Published in the August 19, 2015 edition
By MAUREEN DOHERTY
LYNNFIELD — Lynnfield Lateral sounds like a term taken straight from the Pioneer football team’s playbook.
But the town actually has the dubious distinction of having its name attached to the smaller portion of the controversial proposal by Kinder Morgan to bring a high pressure natural gas pipeline into Massachusetts and New Hampshire from the Marcellas Shale region of Pennsylvania and upstate New York.
“Smaller” is a relative term for a pipeline whose main lines will be 36 inches in diameter. The smaller Lynnfield Lateral line will be between 20- to 24-inches, according to Selectmen Chairman Phil Crawford. By contrast, the size of the gas service lines that bring natural gas into homes and businesses generally range from one-half inch to two inches in diameter.
The proposal has had dozens of communities in each of these states up in arms for about 18 months as private homeowners, landowners, businesses and government entities alike push back against the private company’s request to survey properties that would be encumbered with permanent easements along its meandering route. However, the impact of the project is being more keenly felt locally, now that Kinder Morgan is preparing to file its permits with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the agency that has jurisdiction over such interstate projects.
At Monday night’s selectmen’s meeting, the board members expressed their concern over the proposal as well as a bit of relief that the most recently redrawn lines for the proposal will affect fewer Lynnfield homeowners than originally proposed 14 months ago, Crawford said.
“The route was continually being changed and they have just now recently updated the Lynnfield Lateral portion of it,” Crawford said.
Crawford explained that after residents in the Glen Drive and North Hill Drive area were approached for permission to survey their properties by John Gavin, a site contractor who went door to door doing preliminary work for Tennessee Gas Pipeline (which is owned by Kinder Morgan), he worked to find an alternative route for a portion of it. That alternative would utilize an unused 80-foot wide electrical easement in the North Hill Drive neighborhood that he said is owned by the town of Danvers and bring it to the point they needed to reach, bypassing some private property.
Crawford said the main 36-inch line ends in Dracut where the smaller Lynnfield Lateral begins. It affects Lynnfield once it runs through the Camp Curtis Guild property and joins up with Chestnut Street and the Danvers-owned easement in the North Hill Drive neighborhood. “Then it goes across Lynnfield Water District land, well behind the Sagamore golf course and behind Bostik in Peabody,” he said, eventually heading into Peabody.
Crawford said Kinder Morgan believes there is 100 years worth of natural gas in this shale, which is extracted through “fracking,” and maintains that customers in this region are paying “three times more” for their natural gas due to lack of infrastructure to meet demand.
But Crawford added that the pipeline construction is controversial because of the impact it has on “farm land and conservation land” along it route.
Crawford said Kinder Morgan intends to submit its permits to FERC by the end of 2015 and have the project built and in service by November of 2018.
“It is an important piece of energy that we probably need in New England,” Crawford said, “but how we get it here and whether or not this is the right way to do it, I don’t know.”
Terranova to host meeting
Selectman Tom Terranova provided a handout describing various aspects of the project, including maps. He is also hosting a meeting on Thursday, Aug. 20 at 7 p.m. in the Al Merritt meeting room at 600 Market St. (above Fugaku Restaurant). He has invited speakers to discuss the ramifications the pipeline will have locally and regionally.
After Terranova attended an informational meeting of the Northeast Municipal Gas Pipeline Coalition, which is comprised of residents and officials of many towns affected by the pipeline proposal who are against it, he said he would like the town to join it.
Terranova said this project is about more than just getting natural gas delivered to this region. “This is about getting a pipeline to the shoreline, and if it is going to go to the shore, it will make its way to a tanker and God knows where it will go from there. So there is a lot more in play than Kinder Morgan, in a broad stroke, is telling us about,” he said.
“This pipeline is much larger than any pipeline we have in the town of Lynnfield. These pipes do have leaks every once in awhile,” he said. With the larger pipes comes increased pressure and potential for problems, he said.
