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Scroll down, under the map, for the latest update.     Community opposition is strong and continues to mount, including nine community organizations.  In the past, “natural” gas was widely viewed as a “bridge fuel”, less polluting when burned than oil and coal, a bridge until renewable energy sources were more affordable and available.  But solid research over the last 6 years shows that hydraulically fractured (fracked) gas (1) has a larger greenhouse gas footprint than oil and even coal due to methane leaks, thus contributing more to climate change than other fuels and (2) results in serious health and water quality impacts in the communities where it is extracted.  Also, prices are projected to increase as supplies decline and exports increase.

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Proposed pipeline to run from RT 12-A in West Lebanon to downtown Hanover, NH

 

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#Fracking4Plastics – a link that drives plastic and climate pollution

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Shale gas and fracking is creating a plastics renaissance in the U.S.

It is increasingly clear that the plastics industry in the United States has reaped massive hidden benefits from the environmentally destructive fracking boom. Hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) injects large quantities of fresh water, sand and toxic chemicals under high pressure to release oil and gas that are tightly held in rock layers. Read More

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Sustainable Lebanon To Present Petition to City Council, Rally on City Hall Steps

43691148_2124896364494589_7231442144286736384_oOn October 17, at 6:30 pm, concerned residents will rally on the steps of Lebanon City Hall to send city government the message, “No Pipeline Here!” They will then go inside at 7:00 pm to deliver to the City Council a petition signed by over 1,100 Lebanon residents. The petition, circulated by Sustainable Lebanon, asks the City Council to take every legal and regulatory action at its disposal to prevent the natural gas storage facility and pipeline from proceeding.

Last March, Liberty Utilities secured a gas distribution franchise from the NH Public Utilities Commission (PUC), which provides it a license to build a fracked gas storage depot and construct a pipeline through Lebanon and Hanover streets, despite objection from thousands of residents and both municipalities. Catastrophic climate events along with concerns about health and safety have convinced Sustainable Lebanon that we have to move quickly to stop burning fossil fuels.

WHO: Lebanon residents who oppose the pipeline, including the grassroots volunteer group Sustainable Lebanon.

WHAT: A rally with concerned residents on the steps of City Hall, followed by a petition delivery to City Council with over 1,100 signatures.

WHEN: October 17, Rally 6:30 pm; City Council Meeting, 7:00 pm

WHERE: Lebanon City Hall, 51 N. Park Street, Lebanon, NH

WHY: The fracked gas pipeline proposed would threaten the health and safety of Lebanon residents and exacerbate climate change. Lebanon residents oppose the pipeline and are calling on City Council to take every legal and regulatory action to stop it.

Sustainable Lebanon, a grassroots volunteer group founded in 2017, inspires and supports sustainable practices in Lebanon – working with residents, businesses, nonprofits, and the municipality, in a way that is inclusive, coordinated, and focused on a positive long-term vision.

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Lebanon Gas Depot Fatal Flaw Analysis Revealed

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A two-and-a-half-year-old report, only recently released to the public, sheds new light on safety concerns for Liberty Utilities’ proposed liquefied natural gas storage depot near the city landfill in West Lebanon.

In a fatal flaw analysis memo prepared for Liberty in August 2015, engineers at the consulting firm Sanborn Head concluded from initial “conceptual level thermal radiation modeling” that an “exclusion zone” surrounding a potential fire at the facility would barely fit within the site’s boundaries, as required by federal safety codes. However, the report also cautioned that additional computer modeling required for the project could result in an exclusion zone that extends beyond the property’s boundaries, one of which is Route 12A.

The exclusion zone predicted by the thermal radiation model is shown on the map above by the red circle.  According to the legend, the blue circle represents “the nearest point located outside the owner’s property line that can be used for an outdoor assembly by groups of 50 or more persons”.

