EPPING — The voters had their say on a natural gas storage facility proposed to built near Route 101, but town officials are worried that many were confused.
Voters on March 12 overwhelmingly approved a non-binding referendum that was aimed at giving local residents more of a voice as Liberty Utilities moves forward with its Granite Bridge project, which calls for a large liquefied natural gas storage tank to be built in Epping as part of a new pipeline along Route 101 from Stratham to Manchester.
While the state’s Site Evaluation Committee approves such energy projects, the resolution, which was proposed as a citizen-petitioned warrant article and passed 654 to 222, stated that such a facility should not be located in town without voter approval and directed the Legislature and governor to “place and support a state constitutional amendment on the biennial ballot to expressly secure the people’s inherent (and) inalienable right to local community self-government.”
At a selectmen’s meeting this week, Selectman Robert Jordan explained that after the referendum passed he heard from several residents who thought the approval “means the tank isn’t coming.”
Jordan informed the confused residents that that was not the case.
Selectman Adam Munguia said he also heard from people who voted in favor of the warrant article, but admitted that they really didn’t know what they were voting for.
“My concern is that it was left to a myriad of interpretations and that this board is going to have to deliver on every single interpretation to every single individual and that’s just not going to happen. They’re going to be very disappointed,” he said.
The Granite Bridge project calls for a storage tank that would be 170 feet high and 200 feet in diameter and would hold up to 2 billion cubic feet of liquefied natural gas.
It would be built in a quarry in the area of Exit 6 off Route 101.
In the wake of the recent vote, selectmen are planning to hold an informational meeting to discuss the proposal, but Munguia stressed that it would be moderated and won’t be a “free-for-all” or a debate.
“We’re going to encapsulate it into safety, security, aesthetics, and then we’ll talk about the financials. Those are the four elements,” he said.
The purpose, Munguia said, is to present information that could lead to a new non-binding referendum next year that’s written in a way that makes more sense.