By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff
LITTLE COMPTON, R.I. — Some local residents are breathing easier now that plans for expanding a natural-gas pipeline have been scraped.
Called the G-2 System Loop, the project called for installing a larger transmission line along an existing 2.2-mile stretch of pipeline that runs through the Rhode Island towns of Tiverton and Little Compton and underneath the Sakonnet River to Middletown.
Houston-based Spectra Energy planned the project as part of a regional effort to bring more natural gas to southern New England, including the build-out of a compressor station in Burrillville and the construction of a new compressor station in Weymouth, Mass. Both are part of a massive upgrade of the Algonquin natural-gas transmission line the stretches from New Jersey to Massachusetts.
Spectra recently told ecoRI News that the G-2 System Loop was halted because the company had just finalized agreements with potential buyers of the natural gas and as a result the scope of the project changed. A Spectra spokesman didn’t elaborate on whether demand from buyers, such as power plants, was less than anticipated. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), however, requires that new pipelines can only be built to meet the amount stated in the final purchase agreement.
Spectra was expected to need additional land for this part of the project and maintained its right to acquire private and public land through eminent domain. The pipeline also was passing through this rural town without making the natural gas available for residential or commercial use.
Several skeptical local residents turned out at a March 23 public hearing hosted by Spectra to express concerns about health risks from possible gas leaks.
“I see no value (of the pipeline project) to Little Compton. If there is, please let me know what it is,” resident John Lint wrote in a letter to FERC.
David Middleton, who runs the local advocacy group Little Compton Community First, made a big push to get residents to learn about the project by attending last month’s meeting.
“We like to think that the efforts of the Little Compton Community First organization helped to raise awareness of Spectra Energy’s plan to expand a gas pipeline through part of Little Compton, and this awareness allowed many in the community to turn out, ask questions and react to the information they discovered,” he said.
The main portion of the nearly $1 billion Algonquin project is still moving ahead, with support from southern New England lawmakers. Opposition has been steady from activist groups and residents living near the 1,127-mile pipeline.
Opponents have expressed concern about toxic leaks, fires and explosions and increased greenhouse-gas emissions. Most of the natural gas traveling through the pipeline is domestic shale gas extracted by the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing, which is banned in New York. Opponents also want answers on how the pipeline project will be funded and more emphasis placed on alternatives to bigger pipelines, such as renewable energy and expanded natural-gas storage.
Most of New England’s six governors support expanded pipeline proposals and new pipelines, such as the Kinder Morgan Northeast Energy Direct, which would run across northern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. The extra capacity, the company maintains, is necessary to reduce gas prices and demand.
Several New England governors are expected to bolster support for the pipeline projects at a regional energy summit scheduled in Hartford on April 23.