Significantly the Sanborn Head fatal flaw analysis notes that there had been no vapor dispersion modeling, which is necessary to determine the boundaries of the “50% LEL exclusion zone”.  LEL is the Lower Explosive Limit, which is the lowest concentration, by percentage, of a gas or vapor in air that is capable of producing a flash of fire in the presence of an ignition source.  The memo goes on to “strongly recommend” that vapor dispersion modeling be done as soon as possible, “since it is our experience that keeping the 50% LEL exclusion zone within the property boundaries is typically more challenging than keeping the 10,000 BTU/hr-ft2 exclusion zone [the red circle] within the property boundaries”.  The memo mentions some mitigation measures — insulated concrete, vapor fences, water spray systems — that could be considered if the 50% LEL goes beyond the property line.

Of course, we have no way of knowing if Liberty has followed their engineers’ recommendation and completed the vapor dispersion modeling.  We also don’t know if bedrock or wetlands will further constrain the siting of the facility, as the memo noted might be the case.

The Sanborn Head fatal flaw analysis was one set of information that Liberty Utilities had previously redacted to keep it hidden from public scrutiny.  Liberty claimed protection for the report and a great deal of additional material, citing an exemption under the New Hampshire right-to-know law for commercial information.  The Public Utilities Commission allowed the material to remain redacted for almost a year after citizen intervenors Ariel Arwen and Jon Chaffee objected to the abuse of that statute. Finally, in its March 5 order granting Liberty a gas distribution franchise for Lebanon and Hanover, the PUC ruled that the company had to release much of the redacted information, including the fatal flaw analysis.  If the two citizens representing themselves before the PUC without an attorney had not forced the issue, the information in the memo would never have seen the light of day.

And that’s why we stay vigilant.

Lebanon Gas Depot Fatal Flaw Analysis Revealed

Also see:

Liberty Utilities gas franchise approved (03/06/2018)

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Why is Liberty Utilities pushing its gas on Lebanon?

Liberty Utilities has plans to build a fracked gas distribution system in Lebanon and Hanover, starting with construction of a depot in Lebanon to store compressed natural gas (CNG) delivered by truck.  They plan to later expand the depot to include multiple 60,000 gallon tanks holding liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Why does Liberty persist in pushing their project when it has virtually no community support?  The answer to that question may lie in the regional context of aggressive expansion by the gas industry. That expansion is being driven by international energy conglomerates, and it has little to do with the “public interest” that regulated public utilities are supposed to serve.

The Canadian company that owns Liberty Utilities has been a partner in a project to construct a major interstate pipeline to deliver fracked gas from Pennsylvania to Massachusetts.  The developers of that pipeline have argued that New England needs greater gas pipeline capacity to cover the region’s energy needs during the coldest weather.  However, the developers have sought and been granted approval to send that gas on an existing pipeline to terminals in the Canadian Maritimes, from where it will be exported overseas.  To win approval of federal regulators for the new infrastructure, the developers are required to justify the project based on “need”, which has traditionally been demonstrated by signed contracts with local gas utilities.  That’s where Liberty Utilities comes in, by signing a contract to buy gas from a pipeline in which its parent company has a financial interest.  Liberty and its parent can’t lose because the captive rate payers bear the risk of the gas utility’s investments.

Liberty Utilities is owned by Algonquin Power and Utilities Corp (APUC), one of Kinder Morgan’s partners in the Northeast Energy Direct (NED) pipeline project.  The NED pipeline was conceived to run through upstate New York, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, ending at the gas hub in Dracut, MA.  NED, along with Enbridge’s Access Northeast pipeline, was intended to supply fracked gas from Pennsylvania to the Canadian Martitimes for export overseas on LNG tankers.

To justify approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the projects needed to produce contracts from customers for the gas.  Liberty Utilities, in its capacity as a local gas company, signed an agreement to buy gas from NED.  In October 2015, the NH Public Utilities Commission approved the agreement.  Notably, the PUC’s order approving the agreement contained a “growth incentive”, which imposed penalties on the company if it failed to expand its gas sales substantially each year.

