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Exeter Select Board supports Granite Bridge Pipeline easement, but isn't taking a position?

Updated: Sep 16, 2018


Stephanie A. Scherr

ECHO Action Team, Activist Echoes Blog Editor


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Exeter residents and other attendees were confused when the Select Board's Donald Clement tried multiple times to get the wording right for the meeting minutes. Were they signing the easement agreement with Liberty Utilities? An option agreement? Were they just approving that they would when it came time to do so? With awkward pauses, the board themselves seemed unclear as to what they were approving, and yet they approved whatever it was.


We were confused too and wanted to replay what we heard, but the video for the September 10th meeting was not yet posted on the Exeter town website at the time of publishing this post. (9/10/18 meeting video now available)


Vice Chair Kathy Corson tried to state that the board wasn't taking a position on the project, stopping a few times to rephrase her words, until Chair Julie Gilman interjected that the easement agreement was not an endorsement of the project.


Wait, what just happened here? Apparently, we weren't the only ones left confused as Liberty Utilities representatives made a swift exit from the room.


Sue Durling and I exited the meeting and were stopped outside the Town Hall door by an Exeter resident wanting to know how the Exeter Select Board could sign an agreement with Liberty Utilities for a fracked gas pipeline and "not take a position". Good question.


The resident said that at an earlier meeting the Select Board stated they only wanted to hear from residents about the metering station, not the pipeline. She felt she could not voice her concerns because of their restrictions. We assured her that residents should be voicing any and all concerns about projects that impact their town.


Then Conservation Commission Chairman Bill Campbell exited the building, joining the conversation in the rain. He attended the meeting to ask the Select Board for $15,000 of the $30,000 nonrefundable part of the Liberty Utilities easement agreement payment to the town for a new nursery or other Conservation Commission project. His request was neither granted, nor promised, with the board saying he'd have to make a formal request for funding.


In the meeting, Mr. Campbell said the Conservation Commission had no objection to the use of the former town nursery land for the metering station. He said possible rights to the property were lost years ago when someone asked a custodian to clean out the basement and he tossed boxes of commission documents into a dumpster.


After Mr. Campbell spoke at the meeting, Mike Licata spoke to the board and said that Liberty Utilities would be agreeable to helping to establish some kind of nursery on the part of the parcel they wouldn't be using for a metering station.


Outside the Town Hall, I asked Mr. Campbell if the commission had discussed emissions concerns. They had not. I explained to Mr. Campbell that, as stated at the previous August 27th meeting in Exeter, Liberty Utilities had a 2.2% gas leak rate in 2017. I asked Mr. Campbell if he knew that fracked gas leaks kill trees and he said he didn't.


An article by Walden Labs states, "There are even some civil suits underway against gas companies for the damage natural gas leaks have caused to trees/vegetation (there’s $133 m in property damage a year from leaks).  This suggests that it can’t be healthy for the people living there." (Natural Gas Leaks) Our own research indicates that both old and new pipelines leak.


While I was speaking with these two Exeter residents, another man had stopped Sue to ask her why we hadn't spoken at the meeting.

While there are a lot of concerns in Exeter, few residents are showing up for Select Board meetings and only one person spoke at Monday night's meeting. He made a brief statement in support of the pipeline. Other residents, who have voiced concerns outside of meetings, were silent. The big question is, why?


On August 27th I suggested that an open town meeting asking for comments from residents might be in order.

After that August 27th meeting, where Cathy Korson said she wanted to know more about how to become involved in the process, ECHO Action wrote a detailed email to the Select Board explaining how to become an intervenor and how to contact the NH Consumer Advocate, D. Maurice Kreis, for accurate information about the process and project. When asked, the Chair, Ms. Gilman, said she had received it, but said the board had not contacted Mr. Kreis.

If you have concerns about the Granite Bridge Pipeline, you can contact ECHOaction.org to learn more about the Granite Bridge Pipeline, becoming an intervenor at the Public Utilities Commision and for support in having a voice in the process.


FOLLOW UP

When this blog news was posted on the Exeter page on 9/12/18, Select Board Vice Chair Kathy Corson responded to the posting as a private citizen.


UPDATE

Town video at 53:00 minutes:

- Move to approve option agreement. Second. No discussion. Approved.

- Move to approve permanent & temporary easement agreement. Second. No discussion. Approved.

- "At the appropriate time, because it won't happen now."

- Move to approve the agreement at the point in time when the option agreement is executed.

- Mike Licata, Liberty Utilities: "You need to execute both at the same time...you would want to sign both at the same time."

- Move to approve the signing of the permanent/temporary easement to be signed upon the triggering and execution of the aforementioned option agreement.

- Do I say second as amended?

- Do you understand the motion?

- We have a motion to approve...all those in favor? Aye.

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More information on topics in this blog post

Exeter OKs easement with Liberty Utilities (Seacoastonline)

Natural Gas leaks

Gas leaks: A hidden culprit for dead trees

Boston's Leaky Gas Lines May Be Tough On The Trees

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