Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Quietly Re-Routed: Kinder Morgan's Tennessee Gas Pipeline Northeast Expansion

This is page 16 from a Kinder Morgan presentation given before the Northeast Gas Association concerning the company's Tennessee Gas Pipeline, which has for decades run all the way into the Northeast U.S. from the Gulf Coast.  You'll have to click the JPEG into a new window to see it all clearly.  The source PDF is electronically dated Nov. 30, 2012, and its opening page shows a presentation date of Dec. 3, 2012.  What's of particular note to me is the routing of the then-conceptual "TGP Northeast Expansion — Bullet Line," which is rendered as a solid blue line between the Township of Wright, Schoharie County, NY (an interconnect between multiple pipelines, including the still-proposed Constitution Pipeline), and the terminal point at Dracut, Mass.
Interesting situation here:  Between late 2012 and early 2014, the proposed routing of a major new natural gas pipeline requiring ground in New York State can be shown to have been quietly and fairly radically altered.

But nobody noticed.

Above is a Scribd embed of the full PDF from which this early map is taken, in case you're really interested.

Above is a Scribd embed of the much more current Tennessee Gas Pipeline Northeast Expansion plan, affecting what the company internally references as its "200 Line."  It is from a Kinder Morgan PDF electronically dated as last modified Jan. 24, 2014.  It was originally (and very helpfully) put into the public domain by the Town of Tyngsborough, Mass. (along the NH line), along with some additionally useful documentation obtained from the pipeline developer.

(After I tweeted multiple links to this public documentation — in an effort to trigger media recognition that this Massachusetts development also necessarily involved New York — Scott Waldman of Politico's Capital New York outlet, now a pay site, re-posted this map, and dishonestly declared it to have been "obtained by Capital."  I just love these guys.)

But what's notable is the new location of the expansion plan, especially on the New York side, marked in purple with dashed white.

Previously, we can see that TGP planners were contemplating a loop around the western and northern ends of the Albany NY metropolitan area in order to move more natgas to the Massachusetts state line.  That would have been virgin ground, for all I know owned by wealthier-than-average exurban Albany folks. 

Now, we can see that they're hoping for a much more simplified scheme of digging up the existing right of way — running along the southern end of the Capital Region, through parts of Schoharie, Albany, Rensselaer, and Columbia counties — and either adding pipe, or replacing smaller existing pipe with bigger pipe.  Most of these landowners are unlikely to be happy with the impact, but it won't be anything they haven't already lived with for years.

It looks to me as though, in the intervening year or so, the private sector took a hard look at the political reality of New York's ongoing Constitution Pipeline fight, the Watkins Glen LPG storage fight, Spectra's expansion fights downstate, the overall statewide frack fight, and the state's bitter history of long and involved long-distance electricity transmission fights, etc. — and they decided to try the more politically palatable plan of staying inside the lines of their existing utility corridor.  That's not what they're proposing to do in Massachusetts, but at least inside NYS, they propose to stay within the lines.  Syncs up in a way with what Gov. Cuomo said in the last State of the State Address about streamlining electric transmission plans that re-use existing rights of way.

A question still unanswered by a shockingly unsophisticated New York press:  Whether TGP's existing easements in the Capital Region of New York may be already so broadly written as to cover this expanded capacity, or whether the developer must go back to the current landowners and offer to pay for modifications/enlargements.  Just because I like landowners, and I like out-of-state money getting spent in New York, I'm hoping for the latter.

Here's an excellent summary of New England's building, seasonally relevant campaign for adding way more pipeline capacity.

The bottom line is that the powers that be in northeastern blue states want and need more natural gas — for economic, environmental, and reliability reasons.  Only trouble is the New England states can't get it done without triggering NIMBY fights both at home and in New York.  This demand for more natural gas is largely psychologically and popularly disconnected from at least half of this same population's negative view of drilling and fracking, which is where most new natural gas actually comes from.  That may not make any logical or ethical sense to me or to you, but it is what it is.

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