Index: Councilman Below’s closing statement/Letter to City Council/PUC link/ Don Kreis LTE/ Jon Chaffee Op-Ed/  Bob Walker LTE/ Lee Oxenham LTE/ and more

Excerpt from Councilman Clif Below’s closing statement at the 9/7/17 NH PUC hearing:

Click to access 16-852_2017-09-07_TRANSCRIPT_09-07-17.PDF

(begins at p. 160, emphasis ours)

MR. BELOW: Yes. The City of Lebanon entered this proceeding primarily concerned with retaining its local jurisdiction over land use regulation, excavations, and public safety, and fire code issues. However, the City Council, in a discussion last night, did ask or support my attendance, and wanting to make clear to the Commission that our current Master Plan, which is the official policy of the City adopted by both the Planning Board and the City Council, does not support the expanded use of natural gas. It’s not consistent with our goals to move more quickly to reduce our carbon footprint as a city and to develop renewable energy. We would prefer if Liberty Utilities would focus more of its entrepreneurial efforts in working with the City on those goals, and to better accelerate development and integration of local renewable energy resources and a beneficial electrification of transportation and space heating, such as through our proposed pilot that we’re working on…


Letter to Lebanon City Councilors:  From: Ariel Arwen
Date: Tue, Sep 5, 2017 at 11:09 AM
Subject: community letter re. 9/6 pipeline agenda item

Dear Mayor Prentiss and Lebanon City Councilors,

In light of the recently proposed settlement agreement regarding the proposed gas pipeline system being considered by the NH Public Utilities Commission (Sept. 7 hearing) covered in today’s Valley News, we are writing in strong support of Darla Bruno’s August 16 request to the City Council to approve a communication to the Commission explaining that (similar to the discussion around the Energy Chapter Addendum) the proposed natural gas pipeline system is not consistent with the policies of the City. As the Addendum states: “…And whereas such references to the possible use or increased use of natural gas do not reflect and are not supported by policies of the City of Lebanon;…”

We note that the packet for the Sept. 6 Council meeting only includes a brief description of this agenda item, and we therefore appreciate your attention here.

We are all concerned about the climate change we already experience, and worried about what is to come. The difficult nub is how we can develop a collective commitment to actually change our use of fossil fuels. There is growing hopefulness that local governments can facilitate change. Both Lebanon and neighboring Hanover have adopted bold goals of switching to renewables, but the real test is implementing those goals. Lebanon plans to soon shift its municipal electricity to that produced renewably at its landfill. Hanover has been buying renewable electricity. Hanover will begin this year to shift its heating fuels from fossil to solar and renewably powered heat pumps. Lebanon will hire an energy coordinator part of whose responsibility will be to review energy use in municipal buildings. These examples will no doubt motivate residents and businesses to consider changes they can make.

Is there more that the City could do to promote a shift from fossil fuels to renewables?  We believe that a statement opposing the proposed natural gas pipeline is a reasonable step for the City Council to take. The pipeline would be a clear step backward, introducing a “new” fossil fuel that is now known to be particularly bad for the environment. If coal were being re-introduced to Lebanon, opposition would be automatic, and natural gas is worse than coal as described in solid research re. fugitive methane in natural gas’ lifecycle coupled with methane’s potent warming effects, as Councilor Below detailed in the packet for the June 7 Council vote on the Addendum to the Energy Chapter of the Master Plan.

To make a statement about the undesirability of introducing natural gas speaks to potential gas customers in Lebanon about a City intention to instead move to renewables, but does not constrain the City in its consideration of any potential application that may be made by the pipeline for permits. Treatment of such a submission, should it ever appear, would be governed by law.  Of course the City cannot dictate to residents or businesses what fuel we use. But the City can help to build a consensus among residents and businesses that together we can actually do this change, as the Energy Chapter charges.

Opposing the pipeline would be consistent with the Master Plan’s stated goals re. renewable energy and reducing fossil-fuel dependence, and would support the Council’s recent vote to support the Paris Climate Accord that resolved that our City “[s]tands ready to work with other communities and towns across the state, to provide the leadership and resources at the local level that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect our most vulnerable residents from the impacts of climate change, and reap the benefits of the transition to a clean energy economy.”

Lebanon’s newly created staff position of Energy & Facilities Coordinator will be significant, as Councilor Below has described: “..once filled, we can start to really move forward with energy efficiency and renewable energy for City facilities and also have someone whose full time job is to help implement the energy chapter of our Master Plan”.  So the City is poised to truly carry out the charge which that chapter provides.