Terranova said a speaker at the meeting provided the town’s Conservation Commission with information “regarding the detriment that this pipeline will cause going through our wetlands” as well as potential problems for the town’s drinking water supply if a leak were to occur on the town’s water district property.
Meter station in plans
“I was very surprised to find out that Lynnfield was getting its own ‘meter station’ between Sevinor Road and Kimberly Terrace,” Terranova said. “That’s the place where they reduce the piping, so they come in 36 inches and it gets reduced to 24 inches so at that station we’re going to hear hissing all the time.”
“Then there are the times where they have to ‘off gas’ to keep the pipelines dry. They can release it into the atmosphere, burn it or recapture it into a gas trap. Who knows which of those three options Kinder Morgan will select,” Terranova said, “But we have some very serious issues coming to town and it leaves me very concerned, especially if I was living within 100 or 200 feet of this pipeline I’d have some many reservations.”
“I’d like to see our town join (the coalition) and be one of the many towns that are going to say no to Kinder Morgan. We know that this is for a for-profit company that just wants to make more money. I’m not saying we can’t use the extra gas, I’m saying what is their true intent? The Northeast is already overbuilt. How much more expansion can we possibly undergo?” Terranova said, adding that he has heard that gas prices will go up as a result of this project, not down.
Selectman Chris Barrett asked if there would be any benefit to the town as a result of this project.
Crawford said he didn’t think there would be a benefit but the impact on Lynnfield is “minimal” compared to surrounding towns, such as North Reading, where it will “go down the middle” and Peabody “where it will go through some thickly settled areas.”
“This is one of those utilities that get around most of those regulations that most of us have to,” Crawford said. Specifically, he told the Tennessee Gas Pipeline he was very familiar with how wet the water district land is because he was on the Field Committee when they were evaluating it for playing fields. He recalled the representative told him: “We deal with wetlands all the time. We take care of it.”
Barrett said he would be interested in learning more about the organization Terranova wants the town to join. Town Administrator Jim Boudreau said he plans to get them on the agenda in the fall once school is in session and residents have returned to town. October 1 would be the first available meeting.
Crawford also offered to invite Gavin to that meeting due to his familiarity with each property in town that will be affected. Maps of the areas are also available on the website northeastenergyfuture.com, Crawford said.
“The problem is they are going to the legislature now. We have already missed one cut off date where we can no longer speak on behalf of Lynnfield at certain hearings,” Terranova said, adding it was explained to him that the “state gives them pushback and then (Kinder Morgan) goes to the federal government to push the state back.”
Boudreau said there is a process that is taking place at the federal level that will impact the town. “If the federal government determines that there is a need for the pipeline, then, there’s a pipeline coming. Where the pipeline goes is a matter of negotiation,” he said.
Pat Campbell recalled there being a large gas explosion in the town over 30 years ago. She was also concerned about the possibility of any eminent domain takings and proper notification to abutters. “I would urge you to take the action that Mr. Terranova has recommended to join the coalition and get some formal representation,” she said.
Crawford said the town’s ConCom has dealt with Kinder Morgan for the past two years. “You can’t have any final word on it until you know where they are going to put it,” he said, adding, that the person he spoke to on Monday “did not indicate there would be any eminent domain takings with this route.”
Boudreau added that the town has not received any filings from Kinder Morgan that could be evaluated by Town Counsel.
Crawford will discuss the pipeline plans with the water department to learn how close it will be to the wells and how the permits will be obtained.
Barrett said he believes that the pipeline brings “no benefit to the community.”
“That would be devastating to me if that was my backyard, I don’t care if it’s 100 feet, 200 feet, I wouldn’t want that,” Barrett said of the pipeline, adding, “We had an explosion at Perly Burrill about eight or 10 years ago, on a much smaller scale, and that shook my house. We live with stuff in our backyards up in South Lynnfield, but I see no benefit to this.”