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Source: New Haven Register

Environmental coalition opposing natural gas transmission line

BY LUTHER TURMELLE
NEW HAVEN REGISTER

Posted: November 24, 2015
Originally Published: November 23, 2015

A coalition of Connecticut environmental groups is opposing the construction of a new natural gas transmission line that would bring natural gas from Pennsylvania to New England, because part the project would go through watershed lands owned by the Metropolitan District Commission, which provides drinking water to Hartford and surrounding communities.

The eight environmental groups announced their opposition to Kinder Morgan’s Northeast Energy Direct pipeline on Monday, after the Houston-based energy infrastructure company filed its plans for the project with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

“The Northeast Energy Direct pipeline would set a terrible precedent by trampling on our state’s most important drinking water protections, while increasing our long term dependence on dirty gas,” Lou Burch of Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE), said in a statement. “This ill-conceived proposal not only threatens our drinking water, it delays Connecticut from meeting its clean energy goals and should be denied without delay.”

Friday’s filing by Kinder Morgan for its $5 billion project was more than 20,000 pages, said Richard Wheatley, a spokesman for the company. A decision by FERC on the company’s application for the project is expected to come during the fourth quarter of 2016, Wheatley said.

“There is a very extensive environmental review that will take place with this project, one that we feel is necessary for all stakeholders, including environmental groups,” he said. “We are going to great lengths to make sure that this project will be done in harmony with the environment. Quite frankly, that’s part of the reason that our FERC filing is so lengthy.”

The 419-mile line links Wright, New York, with Dracut, Massachusetts, but also includes a nearly 15-mile loop off of the main pipeline that carries natural gas into the Hartford area, Wheatley said. The loop is needed so that Kinder Morgan can provide additional supplies to its natural gas customers in the area, he said.

A subsidiary of Kinder Morgan, Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, has an existing transmission line that enters Connecticut near Greenwich and includes a metering station in Milford. Part of the Northeast Energy Direct project includes upgrading to the Milford metering station and two others in Fairfield County and Bloomfield, Wheatley said.

The existing pipeline cuts through New Haven County and follows a route that goes west and north of Hartford before linking to another Kinder Morgan transmission line east of Springfield, Massachusetts.

Leah Lopez Schmalz, program director at Connecticut Fund for the Environment, said the plans Kinder Morgan has submitted to FERC not only threaten the purity of the drinking water provided to hundreds of thousands of people in the Hartford area, “but also creates a dangerous precedent for all of our communities’ conserved lands.”

Amy Blaymore Paterson, executive director of the Connecticut Land Conservation Council, said future donors of land may think twice about giving their property away if the groups they bestow it to can’t guarantee it will remain in its natural state forever.

“We are very concerned that permitting this level of impact on lands conserved to protect water and habitat will undermine the charitable intent of the donors and the public’s confidence that land entrusted to a land trust will be protected forever,” Paterson said in a statement.

Eric Hammerling, executive director of the Connecticut Forest & Park Association, the pipeline loop also would be a threat to hundreds of acres of forest in north-central Connecticut.

“There are only 11 national scenic trails in the U.S., and this pipeline goes right through the New England National Scenic Trail in several locations,” Hammerling said in a statement.

Other environmental groups that signed on the statement opposing the Kinder Morgan project included the Rivers Alliance of Connecticut, Food & Water Watch, the National Audubon Society and the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters.

Call Luther Turmelle at 203-680-9388.