Published in the July 9, 2015


NORTH READING – The Northeast Municipal Gas Pipeline Coalition, an organization of leaders from 13 northeastern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire communities, including North Reading, has gone on record as opposed to any tariff on electric rates to pay for infrastructure for a proposed natural gas pipeline through northern Massachusetts.

The NMGPC was formed and has been meeting for over a year as a result of public concern raised over the proposed Kinder Morgan/Tennessee Gas natural gas pipeline. Selectman Jeff Yull is North Reading’s representative to the NMGPC, which has been having discussions on issues concerning the pipeline, including, according to Yull, the proposal of a “cost recovery” surcharge on electric ratepayers in New England to fund new gas infrastructure.

According to the coalition, the Baker Administration has instructed the Dept. of Energy Resources to investigate “cost recovery” for electric distribution companies of increased gas capacity.

At the recent meeting between the Board of Selectmen, Kinder Morgan representatives and the public held in the high school, Yull referenced a letter NMGPC recently sent to state leaders, which said the towns “strongly disagree with any proposal that would introduce a surcharge on our electric ratepayers and shift the burden of risk from the for-profit corporations onto our citizens. Electric ratepayers throughout New England should be given the opportunity to provide comment on any surcharge on their electric bills through a transparent process open to all.”

“The job of the Selectmen of North Reading is to protect the property rights of our citizens and the sovereignty of North Reading and to ensure our environment is not compromised,” said Yull.

Also at the June hearing, Kinder Morgan responded in writing to six questions posed by the North Reading Selectmen. In their written responses, Kinder Morgan said:

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, (FERC), will set up and hold formal scoping meetings to solicit information from the public regarding the Tennessee Gas Pipeline’s project. The meeting dates or locations of the scoping meetings have not been set yet.

In response to a question from the Selectmen as to whether any of the pipeline’s gas will be headed overseas, Tennessee said it cannot discriminate among customers based on the ultimate destination or use of their gas, such as the Northeast vs. Canada or some other foreign country (via exporting it as LNG). “The ultimate destination of the gas and volumes associated is within the sole control of the project customers,” Kinder Morgan stated. “We currently do not have any executed contracts to provide gas to foreign/overseas suppliers or distributors.”

In response to another question, Kinder Morgan said it would only survey property in North Reading where permission has been granted and that they have been granted permission from National Grid to survey on their properties. In the case where National Grid has a property easement, the company will be requesting permission from the underlying owner, they said. “Tennessee continues to discuss and review routing options, co-location, scheduling and mapping of all property owners.”

Selectmen asked for information on the need for more natural gas pipeline capacity in New England. TGP said the New England project was conceived “in response to repeated requests from potential customers and governmental agencies” for a New England pipeline large enough the meet the forecasted growth in demand in New England over the next decade “while keeping delivered gas prices at reasonable rates and minimizing price spikes such as occurred in the winter of 2013-2014.

Selectmen asked pointed questions about Kinder Morgan’s safety record as well as any plans they have to mitigate the risk of any “catastrophic damage as has been reported to have occurred on other Kinder Morgan pipelines”.

Kinder Morgan responded it is proud of its safety record and its compliance with safety regulations and rules. The company said natural gas pipelines fall under the regulatory oversight of the Pipeline and Hazardous Safety Administration, (PHMSA), part of the U.S. Department of Transportation. That’s because it’s the mission of the DOT to protect people and the environment from the risks inherent in transportation of hazardous materials, by pipeline and other modes of transportation.

Kinder Morgan said pipelines are the safest and most cost effective means of transporting large volumes of natural gas and that pipelines are “extremely safe” relative to the volumes of gas transported. Kinder Morgan maintains its safety record outperforms the industry average.

There were numerous references to Article 97 of the Massachusetts Constitution, which affords the right to clean air and water. The Selectmen asked whether Kinder Morgan will be seeking an exemption from the Article 97 process from either the state or federal government.

Kinder Morgan said they intend to seek authorization from the Massachusetts Legislature to obtain rights on lands that are subject to Article 97, (land taken or acquired by the state for conservation purposes) and the company is reserving its rights through the legal process.

The Selectmen also asked the company how much it’s willing to make in payments to communities like North Reading, which will be required to host the pipeline. Specifically, the Selectmen wanted to know if the payments will be more than just the value of the land that the pipeline will be crossing.

Kinder Morgan replied that “Tennessee is not aware of any payments in excess of the valuation of the pipeline.”