Its Section B Vision and Purpose includes “to reduce the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions that result from a fossil fuel-dependent economy”.  In Section D2, Renewable Energy: “The price of fossil fuels will continue to fluctuate and destabilize budgets while perpetuating the City’s reliance on non-local, non-renewable sources of energy.  To stabilize the price and supply of energy and reduce the environmental impacts of fossil fuels, the City of Lebanon should actively pursue opportunities to develop renewable energy sources such as hydropower, wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, and methane regeneration… By investing in local renewable energy production, the City of Lebanon will reduce its reliance on foreign fuel sources, improve air quality for residents, stabilize the price and supply of energy for its many robust businesses, and reflect strong regional leadership.  Additionally, investment in local power generating projects fulfills citizens’ desires to maintain small town character and quality of life by gradually returning to the small scale, sustainable power sources that propelled economic development and commercial prosperity in Lebanon since its founding.”

The Energy Chapter charges the City with bold initiative not only in the municipality but in residential and commercial sectors of Lebanon.  Even if the Public Utilities Commissioners approve Liberty’s petition, by taking a principled stance congruent with its Master Plan, City leadership can play an active role re. customer response. Under Vision and Purpose:  “The City shall… promote similar energy efficiency measures for the commercial and residential sectors… The City shall explore renewable energy options…. and promote similar projects in the commercial sector.”

Similarly, the following testimony may be of interest, written by Hanover’s Town Manager, Julia Griffin in the same NHPUC case:

“In May of 2017, Hanover’s Town Meeting voted to become a Sierra Club ‘Ready for 100 Action’ Community, committing to transitioning the community to 100% use of renewable sources of electricity by 2030 and to 100% use of renewable sources of fuel for heating and transportation by 2050. The Hanover Select Board, Town staff and an active group of local volunteers recommended that the Town of Hanover vote to do so after extensive discussions with representatives of the Sierra Club as well as local sustainability advocates and based on significant research conducted by Town staff.

Committing to this goal does not correspond with use of natural gas as a fuel Source (emphasis ours). The Town of Hanover intends to begin the community’s transition by shifting Fuel use in all Town-owned properties from fuel oil and natural gas to biomass and to solar powered heat pumps. All Town buildings will transition to these sources for heating and cooling and funds are budgeted to begin that transition in FY 2017-18. Without the Town of Hanover’s municipal facilities as natural gas customers and without Dartmouth College as a customer, the Town questions the viability of a natural gas pipeline extension into the Town of Hanover. The only other major institutional user along either a Route 120 or Route 10 route into the downtown area is Hanover High School and that facility is currently served by wood chip boiler. In addition, the Richmond Middle School just north of the downtown area is served by a wood chip boiler. While the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers’ Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory and Dartmouth Printing may be interested in natural gas to serve their facilities along with Kendal at Hanover, the Town hopes to work with all three entities to transition their facilities to biomass and solar as part of our community-wide goal of being 100% reliant on renewable sources of fuel by 2050.”

We urge you to approve a communication to the NH PUC expressing the City’s objection to the proposed pipeline.

To view the docket, including over 330 letters opposing the proposal (under Comments):

Thank you very much for your attention,

hundreds of Lebanon residents represented by:

Upper Valley Democrats for the Environment, Sierra Club Upper Valley Group, Making a Difference Environmental Subcommittee, Upper Valley Young Liberals, Action Together Upper Valley, Academy for Systems Change, Energy and Climate-UV, Upper Valley Transformational Action Affinity Group, Upper Valley Affinity Group


See the latest postings and submitted comments on the PUC Docket especially the 8/24 comments (at the bottom), by Richard Husband


Don Kreis’ Valley News Letter to Editor   08/16/2017 – Page A07


To The Editor: As New Hampshire’s Consumer Advocate, tasked with representing the interests of residential utility customers at the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), I was disappointed by your account of the recent protest against the Hanover-Lebanon natural gas franchise request now pending at the PUC (“Pipeline Protest Displays Political Rift, Hints at Common Ground,” Aug. 13). To the exclusion of everything else, you focused on one aspect of the event — a reminder from a speaker that sometimes Republicans join those on the left side of the political spectrum in opposing natural gas projects in New Hampshire.

That’s true, and I can’t fault the Valley News for seeking its own angle and thus not letting the organizers set the agenda for media coverage. But the citizen-activists who have intervened at the PUC to oppose the franchise request from Liberty Utilities have approached their task with thoughtfulness and thoroughness, which means they deserve to have their arguments taken seriously and certainly not ignored altogether.

