Kinder Morgan withdraws

ALBANY COUNTY — After two years of protests, public meetings, and the institution of water-protection laws in two counties, the natural gas pipeline expansion project has been officially withdrawn.

“I think it’s great news for the town and the county,” Albany County Legislator L. Michael Mackey told The Enterprise about the end of the pipeline expansion. “The last one that came through caused a disruption. This one was going to do the same.”

On Monday, Tennessee Gas Pipeline and its parent company, Kinder Morgan, withdrew its application from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to expand the Northeast Energy Direct pipeline that runs through Albany County, and through the seven states it would have crossed to deliver fracked gas from Pennsylvania to New England.

Tennessee Gas Pipeline had planned to largely follow pipeline routes that exist now in the towns of New Scotland, Berne, and Knox, while expansions of pipe laterals might have extended the project through new areas of Berne and Westerlo.

When the original pipeline went through, the wells of New Scotland residents were affected. Mackey spearheaded laws that would protect well-owners and municipalities from damage from blasting that could have been done had the pipeline been expanded.
The Knox Town Board last month passed a resolution opposing the NED project as the town of Bethlehem had done earlier.

The contested NED project coincided with lower fuel prices that made the project unfeasible, according to a Kinder Morgan representative.

Richard Wheatley, the director of corporate communications and public affairs for Kinder Morgan, previously told The Enterprise the decision had nothing to do with the protests.
“You can’t build these projects on spec,” he said. “You need adequate capacity commitments in advance.”

But, Wheatley said, Tennessee Gas Pipeline did not get the added commitments it had expected. “We had inadequate commitments from the customers...the people shipping the gas or moving it,” he said. “Continuing to develop the project is not an acceptable use of shareholder funds.”
According to Robert Connors of the group Stop NY Fracked Gas Pipeline, which led public meetings in Albany County and across the state in protest of the pipeline proposal, Kinder Morgan’s economic reasons for the application withdrawal are valid.

“What’s ironic is that Kinder Morgan was putting on a snow job saying how much their gas was needed in the Northeast, when, in fact, they never had enough customers,” Connors said.

The project was scaled back from $6 billion to $3.3 billion, he said.

“All the while, they couldn’t sign up enough customers...and finally admitted most of the gas was going to Europe,” Connors said. The European market, he said, was not strong now, either.

Connors said that his group of 1,500 supporters has worked with a coalition of other grassroots organizations throughout New England, and that groups in other states and in Canada have taken notice of a rare “win” against an energy giant and have asked for guidance.

In addition to the group’s protests, he said, “Market forces spoke, and shareholders spoke...We are, of course, thrilled by it.

“When the cost of fuel goes up...they’ll be back,” Connors continued. The Northeast corridor is between Pennsylvania, where gas is fracked, and the ocean, by which fuel can be shipped to Europe.

“We have a pretty good sense that they’ll be back in the future,” he said.

Mackey said that the pipeline project was “what gave us the impetus for passing” the water-protection laws that hold blasters financially liable for damage to wells. After Albany County passed the laws last year, Rensselaer County passed a similar law.

“The water-protection laws that were passed in Albany and Rensselaer counties probably played a significant role” in the application withdrawal, Mackey said. “The laws, themselves, were fair. They were designed simply to protect public and private water sources, and to hold a company liable for damage to water [sources]. I don’t think they liked being held responsible.”

“It’s great to have it on the books,” Mackey said of the two county laws, “for any projects in the future.”

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