PUC to begin hearings on Granite Bridge pipeline project March 9

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A map of the projected Granite Bridge pipeline route. Granite Bridge would connect existing natural gas infrastructure in Stratham and Manchester together. This would provide natural gas to the houses and businesses in central and southeastern New Hampshire.

MANCHESTER, NH – The state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) scheduled a prehearing conference about the Granite Bridge energy proposal. The hearing will be held Friday, March 9, at 10 a.m. at 21 S. Fruit St., Suite 10, Concord. Emily Rice, Manchester’s City Solicitor, stated that the city has not registered as an “intervenor” (a party seeking to intervene in the hearing). To do so would require a request from the mayor. The deadline was March 7.

Granite Bridge is intended to connect to a network of interstate gas pipelines that would supply the fuel. Liberty Utilities, which has added 5,000 customers annually since 2012, claims that the gas infrastructure has reached capacity.

“In order to support continued economic growth and keep energy costs low, additional natural gas supply is needed,” says the company, which contended in a filing that the Concord Lateral has reached capacity.

Liberty Utilities, a national energy company also known as EnergyNorth, is proposing a 16-inch-wide, steel, underground natural gas pipeline, to be installed in the state right-of-way for Route 101 and run 27 miles from Stratham to Manchester, passing through Brentwood, Epping, Raymond, Candia, and Auburn. The $340-million proposal includes a liquid natural gas (LNG) storage tank on a 15-acre site on an abandoned quarry in Epping, which is adjacent to Route 101.

The pipeline would be installed 732 feet (a little over a tenth of a mile) from Manchester’s water source, Lake Massabesic.

Locating the new pipeline completely within the New Hampshire Department of Transportation right-of-way along Route 101 would minimize environmental and property impacts, according to the Granite Bridge NH project site.

Consumer Advocate criticizes company secrecy

Maurice (“Donald”) Kreis, Consumer Advocate with the state Office of the Consumer Advocate, is a party to the process. In a February 9 Facebook post, he explained his opposition to confidential treatment of the financial information critical to evaluating the Granite Bridge proposal:

“Liberty is proposing a very, very, very significant increase to its rate base – the value of the assets it uses to provide natural gas service in New Hampshire, and a key basis for the rates it charges customers. But because Liberty has requested confidential treatment of essential information, I can’t even disclose the amount of that proposed rate base increase. That’s not the way open government is supposed to work in New Hampshire.”

Critics challenge need for project, and cite potential for pollution

The need for the pipeline, and its environmental impact, has been questioned by Echo Action, a state environmental group. Greg Cunningham, director of Conservation Law Foundation’s clean energy and climate change program, disputes the company’s capacity limits claim