Moreover, the public deserves coverage that clarifies rather than ignores important questions such as: How does Liberty’s plan to serve Lebanon and Hanover relate to bigger and more controversial pipeline projects like the Northeast Direct from Kinder Morgan and Access Northeast from Eversource, both of which are presently on hold? Instead, your story offered an incomplete characterization of the standard by which the PUC must evaluate the Liberty proposal. While, as you note, the PUC generally focuses on the managerial, technical and financial capacity of the utility, the applicable statute (RSA 374:26) actually requires the agency to make a broad “public good” determination.

Our position at the Office of the Consumer Advocate is that Liberty, rather than its ratepayers, should bear the risk that this project is a bust, particularly given that no major customers appear to have committed to taking service yet. Grassroots activists are raising broader concerns which, given the extraordinary efforts they have undertaken, also deserve respectful attention — from the PUC, the utility and most certainly the local daily newspaper. Please ramp up your coverage of whether the Upper Valley truly needs a natural gas utility.


Valley News
08/06/2017 – Page F01



    JON CHAFFEE    For the Valley News
 THERE WILL BE A RALLY next Saturday from noon to 2 p.m. at Colburn Park in Lebanon against the pipeline. What pipeline? The one that Liberty Utilities proposes to build, snaking from storage tanks south of the Lebanon landfill up Route 12A through the plazas, over Seminary Hill and across the Miracle Mile to Lebanon, then up Route 120 to Hanover, to deliver natural gas to residences and businesses. When you receive a mailing about switching to natural gas for heating, would you be interested? I wouldn’t buy it.

As a citizen intervenor, I am petitioning the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission to deny Liber ty’s request for a local franchis! e to pipe natural gas. The decision will come to a head at a public hearing on Sept. 7. What’s my problem? Liberty says its pipeline will provide a heating fuel choice that’s both cheaper and better for the environment. If you’ve seen smooth TV ads sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute, you may believe that natural gas is the hope of America’s future: clean and green and inexhaustible. I don’t buy it.

First, natural gas is not green. In fact, using it for heating is worse for the environment than using propane, oil or even coal. That’s because a small percentage of natural gas leaks, unburned, directly into the atmosphere from wellheads and pipelines. Enough leaks for satellites to visualize it above fracking sites. Enough leaks for satellites to measure a 20 percent increase in global atmospheric methane at the same time as the recent fracking boom. Why worry about some! escaped gas? Well, methane, which is what natural gas mostly ! is, has a huge greenhouse warming effect, 86 times worse in the short term than CO2, according to research done for the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Yes, burning natural gas emits slightly less CO2 and other pollutants per unit of heat produced than oil or coal, but when you take leaked methane into account, it is overall the worst fossil fuel for heating. Rather than expanding its use, it should be banned, as chlorofluorocarbon refrigerants were banned to save the ozone layer. And it’s not clean. Most natural gas now comes from fracked wells. The toxic cocktail injected at high pressure into wells to fracture the shale leaks out and poisons water sources. They inject glutaraldehyde, an ingredient in embalming fluid, for heaven’s sake. Increased rates of sickness are documented near fracked wells. And, sometimes, earthquakes. But this is all far a! way in Pennsylvania, so we shouldn’t worry, right, as long as it’s cheaper?

Don’t buy it. At current prices, natural gas is marginally cheaper than oil, but only if you use lots of heat. Gas is more expensive than oil if your house is efficient. It would cost less to insulate and use oil than to pay to remove your oil equipment and install gas. Extremely efficient electric heat pumps are the heating equipment of the future. They would cost less than gas to heat an insulated house, and cost just a little more to install. For the 20 percent or so of customers heating with propane, gas is cheaper right now. But still don’t buy it.

Because the price is going to go up. It will go up as increasing exports of natural gas limit domestic availability. Don’t be surprised; the petroleum industry will not profit greatly from a few more customers i! n Lebanon and Hanover. No, the real money is in Europe and China. But ! new customers are essential to getting the gas overseas. The parent company of Liberty Utilities, Algonquin Power, is partnered with Kinder Morgan in the big Northeast Energy Direct pipeline, intended to connect to coastal terminals but suspended because it was unable…

I think we are pawns in a bigger game. Local customers who sign up for gas will help exports drive the price up, then they’ll be stuck.

…to demonstrate adequate market demand. Developers must show additional demand to reapply for approval of such a large pipeline. I think we are pawns in a bigger game. Local customers who sign up for gas will help exports drive the price up, then they’ll be stuck.

