Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. files report with Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

Last modified: Sunday, July 26, 2015

Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. submitted its long-awaited Draft Environmental Report for the Northeast Energy Direct project Friday to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, three business days before a public hearing scheduled for Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in Greenfield Middle School.

The 79-volume report, posted Friday afternoon by FERC, is the first detailed description since March of the nearly $5 billion project that is planned to cross eight Franklin County towns on its way from Wright, New York, to Dracut, north of Lowell, to deliver up to 1.3 billion cubic feet a day (bcf/d) of hydrofracked natural gas from Pennsylvania shale fields.

The project, which Tennessee Gas Pipeline parent corporation Kinder Morgan announced last week would be downsized from a capacity limit of 2.2 Bcf/d, was shown in the latest report to be a 30-inch pipeline rather than one measuring 36 inches in earlier iterations, with compressor stations in Northfield and the Berkshire County town of Windsor reduced in scale from 80,000 to 41,000 horsepower.

Kinder Morgan said in its announcement that if demand for its planned pipeline increases, it reserves the right to file for the original 2.2 Bcf/d project or seek to scale it up.

With the company’s report delayed from its original June target filing, there has been mounting criticism of scheduled public hearings by FERC, including the one in Greenfield, that are meant to comment on a proposed scope for an environmental impact statement the regulatory authority plans to prepare beginning this fall.

The criticism, most recently by state Senate President Stanley Rosenberg of Amherst as well as the Massachusetts Audubon Society and the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions, has included calls for delays in FERC’s scoping process on a project Tennessee Gas Pipeline plans to formally apply for in October and seeks to have in operation for the fall of 2018.

Rosenberg has also called for a postponement of an Aug. 5 hearing on the project planned by the state Energy Facilities Siting Council at Greenfield Community College at 7 p.m., because of the lack of detailed information from Tennessee Gas Pipeline.

On Friday, Northeast Energy Solutions, which represents Franklin Land Trust among other environmental organizations, joined a host of groups and public officials that criticized the state Department of Public Utilities for what they called an expedited process in reviewing contracts for use of the planned pipeline by Berkshire Gas Co., Columbia Gas Co. and National Grid.

Rosemary Wessel, founder of the pipeline opposition group No Fracked Gas in Mass, said Friday afternoon, “Dropping this much new information in the middle of the scoping meetings schedule makes this current schedule of scoping meetings even more meaningless. It was alarming how little information there was earlier, and now there are hundreds upon hundreds of pages to absorb and analyze. FERC needs to halt the hearings immediately, or at least allow a 60- or 90-day comment period as people re-evaluate the project from scratch.”

She added, “Even after seeing only four appendices, too, I’ve seen one that’s completely blank. The horizontal drilling appendix — probably one of the most impactful elements of construction aside from a compressor station — only says ‘Site-specific horizontal directional drill plans will be provided in the final ER.’”

Horizontal drilling is the means by which Tennessee Gas Pipeline plans to drill beneath the Connecticut and Deerfield Rivers.

The project would include about 64 miles of pipeline in Massachusetts, entering the state at Hancock and largely located within a 20-foot path along electric powerline rights of way.

Tennessee Gas Pipeline is asking FERC to grant a certificate for the project one year from its planned October application, with plans to begin construction in January 2017.

About 34 miles of the project would be built in Franklin County, where the path would cut across Ashfield, Conway, Shelburne, Deerfield, Montague, Erving, Northfield and Warwick and include a compressor station on 10 acres of a 156.3-acre Gulf Road parcel in Northfield for which Tennessee Gas Pipeline has signed an agreement.

Plans also call for a meter station in Greenfield near the Deerfield town line, and mainline valves and pipeline-cleaning and inspection “pig” launcher and receiver facilities in Conway, Erving and Northfield.

In all, the report specifies, nearly 1,000 acres would be affected during construction in Massachusetts, with nearly 595 acres affected during operation of the pipeline.


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