• ECHO Action Editor

Environmentalists fight Route 101 gas pipeline [citing climate, economic and safety concerns]

(Seacoastonline article below.)

Stephanie Scherr, Activist Echoes Editor

It's important that pipeline-threatened towns, our legislators and candidates for office, receive information beyond the talking points, often unfulfilled promises and slick advertising provided by Liberty Utilities.

Liberty has our legislators believing that Granite Bridge Pipeline helps to fight climate change. It's unfortunate that 22 of 24 of NH's State Senators have put their public support behind the pipeline before the PUC has given a decision. Their public approval leaves citizens with the impression that they their approval is germane to the project or that they have some kind of vote on it. They do not.

ECHO Action has been speaking with candidates for office, asking their position on the project. We've provided information and answered questions to those engaged on the topic. We've been encouraged by the level of understanding that many of these candidates have regarding the potential economic and environmental impacts of this project. Those that are opposed to Granite Bridge Pipeline are eager for more information and to speak to voters about the positive options that would provide more jobs, while protecting air and water quality. Many of them have committed to not taking any fossil fuel funding in their campaigns.

We're watching the Governor's race very closely as Steve Marchand is opposed to Granite Bridge, ready to support NH's economy with 50% renewables and offshore wind. Molly Kelly has not yet opposed it, but says we need to wean ourselves off fossil fuels.

Any fossil fuel expansion, including Granite Bridge Pipeline, holds our state back from transitioning to renewable energy. NH is behind MA & VT, who are well beyond us and in line to move even further ahead. Natural (fracked) gas is methane, a greenhouse gas 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Species like moose and lobster are declining. Climate threatens maple trees and the quality of maple syrup. Moose, bears, loon, cod, lobster and shrimp are all in decline due to climate change. Warmer winters means less snow. Tourism, fishing and winter sports industries are already being impacted. Why would we do anything that further threatens our livelihood?

The need for Granite Bridge just isn't there and when it becomes defunct, Liberty's customers will continue to pay for it. There's no risk to Liberty Utilities or their shareholders. It's time for NH to catch up with the 21st century, which would help retain youth to work and live in NH.

If you are concerned about Liberty Utilities' safety record, the potential impacts of this project, want to see an interactive map or just learn more, the Granite Bridge Pipeline page provides this information including how to write a Letter to the Editor of your local newspaper and to send comments to the Public Utilities Commission. Legislators, businesses and individuals opposing the pipeline may submit their comments to us to be added to our website.

Environmentalists fight Route 101 gas pipeline

Seacoastonline, Exeter Newsletter, 7/3/18

Alex LaCasse

EXETER -- A proposed natural gas pipeline running from Stratham to Manchester via the Route 101 corridor is drawing criticism from environmental advocates stating the company constructing the pipeline already has documented inspection-related violations in the state.

The proposed 27-mile long Granite Bridge pipeline proposed by Liberty Utilities still needs to be approved by the state’s Public Utilities Commission; a process John Shore, the company’s East Region manager of marketing and communications, said would take upwards of a year from when the natural gas pipeline application was submitted to the PUC for review on Dec. 22, 2017. If the project is approved by the PUC, the application would go to the state Site Review Committee for secondary approval, which Shore estimated would take another year.

All told, Shore said once both state regulatory bodies approve the project, construction of the 16-inch pipeline would take roughly two to three years. The pipeline and storage facility combined are expected to save $950 million over 20 years for Seacoast customers, compared to other alternatives, according to Liberty promotional material. There is also an estimated $200 million in state and local property tax revenue for all communities over the life of the project.

On three separate occasions between March 2016 and August 2017, Liberty Utilities New Hampshire Gas Division agreed to fines outlined in notices of violations issued by the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission on March 3 and 4, 2016, and a third on July 28, 2017, for amounts of $9,000, $5,000 and $40,500 respectively.