Liberty’s franchise will be a monopoly. Unlike oil and propane users, gas customers won’t be able to shop for a better price. The gas price is not regulated as are delivery charges, so when the utility passes increased gas prices on to customers, it will just mean more profit for their business partners.

Are you still thinking, “who cares?” about a pipeline? Local citizens are increasingly focusing their climate change concerns locally. How! can we, here, slow the exponential warming of the Earth by weaning ourselves from fossil fuels? There is a hopeful path, through energy efficiency and heat pumps (both air and water source), and biomass, and sourcing electricity renewably generated locally through solar and community solar or from distant solar and offshore wind. Dartmouth College announced on April 22 that it is taking the renewable path. It won’t buy gas. The town of Hanover committed itself to renewables last May 9 and will start this year to transition its town buildings away from fossil fuels. Lebanon committed to renewables in the energy chapter of its Master Plan. Lebanon is now taking steps to generate enough electricity at the landfill to serve all the city’s own operations. It is about to hire a person to focus on the city’s energy use, and is planning a pilot project to aggregate customers for a forward-looking experiment in real-time electricity pricing and a local smart grid (with L! iberty Utility’s help!).

These are exciting local developments. Digging up our streets, again, for a pipeline to snare people into buying a terrible fossil fuel is not one of them. That’s the wrong direction.

What could stop it? If nobody bought the gas. The PUC denied an earlier Liberty application because Liberty could not demonstrate any customers. PUC staff has recommended granting approval this time, with the stipulation that construction cannot start until Liberty demonstrates committed customers. So don’t buy it. Ask your neighbors to think twice about buying it. Ask your stores not to buy it. Ask the Public Utilities Commission not to approve it. Look on for information and citations.

And come to Colburn Park on Saturday to learn more about unnatural gas and what can be done to stop the pipeline.

Jon Chaffee lives in West Lebanon. He worked for many years in Upper Valley social services and public housing.

West Lebanon Valley News
08/21/2017 – Page A07

COVERAGE MISSED THE MARK   by Bob Walker, Vital Communities, founder of Sustainable Energy Resource Group (SERG)

To The Editor: I am writing to express my sincere disappointment with your coverage (“A Bridge Over Political Divide? Pipeline Protest Displays Rift, Hints at Common Ground,” Aug. 13) of the rally in opposition to Liberty Utilities’ proposed gas storage and pipeline project. By painting those opposing the project as liberal activists and then trying to make this into some kind of partisan political issue, you marginalized the importance of the issue and those working on it.

More importantly, you failed to inform your readers about any of the serious issues of concern with this project, such as:

 Methane leaking from the extraction and transportation of the fracked gas that would be stored at this facility, making it a worse climate change contributor than oil or coal;

 The risk that all of Liberty’s gas customers in New Hampshire would have the project’s costs added to their rates if not enough customers sign up for the expansion to pay its own way;

 Liberty Utilities’ parent company, Algonquin Power, an investor in the proposed massive Northeast Direct fracked gas pipeline, can create an incentive for the subsidiary to overstate demand;

 Liberty Utilities not having secured any large users for this project, even though they have insinuated that they have in testimony to the Public Utilities Commission.

I hope that the Valley News will do a better job going forward of learning and informing the community about the serious concerns with this project in the near future as Liberty Utilities seeks its permits from the Public Utilities Commission. If folks want more information on community efforts to try to stop this project, they can also go to

BOB WALKER Thetford Center

8/22/17 Letter to the Editor by Rep. Lee Oxenham

Clean Energy Isn’t a Partisan Issue
As a speaker at the Aug. 12 clean energy/anti-pipeline rally, I must take issue with the Valley News’characterization of the event.

Climate change and the vital need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels are bipartisan concerns, supported by more than 70 percent of the public across the nation. Recently, I attended a national conference where former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger gave the keynote. He declared that Republicans are increasingly moving to the center and committing to action on this, the most important issue of our times.

As to the pipeline — contrary to Liberty Utility’s claims — “natural” gas is not a clean energy source, but a dirty fossil fuel. The pipeline it is pushing will carry 95-98 percent methane, a fracked gas 86 times more destructive as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. From extraction to final use, natural gas production is rife with leakage. Methane imposes documented risks and costs, ranging from increased asthma, cardiac and respiratory problems for all age groups, to fuel spills and explosions.

Liberty claims that natural gas is “cheap,” but prices are notoriously volatile and projected to increase dramatically. With export markets opening up, no one should bet on stable, long-term prices. As a distribution monopoly, Liberty will be protected if things don’t work out — but its gas ratepayers will have to pay. Liberty’s already inflated rate of return on its investment in this project would be guaranteed by the Public Utilities Commission, and those returns will be allocated by Liberty to its ratepayers.

