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The Kinder Morgan "Tennessee" Pipeline

A natural gas pipeline has been proposed that that will cut a 140 mile path through Massachsuetts, carrying fracked gas from other regions to eventually sell to Europe and beyond. The dangers include:

  • global warming methane gas leaks,
  • environmental destruction,
  • threats to public safety,
  • increased dependency on fossil fuels,
  • increased natural gas prices, and
  • financial drain on the region's economy.

Background

The Tennessee Gas Pipeline (TGP) is a series of natural gas (methane) pipelines running from Texas through Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and proposed in Massachusetts. Owned by Kinder Morgan, the TGP is one of the largest pipeline systems in the United States.

The “Northeast Expansion Project” of the TGP, recently renamed to TGP Northeast Energy Direct Project, is a project proposed to add a major branch of pipeline onto a main transmission line. In addition to the main transmission line, the project would include six pipeline components in Massachusetts, identified by the company as follows:  the North Adams Lateral, the Energy North Lateral (extending into New Hampshire), the Worcester Lateral, the Fitchburg Lateral, the Haverhill Loop, the Lynnfield Lateral (also called “Dracut to 270C-100″), and an extension from Dracut to the TGP’s Beverly-Salem line. There would also be at least one compressor station for Dracut, and likely one or more other compressor stations along the main line. The company’s timeline calls for the pipeline to be operational by November 2018 but at the present time it is still in the exploratory stage. This proposed pipeline for Massachusetts runs through hundreds of private properties and public lands and many wetlands, including lands and waterways that are supposed to be protected from development under Massachusetts state law.[1]

 The Environmental Risk

The Massachusetts legislature has repeatedly chosen to pass legislation that holds businesses accountable for pipelines that leak methane. In the 2013-2014 legislative session the bills covering this issue are Senate Bill 2073 and House Bill 3873. It is essential that we stop ALL gas leaks because methane is a greenhouse gas 70 to 100 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.[2] [3] From the time of its extraction at the wellhead to its burning in the combustion chamber at a power plant or in your home furnace, at least 20% of the delivered methane is lost into the environment. [4] As we increase our natural gas consumption in Massachusetts we increase the total volume of methane in our atmosphere. The natural gas industry is using our clean air as a dump - and making us pay for the losses in the price we pay for our natural gas. We should have a “zero leak” policy.

Environmental Destruction

The proposed 140-mile section of new gas pipeline through Massachusetts will require the clear cutting of trees on more than 1,800 acres of land.  In addition, the gas companies usually keep the landscape surrounding the pipelines free of vegetation, which they often do by applying herbicides. The total land area involved in the gas pipeline expansion is more than the total area covered by 80 or so of the 351 Massachusetts cities and towns.

Economics

For every kilowatt-hour of electricity generated with fossil fuels we place more global warming gasses in our atmosphere.

Although it has been argued that this pipeline is intended to fill a possible shortfall in our natural gas capacity such as temporarily experienced with this past cold winter, this pipeline is being built to accommodate a major increase in capacity that is way beyond the present or future energy needs of the people of the Commonwealth. There are reports that our own energy requirements could be met by our present pipeline system, even more so if the pipeline is routinely maintained, and the methane loss due to leakage is repaired.

There are indications that the Tennessee Gas pipeline that is being proposed is being developed to deliver natural gas for export.

Economic analyses indicate that the local price for natural gas could increase from its current US market price of $4 per mBTU to the present global market price of $14 per mBTU, and possibly even as high as $20 per mBTU which is the price in Japan. Just a $1 increase in the natural gas price in Massachusetts could translate into a 20% to 25% overall increase in energy costs for every business and homeowner dependent on natural gas. [5]

Because Massachusetts must buy and import all our fossil fuels from outside of our state, the money we spend on coal, oil and gas also goes out of state and out of our regional economy.  Renewable or clean energy investments in solar energy, wind or geothermal heating are investments we make in our own economy.

Opposition

The residents of cities and towns all along the proposed route are fiercely opposing the construction of the proposed pipeline. Many advocacy organizations including the Massachusetts Chapter of the Sierra Club are supporting their fight.

The Massachusetts Sierra Club position is:

  1. to oppose any increased infrastructure for the export of natural gas which includes the proposed Tennessee Gas pipeline
  2. to encourage more dependence on renewable energy
  3. to encourage more implementation of energy efficiency
  4. to reduce the amount of natural gas leaks in our aging pipelines and to repair or replace existing pipelines
  5. to support our state's laudable and farseeing Green House Gas emission reduction goals and to encourage our legislature to pass a carbon tax

[1] Massachusetts Pipeline Awareness Network (MassPLAN), Frequently Asked Questions, retrieved May 15, 2014

[2] Estimate by the IPCC and a recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology study

[3] How to count methane emissions, Study provides new metric for comparing the greenhouse gases methane and carbon dioxide. David L. Chandler, MIT News Office April 25, 2014 http://newsoffice.mit.edu/2014/how-count-methane-emissions-0425

[4] Into Thin Air; How Leaking Natural Gas is Harming our Environment and Wasting a Valuable Resource, Conservation Law Foundation, Dec 7, 2012; Gas Leaks Report, office of US Senator Ed Markey [4] http://www.clf.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Markey-Gas-Leaks-Report-2.pdf; the leak epidemic in Washington, D. C. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=is-natural-gas-more-climate-friendly-washington-dc.  See also “In a Utah gas field, potent quantities of a greenhouse gas rise into the atmosphere – study” Scientific American, Stephanie Paige Ogburn and Climate Wire, August 7, 2013, showing leakage at 6.2% to 11.7% of production. Also see America's Natural Gas System Is Leaky And In Need Of A Fix, New Study Finds, Stanford Report, February 13, 2014 http://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/february/methane-leaky-gas-021314.html

[5] Even without exporting LNG, the price of gas is and always will be volatile, even in areas that have abundant gas, for reasons out of our control. See Market Prices and Uncertainty Report Released: January 7, 2014 and Short-Term Energy Outlook - Natural Gas Section Released: January 7, 2014 Short-term forecasts of natural gas supply, demand, and price projections.http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/steo/report/natgas.cfm

updated 6/8/2014

See Also
Berkshire Envioronmental Action Team (BEAT) website on the proposed project
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