Liberty Utilities pushes gas pipeline but opponents push back

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Christian Muniz, Jimmy Muniz, Danny Brasier, and Erik Diaz of Labor Local 668, who hope for employment with the Liberty Utilities pipeline project. Photo/Laura Aronson

MANCHESTER, NH – In an effort to build public support for its proposed Granite Bridge gas pipeline that would run under Route 101 from the Seacoast to Manchester, Liberty Utilities held an open house at the Derryfield Country Club Restaurant on August 21.

It was a cool, breezy evening, a break from the weeks of heat. Pulling their bags, golfers crossed Mammoth Road to play a round while Liberty employees spread informational flyers on tables around the banquet room. Visitors walked in and stood in small groups chatting with the Liberty staff.

Mike Licata of Liberty Utilities and Pat Martin of ECHO Action discuss the project while State Sen. Kevin Cavanugh and Jennifer Dube listen. Photo/Laura Aronson

Liberty representatives eagerly involved visitors in conversations, including union workers hoping for employment, and emphasized the benefits of the pipeline, including service to residents and businesses along its route, cost savings, elimination of on-site fuel storage, and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, while pipeline opponents disputed them.

Sue Durling of ECHO Action, a pipeline opponent, manned an information table in the parking lot where an elderly couple from Candia stopped to talk with her. The couple, who asked to remain anonymous, explained that they are project abutters, with land and a home on Route 101. A year ago, they knew something was coming when a surveyor appeared, followed by a notification letter.

Sue Durling of ECHO Action set up a table outside the Derryfield Country Club to offer an alternative view of the proposed Granite Bridge gas pipeline. Photo/Laura Aronson

The woman, who is in her 70s, said, “I have a hopeless feeling, dealing with a big, corporate utility with lawyers and money. They’ll only listen when a lot of people get involved. I was a girl in Chicopee, Massachusetts, when there was a major gas explosion that killed several people. I went to school with kids whose parents were killed.  After that, the new developments were all electric. There is no gas now in Candia. They will take part of our land and our orchard to build this project.”

Durling said, “My concern is that while they are blasting granite with horizontal directional drilling, they will disrupt the underground water table. This is very close to Lake Massabesic, the city’s water source.”

State Senator Cavanaugh, whose district includes north Manchester, and who is a city alderman, said he had asked a city water manager about concerns for Lake Massabesic, and was reassured when the water manager told him there would be no problem.

John Gage, chapter leader of the Citizens Climate Lobby NH South Central Chapter, offered a copy of his letter to the editor, in which he wrote, “Short-sighted bets like Granite Bridge will predictably lead to higher energy prices and delay our state’s transition to cheaper and cleaner 21st-century energy solutions.”