No matter what pollution-free, low-cost, renewable alternatives become available over the lifetime of this project (possibly 40 years) — all the costs will be rolled into our regular monthly bills as so-called stranded costs. Is this a bet you want to make? Tell the PUC you don’t want to double down on fossil fuels. Tell the utilities the Upper Valley wants investment in clean renewables.

Rep. Lee Oxenham



July 18, 2017 Regulators Cast Doubt on Pipeline
By Tim Camerato
Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Regulators Cast Doubt on Pipeline

By Tim Camerato 
Valley News Staff Writer 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Concord — Consumer advocates and staff members for the state Public Utilities Commission recently said they would like Liberty Utilities to show more evidence that its proposed natural gas facility in Lebanon and pipeline to Hanover is financially viable.

In written testimony, staff from the Public Utilities Commission and Office of the Consumer Advocate said Liberty Utilities should secure customers before state regulators allow the company to begin construction of the natural gas facility and pipeline near the Lebanon landfill on Route 12A.

However, they took different stances on when the three-member PUC should grant Liberty a franchise which would allow it to operate the pipeline.

Pradip Chattopadhyay, an assistant consumer advocate, said on Monday the project shouldn’t be approved until Liberty signs enough customers to cover 100 percent of its direct costs over eight years for residential customers and six years for commercial customers.

“Approving Liberty Utilities’ proposed off-pipeline franchise without sufficient commitments from customers in the franchise area prematurely assumes away the possibility that other entities already provide or may provide more cost-effective alternatives to such customers,” Chattopadhyay wrote.

Meanwhile, PUC Assistant Director Stephen Fink recommended last week that the commission grant Liberty a franchise, conditioned on the company signing enough customers to pay off half of the project costs over 10 years.

The three-member Public Utilities Commission ultimately takes staff testimony and other evidence into account in determining whether to grant a franchise.

The Office of Consumer Advocate is an independent state agency that represents the interests of residential customers in utility matters before the PUC.

The staffers also expressed concern about Liberty’s inability to sign an anchor customer, its lack of a “comprehensive business plan” for the Lebanon project and data suggesting the project might not entice enough customers to switch from oil to natural gas.

Liberty’s current request for a natural gas franchise has been before the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission since November. The commission is responsible for determining whether the company has the “managerial, technical and financial capacity” to run the project.

Under the project’s first phase, Liberty would contract with a natural gas provider to construct and operate a “turn-key supply operation” at the site along Route 12A. Expansion under future phases would then take the project along a route into downtown Hanover.

Liberty is hoping to begin construction in 2018 and would require about $9.7 million in investment to complete the first phase in five years, according to PUC staff testimony.

But state officials said they’re concerned about the project’s inability to attract an anchor customer and what it could mean for the pipeline’s long-term viability.

Liberty officials blame the franchise process for its inability to sign a large customer, saying lack of an agreement with regulators and the project’s unique nature is pushing companies to hold off. With no existing infrastructure for natural gas in Lebanon, they said, it’s difficult to estimate future rates.

“Because of the uncertainty at this time, we are unable to provide specific detailed information regarding projected revenues and construction costs that the PUC staff would like to see in a typical franchise proposal,” Liberty spokesman John Shore said in an email last week.

He added the company is open to refilling a business plan after gaining franchise approval, a recommendation made by the PUC staff. Doing so would allow Liberty to better gauge interest and market the project to potential customers, he said.

But it’s unclear which businesses in Lebanon and Hanover would sign up.

Dartmouth College, once considered a possible anchor customer, isn’t likely to adopt natural gas after a college task force in April released a road map for reducing greenhouse gas emission into 2050. The document said Dartmouth will instead be looking to biomass, biodiesel and solar energy as possible fuel sources.

The town of Hanover also committed during Town Meeting in May to transition the community’s electricity, heat and transportation to 100 percent renewable fuels by 2030.

In separate testimony to the PUC, Town Manager Julia Griffin said she hopes to work with businesses to transition their facilites to biomass or solar as part of the effort.

Brian Buckley, an attorney with the Office of Consumer Advocate, said there may be some truth in Liberty’s arguments, but alowing the company to begin construction before it has signed local customers could lead to rate increases in other markets.

If the PUC does grant approval to the project, the consumer advocate recommends any shortfalls in revenue be covered by Liberty’s shareholders, rather than ratepayers.

“We’re still sort of skeptical. We’re not quite there yet,” Buckley said of Liberty’s proposal.

