokesmen for the pipeline developer emphasized that the exact path, which would enter Shelburne and then Deerfield farther north than originally announced, remains subject to change.

Berkshire Gas, which would draw on the proposed pipeline at a metering station proposed off Upper Road near the Deerfield-Greenfield town line, according to Kinder Morgan representatives at the session, said the proposed pipeline would give it expanded capacity to reach more heating customers. Berkshire Gas said the Tennessee Gas pipeline project was the only line that would serve its needs.

Dan Crowley can be reached at dcrowley@gazettenet.com.




 


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