By Neil H. Dempsey
---- — SALEM — If last night’s public hearing is any indication, the 1.2-mile pipeline Algonquin Gas wants to build to supply natural gas to the planned Footprint power plant isn’t facing much opposition.
The hearing on the proposed pipeline — known as the Salem Lateral — was held last night at Bentley Elementary School. Officials from the state Energy Facilities Siting Board and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission attended, as did representatives of Algonquin, a subsidiary of Spectra Energy.
Of the handful of people who opted to speak at the hearing, most did so in favor of the current plan for the pipeline, including City Councilors Josh Turiel, Heather Famico and Joe O’Keefe; City Engineer David Knowlton and Salem Harbormaster Bill McHugh.
The sharpest opposition of the night was voiced by Todd Schumacher, who said he lives a block away from the Bentley school and expressed concern that his young daughter would have to walk over a “potentially explosive device” on her way to school.
“There’s a risk to residents,” Schumacher said. “It’s very common for pipelines to leak. It’s very common, unfortunately, for pipelines to explode.”
Schumacher said his research indicated an explosion in a natural gas pipeline could have a 500-foot blast radius, and referred to a 2010 explosion in San Bruno, Calif., that killed numerous people. He said he would have preferred an entirely offshore route that could bring the pipeline directly to the Footprint site.
Under current plans, the 16-inch pipeline would begin at an underwater connection with the HubLine Pipeline off the coast of Beverly, then go southwest across Beverly Harbor to the National Grid property that stores liquefied natural gas at the end of Pierce Avenue.
After running about 1,200 feet along the western and southern edges of the National Grid property, the line would then head across Collins Cove, with installation of the pipes in the ground below the water accomplished via a technology called horizontal directional drilling.
The pipe would make landfall on city property on the eastern side of Collins Cove. From there, it would head through David J. Beattie Park and across Fort Avenue and Derby Street, then enter power plant property and run to a metering station that has yet to be built.
Algonquin has developed an alternative route that would avoid Collins Cove by traveling alongside Collins, East Collins and Webb streets. That route is a little longer — 1.4 miles — and would likely pass closer to many more residences.
Many of the people who spoke last night said the alternative plan was inferior to the one currently under consideration, including O’Keefe, who noted he is a registered engineer.
“It is my professional opinion Route B would adversely impact the quality of life of citizens during the construction and installation,” O’Keefe said.
The current plan doesn’t appear to route the pipeline through residential property. The closest the line would run to residential areas would be in the triangular swath of land in between Szetela Lane, Lee Fort Terrace and Fort Avenue, and near Planters Street before it runs across Collins Cove. Also, David J. Beattie Park is close to residential areas.
Work could begin next year, though the project still needs federal approval.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is accepting public comment on the pipeline until March 10. Comments can be submitted via the eComment or eFiling features at www.ferc.gov, or by sending them to Kimberly D. Bose, secretary, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 888 First Street NE, Room 1A, Washington, D.C., 20426.
Neil H. Dempsey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.