PUC staff members also took issue with Liberty’s proposal in their testimony.

Fink worried the company didn’t file a “comprehensive business plan.” Instead, Liberty submitted one that “lacks sufficient detail to be considered comprehensive,” he said.

“A comprehensive business plan would provide greater assurance that the cost and revenue projections used in the financial analysis are reasonable and increase the probability of achieving the expected results,” Fink said.

Both groups also expressed concern over the cost of switching to natural gas from traditional heating sources. Liberty has calculated that by switching to natural gas, residential customers who use oil in Lebanon and Hanover could save 10 percent, and homeowners who burn propane could save 53 percent.

However, PUC staff members found that while propane customers would clearly benefit, the same could not be said definitively for oil customers.

Shore agreed with the PUC staff’s analysis that businesses and homes switching from propane would see “the greatest amount of savings.” Those on oil usually consider natural gas when their furnace is at the end of its life, he said, and could consider a switch then.

In his testimony, Fink also makes several recommendations to protect Liberty’s ratepayers. Once Liberty has garnered enough customers to begin construction, he said, the company should also be required to file a business plan and analysis to show it has done so.

The same customer requirements were also recommended before construction of any further phases moves ahead, Fink said.

Shore, the Liberty spokesman, countered that the company has already committed to sign customers before construction starts, although its proposal recommends a lower threshold than the OCA and PUC staff testimony.

He also said Liberty would be better positioned to calculate rates once it has completed engineering and marketing work, which occurs after the PUC approves a franchise.

“This would provide potential customers with the information they need to make an informed decision,” he said in an email.

“We appreciate the PUC Staff’s conditional support and look forward to working with them to address the concerns they raised in their testimony,” Shore said.

Liberty has until Aug. 24 to rebut the testimony submitted on Monday. A full hearing for the Public Utilities Commission is then scheduled for Sept. 7.

Tim Camerato can be reached at or 603-727-3223.


7/12/17  Lebanon Tweaks City Plan
By Tim Camerato
Valley News Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Lebanon — Passages encouraging the expansion of natural gas in Lebanon have been effectively removed from the Master Plan in an effort to clarify the city’s stance on renewable energy. The Planning Board voted unanimously on Monday night to approve an addendum that removes references supporting “natural gas” and “liquid natural gas” from the city’s guiding document. The move came on the heels of similar votes of support from the City Council and the ad hoc Lebanon Energy Advisory Committee.

Offcials said the change was needed to correct mistakes made when the Master Plan was completed in 2012. At the time, many thought natural gas would be an eective
“bridge fuel,” used as businesses make the transition from fossil fuels to more environmentally friendly energy sources. But research has since shown that extracting and transporting natural gas has the potential to be just as damaging as traditional coal and fuel oils. “It’s a distinct inconsistency in the Master Plan,” Councilor Clifton Below said on Monday, referring to the inclusion of natural gas alongside other renewable sources.

As the plan suggests goals toward making Lebanon sustainable, it supports those goals with evidence and texts backing up assertions, said Below, who also is the chairman of thecity’s Energy Advisory Committee. “This particular point is not (supported),” he said, according to an audio recording of the meeting. “Fracked natural gas from western Pennsylvania is not a renewable resource.” Fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing, is the process of injecting a water mixture athigh pressures to break up underground rock formations and extract natural gas. The practice is controversial, and some scientists have drawn connections between increased instances of fracking and earthquakes.

Although the addendum sought to promote environmentally friendly practices, much of the discussion on Monday focused on timing and whether it would be procedurally appropriate. Liberty Utilities currently is before the state’s Public Utilities Commission seeking approval to obtain a natural gas franchise. The company hopes to build a facility near the Lebanon landfill on Route 12A, where natural gas would be piped along a route into downtown Hanover.
Two members of the Energy Advisory Committee — Ariel Arwen and Jonathan Chaffee are intervenors in the review and have promoted the addendum to prevent the Master Plan from being used in support of the proposed pipeline.

“Policy is what creates the perception and we’re looking at changing policy mid-stride,” Planning Board member Carl Porter said in the audio recording. Porter worried approving the changes could be seen as the city opposing Liberty’s proposal. While Lebanon is an intervenor in the PUC review, it has not taken a formal stance on the pipeline. “If there was no application, I would have no question in my mind about this,” he said, adding that changing direction while proceedings are ongoing at the state level could be seen as “setting up an expectation and then ripping it away.” However, Liberty Utilities has not used the Master Plan in testimony before regulators, and Michael Licata, the company’s government relations director, told the Planning  Valley Green Natural Gas, a former competitor to the Liberty Utilities proposal, made note of the Master Plan in one of its filings, Below said. But that company bowed out of a review last year after making a deal with Liberty.

