Proposed gas line expansion crosses county

Tennessee pipeline: This map from the website of Kinder Morgan Inc. shows the path of its Tennessee gas pipeline ("TGP") transporting natural gas from the south through New York State and New England. Albany County, in the center, is one of the sites of a proposed expansion of the pipeline in the Northeast by the end of 2018. Routes for the new pipelines are undetermined at this time.

ALBANY COUNTY — An expansion to the Tennessee pipeline that cuts through the middle of the county has been proposed by a Houston-based energy company.

The project would increase capacity for the current Tennessee pipeline that extends from an interconnection point in Wright in Schoharie County through Knox, Berne, New Scotland, and Bethlehem, across the eastern part of the state and into Massachusetts. It is being proposed by the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan Inc.

The approximately 250 miles of new lines needed for the expansion have not yet been determined, said Richard Wheatley, Kinder Morgan’s director of corporate communication and public affairs. The Northeast Expansion Project is meant to upgrade its system in New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire.

The proposed start of construction is April 2017, with service to start in November 2018.

“First, we have to obtain contractual agreements, and those are with potential customers and shippers,” said Wheatley. “So we have to ascertain if there’s sufficient interest in the marketplace.” Details about the size, scope, and capacity of the expansion haven’t been determined and depend on customer needs, he said.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission overseeing pipeline projects would review the company’s proposal in a process that takes 12 to 18 months after an application is submitted, said Tamara Young-Allen, public affairs specialist for FERC. The commission follows the National Energy Policy Act.

“If it’s already an existing facility and they want to amend their FERC certificate, we do an assessment,” said Young-Allen. “The assessment can find that an environmental impact statement is necessary.”

All construction and safety criteria for the pipeline would be subject to federal Department of Transportation standards.

The existing Tennessee pipeline serves most of the New England Region, including Boston and New York City, with natural gas from southern states, including Texas, Louisiana, and the Gulf of Mexico.

Kinder Morgan is one of the largest gas transmission and storage companies in North America. Its interstate pipelines transport oil, gas, and carbon dioxide across the country. Potential customers for its gas lines are utility companies, power generators, and industrial users, Wheatley said.

After receiving a letter on Jan. 9 identical to the one sent to New Scotland, Kevin Crosier, Berne supervisor, said he has tried contacting Kinder Morgan and has sent an e-mail without response. Yochanan Bertos, deputy chief of staff for state Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, whose district includes Berne and Knox, said his office hadn’t yet been contacted by Kinder Morgan.

Knox Supervisor Michael Hammond said on Tuesday he had not received a letter about the proposal and Bethlehem Supervisor John Clarkson did not return phone calls this week.

“I look at this vague map that they sent me,” said Crosier, “and what I want to know is, where does that proposed pipeline fall on each tax parcel in the town of Berne, so I can tell the residents that live there this is where the proposed pipeline is going to fall?”

In its letter, Tennessee Pipeline Company states that it “anticipates that it will be able to locate a significant portion of the pipeline adjacent, or generally parallel, to existing pipeline and electric utility corridors.”

Wheatley said the company is just beginning to obtain survey permissions from landowners in Massachusetts and that the lateral space needed for the line hasn’t been determined.

“In all cases, our overarching policy is to address landowners’ concerns and questions to the best of our ability, provide information on a continual basis, and seek to reach amicable agreements with landowners, if portions of their property are needed for a pipeline easement,” Wheatley wrote in an e-mail. “Eminent domain is always a last resort.”

Daniel Mackay, a New Scotland town board member and director of public policy for the Preservation League of New York State, said he would like to request a meeting with officials from the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company.

Mackay added that the pipeline proposal is competing for his attention with expected upgrades to alternating current transmission lines that run through New Scotland, as well as the transportation of crude oil from the Port of Albany on rail lines in the town.

The peak usage of natural gas in colder months can reduce availability for electricity generation plants across the state, made up for by other energy sources, like oil, wind, and hydro-electric plants.

Following Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 2012 State of the State address, a New York Energy Highway Task Force was convened to examine the aging infrastructure producing and delivering energy throughout the state for modern upgrades to increase capacity. Among its recommendations, the task force called for the state’s Department of Public Service to review policies related to natural-gas expansion and availability, as well as investment in construction and repair of natural-gas lines.

Natural gas is a fossil fuel, mainly methane, created through the compression of organic material over time, but, when burned, emits lower levels of carbon dioxide than oil.

Large supplies of natural gas in underground shale formations have been tapped through the use of high-volume hydraulic fracturing. New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation has no regulations for permitting the process as it awaits a study of health impacts.

For the proposed pipeline, the DEC would need to approve a 401 Water Quality Certification and a State Pollutant Discharge System (SPDES) Stormwater Permit to plan for controlling runoff during construction, said spokesman Rick Georgeson.

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