PLAINFIELD – A Plainfield man claims contractors for the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. surveyed his land against his will, but a spokesman for parent company Kinder Morgan says the company is merely “profiling the public roadway to determine where the road easement is.”
Mike Paulsen lives on Windsor Avenue, a rural stretch of road reached from West Street in West Cummington. His property is along the proposed route of the Northeast Energy Direct natural gas pipeline.
Paulsen said he came home Thursday to find stakes and flags on his property anywhere from eight to 17 feet from the edge of the roadway. Paulsen earlier had filed a form specifically denying Kinder Morgan the right to enter his property for surveying purposes.
Land owners are permitted to deny Kinder Morgan and its agents the right to survey their property. The company must petition the Department of Public Utilities if it wishes to survey against an owner’s will. No such petitions have been filed to date for properties along the Northeast Energy Direct route, according to DPU dockets.
Kinder Morgan spokesman Richard Wheatley said Friday the company has not surveyed any private property in Plainfield, but is taking steps to delineate the town-owned road easement for any future work.
“We’re looking at the topography of the road surface. No private property has been surveyed,” Wheatley said.
Plans filed with federal regulators show the high-pressure gas line would be laid alongside a power line that is near Paulsen’s land and home.
Kinder Morgan’s preferred route shows the pipeline largely co-located with existing utility lines. That doesn’t mean there will be no new land disruption. If the pipeline is built, those rights-of-way would be broadened, filings with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission show.
Kinder Morgan will need a certificate of public convenience from the commission to build the pipeline. If the certificate is granted, the company will have the power of eminent domain to take private property.
Plainfield is one of more than a dozen Massachusetts towns that have explicitly denied the company the right to survey land that is owned by the town. Reached Friday, selectman Judy Feeley said she is not sure if that prohibition applies to roadway easements, which are broader than the roads themselves.
Feeley said she had heard from another landowner who claimed surveying sticks and flags that appeared on her land fell well within private property, and outside the bounds of any road easement. Feeley said she would consult with other town officials to get a better sense of what is going on.
The 36-inch Tennessee Gas Co. pipeline would carry up to 2.2 billion cubic feet of gas daily from wellheads in Pennsylvania to markets in the Northeast. The pipeline plan has met with stiff resistance from environmental groups in New York, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire.
While opposition has been vocal and prominent, the Massachusetts Building Trades Council, Associated Industries of Massachusetts support the project. Local gas distribution companies have announced a moratorium on new natural gas hookups in the area, saying existing pipes are at capacity.
Opponents counter that increasing the availability of liquefied natural gas in New England would ease the crunch and lower utility bills without requiring any new pipeline capacity.
In western Massachusetts, sixty-four miles of pipeline would cross the towns of Hancock, Lanesborough, Cheshire, Dalton, Hinsdale, Peru, Windsor, Plainfield, Conway, Ashfield, Shelburne, Deerfield, Montague, Erving, Warwick and Northfield before entering southern New Hampshire on its way east.
This Google map shows the power line between Route 9 in Cummington and Route 116 in Plainfield alongside which the proposed pipeline would travel: