The Northeast Energy Direct Pipeline is a project currently being proposed by Kinder Morgan Energy’s subsidiary, the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co (TGP). The pipeline route would start in Wright, NY, head south to Hancock, Mass., northeast to Northfield, Mass., and then eastward across southern New Hampshire to a hub in Dracut, Mass. The pipeline would bring natural gas from the fracking fields of Pennsylvania to an existing natural gas hub in Dracut.
The hub in Dracut already connects to the Canadian Maritimes, Maine, New Hampshire, and to what TGP describes as developers of liquefied natural gas export projects in New England and Atlantic Canada. Currently most natural gas enters this region from the world market via Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) facilities, arriving there by large LNG tankers.
The project has drawn opposition because of concerns that include:
- threats to human safety;
- negative wildlife impacts;
- the impact on area farms and real estate prices along the route;
- air quality issues at “blow down” facilities were raw gas is released on a regular basis to relieve pressure along the line;
- the taking of land, including of farms, by the use of eminent domain procedures; and
- an increase in natural gas fracking, exacerbating environmental problems that such technologies create.
For farmers, there are two major concerns with very direct impacts on farmland. One is the impact that such a pipeline will have physically on farms. For the pipeline to proceed it must cross many acres of farmland. The potential exists for easements and actual construction to cross existing orchards and production fields, both causing destruction and preventing the full use of the land in the future. The effects of slow leaks of natural gas can be detrimental to crops grown in the area, not to mention to the air quality of the surrounding areas and to the health of the people working the land and living in close proximity to leaks that happen over time.
The effect of connecting our natural gas fields with the world market also causes concern. Right now natural gas prices are low in the northeast. There is a large supply of product that cannot be exported because the facilities simply do not exist to handle the volume of gas being produced. Building facilities to move gas into the northeast may, in fact, have an effect contrary to what many hope — resulting in an increase the price of gas, as those same ports that currently bring in gas are used to export the over-supply that we currently have during many months of the year. While this may prevent some of the price swings we see in the highest demand months, it will serve to cause the “normal” price of the gas to increase as soon as it can be sold on the world market.
Additionally there is the larger issue of using eminent domain to create a means to ship product overseas. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is charged with making the final decision about the construction of such facilities, and the ability for private entities to use eminent domain to take land for the construction of the pipeline. While using a process that circumvents local decision-making authority has some logic for projects whose benefits flow far wider than the local areas, in this case, it seems that much of the gas passing through the line may, in fact, not benefit the towns or even the larger region. Instead it may benefit only those in other countries, and the corporate coffers of Kinder Morgan.