Gas pipeline opponents file Supreme Court petition
CONCORD — Opponents of the natural gas pipeline proposed for southern New Hampshire are taking their case to the New Hampshire Supreme Court.
The Pipeline Awareness Network (PLAN) filed its petition on Monday challenging the contract between Liberty Utilities and pipeline builder Kinder Morgan. The contract commits Liberty to purchase space on the proposed Northeast Energy Direct pipeline to supply natural gas to new and existing customers.
The contract had to be approved by the state Public Utilities Commission, as it affects costs for natural gas customers of Liberty in the Nashua-to-Concord corridor.
PLAN attorneys argued before the PUC that the contract is not in the best interest of consumers, and are now appealing the PUC approval of the deal.
“We are challenging the PUC’s decision on several grounds, including its failure to require Liberty to adequately analyze alternatives and the failure to properly weigh the testimony of three expert witnesses in the case,” said Katy Eiseman, president of PLAN.
Deals like the one with Liberty are essential for Kinder Morgan to get approval for the interstate pipeline from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. State-approved contracts with utilities demonstrate the need for the project in the eyes of federal regulators.
Pipeline opponents say Liberty, through its parent company, has a financial stake in the new pipeline, which motivated its participation. Liberty is a subsidiary of Algonquin Power and Utility Corp. of Canada — a partner of Kinder Morgan’s in several North American pipeline ventures, including Northeast Energy Direct.
Liberty spokesman John Shore said PUC rules govern interactions between affiliates in such situations, and that Liberty is in “full compliance.”
“PLAN’s appeal to the Supreme Court was expected,” he said. “We disagree with their characterization of the PUC review and approval of the agreement, and their legal interpretation of the facts of the case.”
Shore said the record will show that the PUC “considered all the evidence and testimony, including reasonable alternatives.”