“I think this is actually an ideal time to take action on this, just to clean up our Master Plan,” Below said in the recording. “It removes any bias ofmthe city, if anything. It’s taking no position one way or another on natural gas.”
Below, a former PUC commissioner, also acknowledged that some might try to use the addendum to make the case that Lebanon opposes a pipeline.

“I don’t think that will make a hill of beans’ difference to the commissioners because, having been a commissioner for six years, I know the criteria that they have to judge the case on, and that’s just not going to be material to their decision,” he said. The commission evaluates each franchise petition on the basis of a company’s “managerial, technical and financial capacity.” In the past, it also rejected arguments based on climate change concerns, saying its job is to determine whether a project has the ability to operate successfully.

Some Planning Board members also expressed concern with how the addendum would be approved. The Master Plan was adopted in 2012 and a review for possible revisions isn’t expected until roughly two years from now. “I’m just troubled about opening up changes to the Master Plan mid-course over something that doesn’t appear to be urgent,” Planning Board member Bruce Garland said in the recording. However, Lebanon Senior Planner Tim Corwin said the board has made at least one change to the Master Plan since 2012, and it could be much longer than two years before its renewable energy chapter is up for review. Other board members also countered that since Liberty doesn’t have a proposal under review on a city level, it is legally free to make decisions and talk freely about natural gas. “I feel it would be irresponsible of any planning group in our city to ignore what has been proven scientically in community after community, state after state, city after city,” board member Joan Monroe said.

Those in attendance agreed. Devin Wilkie, an intervenor in the Liberty review, said he works for a publisher. When a book needs correcting, he said, his company doesn’t wait for the next edition to fix mistakes.“Otherwise the material we have out is wrong,” he said in the recording. “I don’t think it should necessarily be that we halt progress simply because we don’t want it to be seen the wrong way.”
On Tuesday, Arwen applauded the Planning Board’s decision, saying it supports the Master Plan’s goal to promote sustainability. “I feel we live in a moment poised with crucial choices. The energy chapter charges the city with being an innovative regional leader, inspiring its residents and businesses to movetoward sustainability via energy efficiency and renewable energy sources,” she said. “I hope the Planning Board’s unanimous vote reinvigorates that charge and the city engages even more proactively with various sectors in our community to address pathways to sustainability.”
Tim Camerato can be reached at or 603-727-3223.

7/6/17  9-minute Public Service Announcement about the pipeline, Courtesy of CATV8

6/29/17  Lebanon’s Solar Future Shines with PUC Decision on Net Metering

5/5/17   Town of Hanover Intervenes

4/23/17   Dartmouth College Plans to Cut oil Reliance

By Aimee Caruso
Valley News Staff Writer
Sunday, April 23, 2017

Hanover — A series of proposals issued by a Dartmouth College task force Saturday aim to make the school, home of the Big Green, even greener.

