By BOB TUROSZ
NORTH READING – Kinder Morgan/Tennessee Gas Pipeline Cp., has been seeking permission for weeks to survey 10 parcels of town owned land for the route of their proposed 20–inch natural gas pipeline through North Reading.
Last week, after the company finally delivered maps showing the route the pipeline will take through town, the Selectmen unanimously rejected Kinder Morgan’s request and also voted to prohibit the company from surveying within any public way in town without written permission from the Board.
The Board also asked representatives of Kinder Morgan to attend the Selectmen’s meeting on April 6 and will invite the town’s legislative delegation to be present as well.
Town Administrator Michael Gilleberto showed the maps at the board’s last meeting, detailing the route the pipeline is proposed to take after entering North Reading from the northeast corner, largely following the National Grid power line easement and exiting in the southeast corner of town near Lynnfield. Thirty three parcels of privately owned land would also be affected.
In response to a question from Selectmen Chairman Robert Mauceri, T.A. Gilleberto said there are a number of privately owned land parcels that would be affected by the pipeline that are not already impacted by the National Grid easement, particularly in the area of Haverhill Stret, Damon Road and in the northwest corner of town.
The town land that Kinder Morgan is asking to survey includes a parcel in the northwest corner of town, several parcels around the DPW garage and RMLD substation and conservation land near the Reading line, Gilleberto said.
The pipeline project does not yet have approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, (FERC), pointed out Mauceri. “Until they have that approval, I see no reason to let them on town property.”
Gilleberto said a remedy for that would be for Kinder Morgan to approach the state Department of Public Utilities later in the process and seek an order forcing the town to allow a survey to happen.
“I’m personally not interested in accommodating them (Kinder Morgan) at this point,” Mauceri responded. If Kinder Morgan follows that process, it’s out of the town’s control, he added.
The meeting was attended by a public affairs consultant from Kinder Morgan who identified himself only when asked to by Selectman Stephen O’Leary. The consultant said he was there to observe and not answer any questions. He did, however, offer to put the members in touch with someone more knowledgeable about the project.
Mauceri repeated a complaint he has mentioned before, that North Reading wasn’t properly served because a FERC representative was absent at Kinder Morgan’s only local open house on the gas pipeline route, held in Andover a few weeks ago. The excuse given was that FERC was grounded because of a snowstorm in Washington, D.C., but he said FERC was present at other presentations made in the area. “All the people in our region who went to the Andover presentation missed out on the opportunity to talk to FERC,” Mauceri said.
“I don’t think we were properly served,” Mauceri added. He asked for another meeting to be scheduled when FERC can be present.
O’Leary asked the PR consultant for information about any signed contracts Kinder Morgan has for New England customers for the gas and how many, if any potential customers will be from overseas.
“I haven’t seen anything to substantiate the need (for the additional supply of gas) in New England or how that can’t be met with the present pipelines. Or are they overbuilding this one here to supply overseas?”
The lack of FERC participation at the Andover open house and the question about contracts with foreign/overseas suppliers were among seven points the Selectmen raised in their denial letter to Kinder Morgan. Other points are:
• Information as to the need for pipeline capacity in New England.
• Information regarding Kinder Morgan’s safety record.
• Information on contracts with power/utility companies for access or easements in North Reading.
• Information regarding payments to pipeline host communities in excess of the valuation of the pipeline property itself.
O’Leary contended the easements Kinder Morgan are seeking have a “substantial value.” He wanted to know whether Kinder Morgan has ever entered into any financial agreements to annually compensate them for the value of the easements.
“What’s in it for the community?” asked O’Leary.
In other words, O’Leary asked, is Kinder Morgan willing to pay according to assessed value for the access to the land. O’Leary was interested in annual payments similar to payments in lieu of taxes, rather than a one-time payment. He called the $68 million Kinder Morgan has suggested paying communities along the pipeline route “a pittance” because it’s a one shot payment and Kinder Morgan stands to make millions off the pipeline for many years to come.
“I would hope they’d be willing to share their experiences across the country in terms of sharing their true value,” he added.
Mauceri said he was concerned about devaluing the private property owned by residents as well as the safety aspects of living next to a high pressure natural gas pipeline.
“I would hope Kinder Morgan would be willing to share their experiences across the country in terms of the true value of what they’d be getting,” O’Leary added.
O’Leary said up to this point Kinder Morgan has been “less than forthcoming and rather evasive.”
“The board is not going to sit by idly and be steamrolled by a big multi-national company coming through our community.
“To date, our relationship with Kinder Morgan hasn’t been so good,” he concluded.