Kinder Morgan dumps plans for North East pipeline

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The Board of Directors of Kinder Morgan has voted to suspend further work and expenditures on a proposed natural gas pipeline that would have carried 1.3 billion cubic feet of fracked natural gas per day from Pennsylvania to the Northeast, the company announced late Wednesday afternoon.

Less than a year ago, the company authorized its subsidiary, Tennessee Gas Pipeline, to move forward with a multi-billion dollar investment in pipeline capacity from Wright, New York to Dracut, Massachusetts. Tennessee Gas in November filed an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) seeking permission to construct a 415-mile, 30-inch pipeline through parts of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.

But the proposed Northeast Energy Direct (NED) pipeline, as it is known, faced opposition from environmental groups, as well as from some local residents along the route who refused to allow surveyors on their property.  The pipeline also encountered bi-partisan resistance from U.S. senators from New England, including Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren and New Hampshire Republican Kelly Ayotte.

Supporters of the pipeline had argued that it would help meet demand and bring down New England energy costs, which are among the highest in the nation. But pipeline opponents countered that any such benefits would be outweighed by the increase in carbon emissions caused by continued dependence on fossil fuels and by the potential impact on sensitive land and ecosystems around the project.

Several Massachusetts towns, including North Reading, Concord and Deerfield passed municipal ordinances banning surveying for the project. Peabody and Lynnfield had sought to ban the pipeline entirely.

Ayotte, an early opponent of the pipeline, advocated repeatedly for more transparency on the project in hearings and letters to FERC and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.  In a prepared statement released Wednesday, Ayotte said she was pleased by Kinder Morgan’s announcement. “I was the first statewide elected official to oppose the pipeline moving forward because of the many unanswered questions and concerns raised by New Hampshire residents who would have been affected by this project.”

Asked earlier in the day whether Kinder Morgan and other pipelines developers should be able to pass along the cost of construction to consumers, Gov. Charlie Baker said, “I’m not paying too much attention to the Kinder Morgan project, primarily because most of that is driven by federal policy and not by state policy.”

Energy industry stakeholders – from natural gas to offshore wind and solar and hydro producers – are jockeying for a piece of the region’s supply mix as lawmakers contemplate major energy policy legislation and the looming 2019 shutdown of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, a major source of carbon-free power.

In a statement, Kinder Morgan spokesman Stephen Crawford said Tennessee Gas has operated in New England for more than 60 years and “will continue to work with customers to explore alternative solutions to address their needs, particularly local distribution companies that are unable to fully serve consumers and businesses in their areas because of the lack of access to abundant, low-cost domestic natural gas.”

State House News Service contributed to this report.