Published in the November 4, 2015 edition
By DAN TOMASELLO
LYNNFIELD — Energy giant Kinder Morgan’s “community meeting” on the proposed Northeast Energy Direct (NED) natural gas pipeline went off without a hitch at Spinelli’s Function Facility in Lynnfield Oct. 29.
Kinder Morgan held the event as it prepares to file with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Nov. 20. The forum was held as part of an ongoing public relations campaign to convince FERC to approve the project as well as win public support.
While the forum was originally billed as a meeting where Kinder Morgan officials would speak and people would be given an opportunity to ask questions about the project and its impact, the event actually resembled a college fair. Kinder Morgan set up different stations where people could read maps, watch slideshows and ask the energy company’s representatives questions.
The event’s attendees were welcomed to the meeting by nine Peabody police officers, who were tasked with making sure the open house did not get out of hand. According to Lynnfield Police Chief David Breen, protesters at a similar open house in Northfield staged a “die-in,” where protesters lay down on the floor.
There were no die-ins at Spinelli’s but appetizers were served.
Selectman Tom Terranova, the selectmen liaison to the NED pipeline project, reached out to Kinder Morgan Vice President of Public Affairs Allen Fore during the open house about having Kinder Morgan representatives appear at a future Lynnfield Board of Selectmen meeting. Terranova requested the meeting so the energy giant can “address the Lynnfield Board of Selectmen and the general public about questions we have.”
Terranova said a number of Kinder Morgan’s public relations representatives denied his previous requests for the company to appear at a selectmen’s meeting but Fore agreed to the request when approached by Terranova.
There were a number of North Hill Drive residents who attended the forum. The pipeline either abuts or cuts through a number of properties on the street.
Arthur Douglas, 14 North Hill Dr., said the Lynnfield Lateral portion of the pipeline abuts his property. He said Kinder Morgan representatives have requested to survey his property, but Douglas “formally denied” the request.
Douglas said he wasn’t buying Fore and Kinder Morgan’s arguments that New England needs more natural gas because he said “electric consumption in Massachusetts has been going down since 2010.”
“My fear is they want to transport the gas to Beverly, liquefy it and ship it to Europe,” said Douglas. “According to the figures I have seen, there is an (gas) overage for most of the year. There are approximately four or five days during the winter when there is a shortfall of gas in this area. And (Kinder Morgan) is trying to say they are building this pipeline to cover four or five days of shortfall and the other 361 days there is going to be an overage. What are you going to do with an overage? They are going to bring it somewhere and sell it.”
Douglas noted the pipeline is “impacting a lot of residents on North Hill Drive far greater than me.”
“I question the need and I question the routing of it through residential areas,” said Douglas. “I think there should be a better option because there are existing pipelines in Massachusetts that are under utilized. If they can agree with other companies, they can use each others’ pipelines and it would not require an additional pipeline.”
AJ Qualtieri, 18 North Hill Dr., said the pipeline’s current route would run right through his property. Similar to Douglas and other North Hill Drive residents, he has denied Kinder Morgan’s request to survey his property.
“It splits the back of the yard and impacts a number of the trees that are within the backyard and subsequently, it hits a lot of our neighbors,” said Qualtieri. “It’s a really huge pipeline that is going to be smack dab in our yard. Safety is a big concern for us in the neighborhood and everybody in town.”
Shannon Lillie, 22 North Hill Dr., said the pipeline would have a negative impact on his property as well.
“This pipeline is going to go right through our protected wetlands that we can’t even use,” said Lillie, “but they are going to put a pipe through it.”
Roy Pincus, 25 North Hill Dr., said the pipeline would devastate his property as well. He expressed concerns it would impact his children’s ability to play in the yard.
“This is not what I imagined when I purchased my home,” he said.
Qualtieri also said he does not believe the NED project would reduce the neighborhood’s energy prices.
“We don’t have gas, so its not going to lower our energy bills,” said Qualtieri. “It’s going to go wherever.”
Qualtieri and Lillie both said they were skeptical of Kinder Morgan’s assertions the project would benefit the town, state and region.
“These guys are trained professionals and this is what they are here to do,” said Qualtieri. “They are here to answer questions and have a salesman’s approach when answering the questions. As a result, they are very polished because they have answered similar questions at other forums. We are hearing regurgitated information, some of which might be true and some which is most likely false.”
“I think its more smoke and mirrors,” said Lillie. “They are trying to make it feel like they are doing us a favor when in fact they are ruining our property and are putting our kids at risk health wise. This project doesn’t benefit any Lynnfield residents.”
Officials blast event
While Terranova said it’s a positive development Kinder Morgan has finally agreed to appear at Lynnfield selectmen’s meeting, he said, “There are a lot people who are directly impacted by this high-pressure gas line that has everybody very concerned.”
“There are tremendous negative impacts,” said Terranova. “Hopefully what questions don’t get answered here will get answered at a selectmen’s meeting.”
Selectman Chris Barrett, who also attended the forum, echoed similar sentiments in a phone interview with the Villager.
“I thought it was good there were a lot of residents who showed up,” said Barrett. “But I want Kinder Morgan to answer hard questions and not hide behind exhibits scattered around the room that we can get online.”
Barrett also said he’s pleased Kinder Morgan representatives will be appearing at a future selectmen’s meeting.
Ipswich River Watershed Association Executive Director Wayne Castonguay raised a number of concerns about the pipeline’s impact on the Ipswich River and many North Shore communities’ water supply, including Lynnfield. He also dismissed Kinder Morgan’s assertions the project would be constructed safely.
When asked for his take on the event, Castonguay commented, “(Kinder Morgan) certainly know how to put on a show.”
While there were no North Reading residents in attendance, North Reading Town Administrator Michael Gilleberto, North Reading Selectman Jeff Yull, North Reading Fire Chief William Warnock and North Reading Town Engineer Michael Soraghan attended the open house.
Yull declined commenting on the pipeline and deferred all of the Villager’s questions to Gilleberto.
“I think its been billed as a community forum,” said Gilleberto. “From my conversations with Kinder Morgan, we were told to expect an environment similar to the open house they had in Andover. We tried to advertise this on the town website and in the Transcript to let residents know about it so they can come here to Lynnfield and ask questions about the project.”
Similar to their Lynnfield counterparts, Gilleberto said local officials are keeping tabs on the project.
“The town continues to monitor the project and is continuing to request information from Kinder Morgan about this project and its impact on North Reading,” said Gilleberto. “We felt it was important to have broad representatives at today’s event both to learn about the project from Kinder Morgan as well as to be available to any residents who may have questions.”