Kinder Morgan withdrew NED in 2016 due to lack of sufficient contracts.  Enbridge suspended Access Northeast in 2017 for the same reason.  That’s not the end of the story by any means, though.

Two separate LNG export terminal projects are moving forward in Nova Scotia.  If built, these terminals would liquefy fracked gas from Pennsylvania and export it to overseas destinations.  Gas is already being sent north from the hub in Dracut on the Maritime and Northeast Pipeline that until recently carried gas only south from Canada.  The export projects were conceived back when NED and Access Northeast were still on the table.  Now, the Trump administration’s commitment to unbridled fossil fuel development may prove to be a game changer for speculative projects like those.

Interstate pipeline developers, such as giants Kinder Morgan and Enbridge, and Liberty Utilities’ parent APUC, are required to demonstrate a “need” for new gas infrastructure before a project can gain approval from the FERC.  The justification for additional capacity has traditionally been provided by long-term contracts with local gas utilities.  However, Liberty Utilities has been part of a troubling new trend, where gas utilities that have become subsidiaries of pipeline companies sign contracts to buy gas from a pipeline that their parent company has invested in.

State-regulated utilities are legally guaranteed a profit on investments they make to provide service to their customers.  They will realize the profit even if the investment ultimately proves to be a poor bet.  When the contracts used to demonstrate the need for infrastructure expansion are between a pipeline developer and gas utilities that it owns, then there’s reason to think that  benefits of the transaction will be transferred away from the utilities’ captive rate payers to the developer, while the financial risks are offloaded in the other direction.  In that case, the developer and the utility have a mutual financial interest that may well be against the interests of rate payers and the public as a whole.  That mutual financial interest may also provide an incentive for the subsidiary utility to sign up for more pipeline capacity than its customers need.

Just that sort of too-cozy relationship came about between Liberty Utilities and its parent APUC with the NED pipeline, before the project was ultimately withdrawn for lack of sufficient customers.  NED is gone, but the gas industryhas not given up its plans to build major new pipelines into New England from the Marcellus region of Pennsylvania.  If enough expansion plans being pushed by local gas utilities are approved by state regulators, we can expect Kinder Morgan and Enbridge to come back with new plans for bigger pipelines.

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Update on PUC ruling from Energy & Climate Upper Valley

No decision yet from the PUC … 

Almost four months since the hearing in early September, the NH Public Utilities Commission has still not issued a decision on whether to grant Liberty a gas distribution franchise for Lebanon and Hanover.  We can expect a decision before much longer, though, and we should expect that the PUC will grant the franchise according to the terms of a settlement agreement reached by the gas company, PUC staff and the Office of the Consumer Advocate. The agreement, which was not supported by the City of Lebanon, the Town of Hanover or any of the citizen intervenors, recommends that Liberty be granted a monopoly franchise to distribute gas by pipeline in Lebanon and Hanover.  According to the agreement’s terms, construction of each of the two initial phases of the system would not start until customer commitments for gas service reach a certain threshold of guaranteed revenue.  Phase 1 would operate on a trucked-in supply of compressed natural gas (CNG), while phase 2 would employ 60,000 gallon storage tanks for liquefied natural gas (LNG), which would also be delivered to Lebanon by truck.  You’ll find more background in this report that we sent out shortly after the hearing.

… but we’re not waiting passively

Since the project can’t go forward without enough of a customer base, we intend to do everything we can to turn potential customers away from Liberty’s dirty and climate-changing gas and toward clean renewable alternatives.  Thanks to the vision and hard work of Jon Chaffee, who provided powerful testimony at the hearing, Energy & Climate Upper Valley has received two grants, from New England Grassroots Environmental Fund and the Anne Slade Frey Charitable Trust.  The grants will support a demonstration project, in partnership with a Lebanon business, to analyze the cost and energy benefits of retrofitting an existing commercial structure with renewable energy systems.
When the time comes we will engage in Lebanon’s land use review process.  The city’s regulators will need to hear from and see us so that they know there’s no public support for the project.
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