Kinder Morgan Inc.’s Tennessee Gas Pipeline LLC (TGP) has reached a settlement with the state of Massachusetts that clears the way for the pipeline’s Connecticut Expansion Project to traverse the Otis State Forest in Sandisfield, MA, in Berkshire County.
TGP agreed to pay the state $640,000 in compensation for conservation land acquired by eminent domain. It also agreed to provide mitigation during construction of the project. TGP had sued the state to acquire an easement through the area.
“This settlement sets a very high bar for the value of conservation land taken by eminent domain in Massachusetts,” said Massachusetts Attorney General (AG) Maura Healey.
As part of the $640,000, TGP will pay $300,000 for the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to identify and acquire additional conservation land in the vicinity that provides ecological functions equivalent to the land affected by the pipeline. Another $300,000 of the settlement money will go toward mitigation and improvements to Otis State Forest, including $60,000 to be used by DCR for recreational improvements. The remaining $40,000 is for the fair market value of pipeline easements.
The majority of the $640,000 stems from mitigation costs that DCR determined to be appropriate following a Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act review of the project in fall 2015.
TGP also must pay for the cost of environmental monitors and other mitigation, estimated at more than $640,000, bringing the total value of the settlement to more than $1.2 million.
The Connecticut Expansion Project, which was approved by the FERC last March, will extend TGP’s existing pipeline in New York and Connecticut while adding four miles of underground pipeline in Massachusetts. Nearly two miles of this expansion is to be constructed in Otis State Forest, adjacent to TGP’s two existing underground gas pipelines. Otis State Forest is managed by the DCR and protected as conservation land under Article 97 of the Massachusetts Constitution.
In May, Berkshire Superior Court granted TGP temporary construction easements and a permanent, six-acre pipeline easement through Otis State Forest by eminent domain taking as authorized by the federal Natural Gas Act (NGA). Under Article 97 of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution, the legislature must approve any easement through protected conservation land.
TGP sought the eminent domain taking because the legislature did not vote to authorize the pipeline easement through Otis State Forest. The decision by Berkshire Superior Court, which was opposed the AG’s office, ruled that the NGA preempts Article 97 and the pipeline easements were granted. The settlement includes funds for DCR to acquire replacement conservation land for the pipeline easements through Article 97 land taken by eminent domain.
TGP said the resolution of the issue has been held up for more than nine months. The pipeline has requested that a hearing on the proposed consent decree resolving the eminent domain issue be held in Berkshire County Superior Court on Feb. 6.
The overall Connecticut Expansion Project consists of 13.42 miles of 24- and 36-inch diameter pipeline looping in Albany County, NY; Berkshire and Hampden counties, MA; and Hartford County, CT, minor modifications at one compressor station in Massachusetts, and installation of minor appurtenant facilities.
Gas utilities Connecticut Natural Gas Corp., Yankee Gas Services Co. and Southern Connecticut Gas Co. have signed long-term agreements with TGP for the firm project capacity of about 72,100 Dth/d.
The cost of the project is estimated at $93 million. In-service is expected on Nov. 1.
In a Dec. 22 project status update, TGP told the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission it was in talks with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over continued processing of the project’s Section 404 permit. Water quality certifications have been received New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
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