According to the heftiest penalty imposed in the July 28, 2017, the nine-part violation included Liberty failing to inspect pipeline infrastructure the required number of times in 2015; skipping 2016 inspections altogether in its southern division, failing to include “maps, books, or other documentation of the facilities to be leak surveyed.” Liberty also failed to inspect Class II leaks, leaks recognized as non-hazardous at time of detection, requiring scheduled repair within six months or end of the calendar year, in a timely fashion, among several violations related to operation.

“Since natural gas pipelines are not required to be inspected as frequently as oil pipelines, there is absolutely no excuse why Liberty failed to make these inspections,” Stephanie Scherr, of ECHO Action. The group considers itself New Hampshire’s environmental justice network.

The March 2016 consent decrees signed by Liberty accepts responsibility for violations that included; not having emergency power generators operational for at least a full year and overfilling 30,000-gallon propane containers at its Manchester and Nashua facilities, among six total violations.

The state Site Review Committee is the regulatory arm responsible for factoring in Liberty’s operating violations when considering the Granite Bridge proposal.

“Given Liberty Utilities atrocious safety record, it should be an easy decision for the state of New Hampshire to reject this project,” Griffin Sinclair-Wingate, volunteer coordinator with climate change advocacy group 350 New Hampshire, said. “However, it will still take a strong community army to defeat the fossil fuel industry’s lawyers and lobbyists trying to sell this to New Hampshire residents.”

Shore said since the fines were handed down, Liberty Utilities has launched increased training and inspections in order to better comply with state and federal regulations.

“Liberty Utilities takes the safe operation of our infrastructure very seriously. Keeping our employees, customers and the public safe is our highest priority. We operate and maintain over 1,600 miles of natural gas pipe to provide safe and reliable service to over 92,000 customers in New Hampshire,” Shore said. “Through this process, our staff identified certain sections of pipe had not been inspected in the required time frame. When we identified this issue we notified the NHPUC Safety Division, conducted the inspections, increased training changes to ensure that the issue would not reoccur.”

Shore said Liberty Utilities remains confident the prior operational violations would not be the sole determining factor on whether or not the state Site Review Committee gives final approval when the Granite Bridge application arrives.

“The Site Evaluation Committee looks at many criteria when evaluating an application for siting a project, the safety of the proposed facilities is certainly part of that review. The Granite Bridge is designed to achieve the highest level of safety for our customers and the public,” Shore said. “Like all utilities, we strive to improve our safety processes and procedures. The issues that were identified by the PUC Safety Division as part of the annual auditing of our documentation and paperwork in no way impacted the safety of our customers or the public. To infer otherwise is incorrect and misleading. We conduct many different forms of surveying and leak detection on our distribution system, these include mobile surveys, frost surveys, inspections of cast-iron and bare steel pipe and odor detection. It should be noted that there were no issues with our infrastructure at these locations.”

Shore said the Granite Bridge pipeline would run at least 48-inches underground within the New Hampshire Department of Transportation’s right-of-way in the Route 101 corridor, which is also considered an “energy corridor” by the state. He added this would reduce the likelihood a third party damages the pipeline while excavating. He said the pipeline’s purpose is to connect an existing pipeline that runs through Stratham to integrate more natural gas capacity to the Concord, Manchester, Nashua and Laconia areas, which are all served by one line out of Dracut, Mass.

“Pressures on the Granite Bridge pipe will be continuously monitored by our control facility in Londonderry. Every seven years we would do internal inspections of the pipe using a device that travels inside the pipe,” Shore said. “In addition, we will test the entire line to 150 percent of its maximum allowed operating pressure before putting it into service, ensuring proper construction.”

Sinclair-Wingate said the pipeline is a poor idea for three main reasons: the health concerns of nearby residents in close proximity to Route 101 in the event of a leak, the pipeline’s economic cost and the environmental impacts of continued fossil fuel consumption facilitated in part by the use of the Granite Bridge.

″$6 billion will be leaving the state annually to purchase out of state natural gas. Fossil fuel infrastructure only furthers the climate change crisis my generation will be left to solve,” Sinclair-Wingate said. “Nowhere in the state PUC or Site Review Committee evaluation is there a consideration for how the construction of this pipeline will impact climate change and that’s an enormous problem.”



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