The recommendations, which proponents say would put the school on par with its peers, include slashing carbon emissions on campus over the next three decades.
The 21-page “road map” was created by the Sustainability Task Force, which includes students, faculty members and administrators. It calls for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2025, and 80 percent by 2050.
The report says energy is the largest contributor to Dartmouth’s greenhouse gas emissions, noting that the college’s use of No. 6 fuel oil, “a relatively dirty fuel,” drives greenhouse gas emissions per student that are among the highest in its peer group, which includes Stanford University, Middlebury College, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The report also calls for improving the efficiency of Dartmouth’s energy distribution system by 20 percent.
College President Phil Hanlon, who appointed the task force last year, said he “enthusiastically endorses” those recommendations.
In a letter to faculty, students and staff, Hanlon said the college will move from No. 6 fuel oil to renewables by 2025, and establish a more efficient system for distributing energy across campus.
The two infrastructure changes represent “a challenging proposition” that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars, financial realities that necessitate a careful, creative and “phased” approach, Hanlon said.
The college expects to finalize a plan, which it will share with the community, and begin putting it into effect over the next several months.
To improve the efficiency of its energy distribution system, the college will move from a steam distribution system and steam-heated buildings to hot water heating and distribution systems, Dartmouth spokeswoman Diana Lawrence confirmed in an email.
As green energy proponents have been hoping, the college, which currently uses 3.5 million gallons of fuel oil annually, is not planning to convert to natural gas.
“Our most recent studies have focused on renewable resources such as biomass, biodiesel and solar energy,” Lawrence said.
In this sense, discontinuing the use of oil will bring the college full circle: Industrialist George Bissell, a Hanover native and 1845 Dartmouth graduate, is often considered the father of the American oil industry.
The task force report, available on Dartmouth’s website, was released to coincide with Earth Day, which is celebrated on April 22. It includes the goal of obtaining 100 percent of Dartmouth’s energy supply from renewables by 2050, and the “aspiration” that, starting in 2051, the college’s energy system would be carbon negative.
Andrew Friedland, a professor of environmental studies who co-chairs the Dartmouth College Sustainability Task Force, called the report “a living document, one that recognizes there will improvements in technology and innovation, and that costs of certain things might come down or go up,” which could change the situation.
“We tried not to be (prescriptive) right down to every last detail,” he said.
Friedland, who joined the college as an assistant professor in 1987, said he’s encouraged about recent movement toward sustainability on campus. From recent reductions in energy usage to the task force and its report to the new Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society, “it feels like there’s a lot of positive momentum and energy.”
The report acknowledges Dartmouth’s “significant advances” in recent years — thanks to investments in its energy infrastructure, annual absolute emissions declined about 10 percent since 2011, even as it added 300,000 square feet of new space. Its current annual consumption of fuel oil is down 1 million gallons from 2010.
Yet it also highlights the gap between its progress and that of Middlebury, Harvard, Stanford and MIT.
“We lag our peer institutions with respect to commitments, actions and reporting in the sustainability domain,” said the report, which includes a chart comparing the five schools.
The report also looks at how the college can reduce its impact in other areas, such as waste, water, food and transportation, and use its curriculum and research to help drive the transition to a “low-carbon future” on campus and beyond. It recommends exploring how various investment opportunities could help Dartmouth promote sustainability, and whether divestment from fossil fuel companies should play a role.
A member of a student group that has lobbied the college to divest from companies that extract fossil fuels weighed in on the report yesterday.
“We generally are all on the same page,” said Francesca “Ches” Gundrum, ’17, noting that a few members of Divest Dartmouth served on the task force. “It is just as important to focus on making sure our campus is more sustainable and lessen our greenhouse gas emissions.”
That the report even contains the word divestment is “a big win for us,” yet she wished it had received more than a mere mention, Gundrum said. “Of all days, Earth Day, I just want to scream this.”
The report comes as Upper Valley towns and the state of New Hampshire prepare to make key decisions on how to meet energy needs in the future.
Liberty Utilities is in the process of seeking approval from New Hampshire’s Public Utilities Commission to build a natural gas facility in Lebanon. The fuel would be distributed to customers via an 11.5-mile pipeline into downtown Hanover. Similar proposals by the company and Valley Green Natural Gas were suspended last year over questions about the projects’ financial feasibility, including the companies’ failure to secure anchor customers. Liberty Utilities had previously said the pipeline could serve major local employers, such as Dartmouth College.
“Obviously that’s the choice they’ve made,” said John Shore, a spokesman for Liberty Utilities, regarding the college’s decision to move directly to renewable energy sources, bypassing natural gas. “We feel there is still plenty of demand in the area to be able to support a natural gas system.”
On May 9, Hanover residents will decide whether the town should commit to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. Currently, 22 percent of Hanover’s energy use, which includes Dartmouth College’s energy consumption, comes from renewable sources.
Julia Griffin, Hanover’s town manager, said the community is excited by Dartmouth’s announcement, which “definitely aligns with our hope” that voters will embrace the renewables proposal next month.
“We’re going to be very busy with the college over the near term, particularly around all aspects of building renovations on campus,” as it moves to convert its heating system from steam to hot water, Griffin said. “Obviously we’ll provide Dartmouth with as much public works and planning and zoning department support as we can.”
Rosi Kerr, Dartmouth’s director of sustainability and task force co-chair, said she’s excited to see a serious commitment from senior officials to move the college toward a position of leadership in sustainability, and align the college’s operations with its teaching and research mission, “with the kind of focus on the future that the students bring to the table.”
“Our students are really fired up about sustainability,” Kerr said. “To them, this is a no-brainer.”
Helping move Dartmouth toward its sustainability goals will give students hands-on experience solving complex, multidisciplinary problems, “work that can’t be done by robots,” she said. Those are “the kind of things they will be asked to do in the world.”
It’s not going to be easy, “but it can be done and it should be done,” Kerr said. Reducing the college’s environmental impact represents “a serious commitment to (students) and their future.”
Aimee Caruso can be reached at or 603-727-3210.