Local officials give cold shoulder to pipeline cash

File photo

The Peabody rail trail, shown here, is in the path of the proposed new pipeline.

PEABODY — Energy company Kinder Morgan is saying it will pay local taxes on a natural gas pipeline proposed to go from Dracut to Peabody, but even that may not soften local opposition to the project. 

Kinder Morgan spokesman Richard Wheatley offered a ballpark figure of the value to the Leather City: “Our estimate is $400,000 the first year after construction and the project is in service. Depreciation will affect the amount of the annual payments, but it will be gradual. We make our estimates using the cost of construction and value of the assets in specific states aligned with state assessment guidelines.”

Thanks, but no thanks, says an unimpressed city councilor Tom Walsh.

“The issue really is the destruction of the area where they want to put it,” Walsh said. The project as proposed would follow the Independence Greenway, a quiet, leafy path for walking and biking that skirts the Ipswich River. At some points the pipeline will be in the water.

Once construction crews go through, tearing up the area to bury the pipeline, Walsh worries they won’t be able to put it all back the way they found it. For one thing, herbicides and regular pruning along the pipeline might be required. “For residents whose yards back up to that — no amount of money is going to compensate,” he said. He suggests putting the pipeline elsewhere. 

These misgivings were echoed by city councilor Tom Gould. “There’s no value in putting that in there. I don’t care if it’s for a million dollars,” said Gould, indicating the pipeline represents an affront to the environment and quality of life. “We don’t want it.”

Called a lateral, the pipeline would originate from the mainline in Dracut before snaking its way through West Peabody and crossing into Danvers to connect with the existing Maritimes Northeast pipeline. Opposition to this project in Peabody has been virtually unanimous.

The community’s experience a decade ago with the Maritimes pipeline, however, has taught that the final decision will lie with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington, D.C., which has the power to overrule local objections.

Kinder Morgan’s subsidiary company, Tennessee Natural Gas, wants to move natural gas obtained through fracking in Pennsylvania to the Northeast via pipelines. Vice President of Public Affairs Allen Fore told the Eagle-Tribune the company would pay taxes on the easement it holds on a property, plus the pipeline underneath.

“When you have more pipeline ... you get more money,” Fore said. 

According to information published by Kinder Morgan, the company paid about $5.6 million in taxes in Massachusetts in 2014.

In Methuen and Andover, two other communities affected by the pipeline, local assessors said they knew nothing of Kinder Morgan’s projections, but would not expect to since tax assessments on Kinder Morgan would be the state’s responsibility. Company officials, however, project Andover and Methuen will receive $950,000 and $700,000 in tax revenue, respectively, during the first year after installation.

“Gas pipelines are valued by the Department of Revenue’s Division of Local Services,” said Andover Town Assessor David Billard. “I would say if (Kinder Morgan is) coming up with estimates, I would assume that they may have been in contact with them.”

Those communities seem no more appeased by the prospect of such payments than their counterparts in Peabody.

“I don’t think that money is the motivator for residents,” said Methuen City Council Chairman Ronald Marsan. “We have no direct gain from the pipeline coming through our city. The people who are affected by it, their quality of life isn’t going to change with money.”

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