The West Hartford Town Council is expressing unanimous opposition to the existing Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company plans to expand a natural gas pipeline through MDC property in West Hartford.
By Ronni Newton
The West Hartford Town Council may not have any legal options to block Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company’s (TGPC) plans to expand its natural gas delivery pipeline through town, but members want to be sure that their opposition to the plan in its current state is voiced.
West Hartford Mayor Scott Slifka said that although legally speaking it appears that the town’s only involvement will be reviewing wetlands applications through the Town Planning and Zoning Commission, the council nevertheless acted swiftly to draft a resolution and add it to the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting. “This is the only way we can approach opposition in a public manner,” Slifka said Tuesday afternoon.
The resolution was added to the “suspense” section of Tuesday’s agenda because its need was not apparent when the agenda was set last Tuesday. On Wednesday, Oct. 7, a community presentation was held at Town Hall that included representatives of energy giant Kinder Morgan, which is the parent company of TGPC, and the MDC, which owns the land on which the new pipeline will be constructed.
Residents and environmental advocates, including representatives of the Sierra Club and the Connecticut Forest and Park Association, attended that meeting in force despite its announcement just a week in advance, with many expressing strong opposition as well the feeling that their questions had not been addressed.
“The public hearing was intended to be for education. Not only didn’t it do that, but it created a great deal of concern and mistrust instead,” Slifka said.
Slifka is concerned that very little information about the project has been conveyed to the Town Council, or to the public, or even to the MDC which owns the five-plus miles of property within West Hartford through which the proposed project will be built. The MDC has expressed significant concern about the project, and the degree of due diligence that has been performed by Kinder Morgan/TGPC related to possible impact on the water supply and the environment.
Back in June, MDC President and CEO Scott Jellison sent a letter to the Secretary of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) stating that the initial environmental survey indicates “incorrectly states that the project area is not located within any public drinking water or aquifer protection areas.”
At the meeting in West Hartford on Oct. 7, TGPC acknowledged that it has had safety incidents and pipeline spills at sites throughout the country.
The Northeast Energy Direct Route project, which Kinder Morgan claims is necessary to keep pace with public demand for natural gas, will be officially filed with FERC within the next several months. FERC is accepting public comment on the proposal only through Oct. 16, which is why the Town Council felt it had to act quickly.
The MDC currently appears to be doing what they can to stymie the project, Slifka said, including denying Kinder Morgan access to its land for survey purposes until its questions can be answered.
Slifka said that the town is exploring what, if any, legal avenues may be available.
“As far as we understand, we have no authority to stop this. The resolution is the strongest action we have at the moment,” Slifka said.
The resolution, which states in conclusion that “the West Hartford Town Council hereby expresses its opposition to the TGPC project in its current form and requests that TGPC representatives explore alternative options and conduct further research to ensure that this and any other proposed project in West Hartford guarantee protection of drinking water, the impacted lands and our West Hartford community,” was a bi-partisan and unanimous effort of the Town Council. Council member Clare Kindall, who works for the Attorney General’s office, abstained from involvement out of potential conflict of interest.
The resolution will be communicated to TGPC, Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, FERC, MDC, the Connecticut Congressional delegation. and the Office of the Governor.
Members of the public can comment directly on the project through FERC’s online system by clicking here. The docket number for the project is PF14-22-000.
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