Pipeline push, round two? Preparation, proaction, preclude panic.
When Southern New Hampshire heard in 2014 that a pipeline was planned to literally blast through historic villages, farms, land and aquifers, people were understandably concerned. Should we face that again, will we be ready?
We see the signs. Liberty Utilities is aggressively promoting the transition to (fracked) gas across New Hampshire. Jaffrey, Rindge, Swanzey, Winchester, Keene, Windham, Pelham, Lebanon and Hanover were announced as targets in 2014. Their goal for having a gas plant in Keene supports the plan to create a web throughout the state, regardless of need. They already have service in Manchester, Nashua, Concord and Berlin, connecting central and Northern NH. Now contracts in the Southwestern part of the state are being sought.
The Northeast Energy Direct (NED) pipeline was withdrawn on May 23rd, 2016 because Kinder Morgan was unable to line up enough contracts for the gas. If Liberty Utilities is successfully achieving their goal to increase gas conversions, can Kinder Morgan be far behind?
During NED pipeline opposition from 2014-16, Governor Hassan had to be aggressively lobbied for even tentative opposition to the pipeline. Quiet approval was implied.
Once presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (I) publicly opposed the NED pipeline, the first NH senator, Kelly Ayotte (R), opposed the pipeline. Others soon followed, not in full opposition, but expressing concerns.
Governor Chris Sununu overtly supports pipelines and invited EPA chief Scott Pruitt to New Hampshire to discuss what he calls "bothersome" water regulations.
One doesn't need to do much analysis to determine that they're setting up for round two of the pipeline push.
Governor Sununu's office received a flood of calls and emails in response to NH Fish & Game's proposed euthanizing of a problematic mother bear and her cubs who enjoyed snacks they weren't invited to. On the Friday, May 26th, NHPR "Weekly NH News Roundup", it was stated that, "it reflects this Governor's personality, which is to say he's very responsive to what the people in the state are talking about and are interested about. We've seen this before and he's not necessarily wedded to hard and fixed positions." (54:30)
This GreenSchools video was posted on Facebook on May 20th, where Governor Sununu's wife Valerie congratulates award winners saying, "I hope that we can green-up New Hampshire even more in 2017 and 2018, especially because we've got the future to think about, like this guy, right here", as she points to her preschool-aged son.
While the Governor says he is in support of pipelines, could the overwhelming support for offshore wind in the Gulf of Maine, the economic advantages for New Hampshire and tens of thousands of jobs be a better lure? Time, and the message we send, will tell.
We're calmly watching, but we're not waiting for a direct hit before we prepare. It appears that another attempt to push the NED pipeline is imminent, but is it? We can't say for sure.
What we know is that if residents post their land in advance of a direct threat, they protect themselves from surveying, especially if a new route were to be proposed. If landowners have the FERC "deny access" form letter in hand, ready to go upon an announcement, it can quickly be mailed out, sending a strong message from the start. If group members are energized and mobilized, we can take action now to stop the Keene gas plant Liberty Utilities has proposed, and put the brakes on before the train comes barreling through.
What's key here is being informed, alert and proactive by being engaged in regional issues that could potentially lead to another pipeline battle.
At the Monday, May 22nd Keene Planning Board meeting, board members were asked what alternatives to a gas plant had been considered. There was a deafening silence. Our collective goal should be to promote and support sustainable energy solutions that are in line with a community that has a climate action plan, a climate adaptation plan, a food co-op and an cutting-edge recycling center.
Our future is just that, ours. When we reach beyond invisible boundaries, connect and care, system-wide solutions become the answer to our localized problems.