New route proposed for $5B natural gas pipeline

BySteve LeBlanc, Associated Press

One goal of the new path is to steer the pipeline away from largely undeveloped lands by following existing utility or developed routes

BOSTON (AP) — The company seeking to build a $5 billion natural gas pipeline in Massachusetts has proposed an alternative route that includes part of southern New Hampshire.

The route would travel from New York into western Massachusetts for 63 miles, then turn north and continue for another 70 miles in southern New Hampshire before turning south again into Massachusetts, ending in Dracut. Under the original proposal, Kinder Morgan Inc. planned to run the pipeline 127 miles through Massachusetts.

The proposed pipeline has sparked opposition to the project in many Massachusetts communities.

U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey are among the Massachusetts politicians who have opposed the plan outright. Environmental activists have also opposed construction of the pipeline.

"We're trying to adjust the line to respond to those concerns," company spokesman Allen Fore said Friday.

Fore said the proposed path would weave through 16 Massachusetts communities and 17 communities in New Hampshire.

One goal of the new path is to steer the pipeline away from largely undeveloped lands by following existing utility or developed routes. The path would also cut through the properties of far fewer Massachusetts landowners, according to the company.

Fore said the company will send out letters to landowners alerting them to the new proposed route. Open houses and public hearings will be held on the proposal. He said Kinder Morgan plans to send out surveying requests after the start of 2015. It doesn't plan to officially file for federal permits to build the pipeline until the fall. The firm hopes to break ground on the nearly two-year project in early 2017.

Fourteen Massachusetts towns that were part of the original proposed pipeline route are no longer included on that path while four new Massachusetts towns would be added under the proposed route unveiled Friday — Cheshire, Hancock, Lanesborough and Shelburne.

Fore said under the new route, 90 percent of the pipeline would follow already developed areas, including power line and utility paths. In Massachusetts, the use of existing pathways is nearly 100 percent, he said.

He said the entire project was expected to create about 3,000 construction jobs across New York, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The ability to expand the natural gas capacity for the region should also help lower energy costs, company officials have said.

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