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Eminent Domain + Gas Pipelines = Bad Business

Here is an idea. Let’s give solar companies the use of eminent domain to appropriate all the south-facing rooftops around the country because it’s in the ‘best interest of the public’. No way, not even for solar, you say? I didn’t think so.

You’re right of course. Eminent domain (derived from the term dominium eminens – Latin for supreme lordship) as a tool to entitle or enrich Kings or corporations (some of the latter confuse themselves with the former) is morally bankrupt and more generally, at least in my view, if you need the backstop of eminent domain to get your way, you’re probably not going about your business right.

Case in point: The Northeast Energy Direct natural gas pipeline (NED) that Kinder Morgan (KM)/Tennessee Gas Pipeline seeks to build in New England (including my home state of New Hampshire), New York, and Pennsylvania. This pipeline (just like its more famous cousin – the KeystoneXL) is just a terrible idea.

It serves one purpose only; enriching Kinder Morgan, a Houston company, run by a billionaire CEO who apparently could care less about the hard earned real estate assets of the other 99% and about the many lives that will be disrupted by this ill thought out project. Disruptions like the creation of ‘incineration zones’ that include residential homes, elementary schools, small businesses and farms, plus 70+ acre buffers around the massive compressor stations to reduce the sound levels to that of a lawn mower running 24x7x365 (for the unfortunate neighbors).

And here is the kicker. One reason that this project will be so profitable for KM, is because they can invoke eminent domain, even if it’s just as a threat, to get their right of way and easements.

Haven’t the too-big-to-fail financial institutions done enough damage in the past 7 years?


The need for the NED project is at the heart of the fight between proponents & opponents. Proponents claim there is a need for more natural gas supply and that electricity price fluctuations in New England are the result of a lack of natural gas pipeline capacity. This pipeline is being touted as filling in a ’shortfall’ in fuel needed for electricity generation.

Opponents argue that the need for natural gas is only during peak demand which exist for only a few hours of each of 10-20 of the coldest winter days. The “shortfall” in energy has occurred only during very cold snaps when more of the current gas supply is used for heating instead of electricity. This occasional “shortfall” could be cut by 1/3 by simply fixing the leaks in the current gas infrastructure. The remaining 2/3 could easily be made up by expanding current renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy conservation programs.

In reality, with better resource manage in place for 2015, the oft forecasted crisis used by proponents never materialized.

We currently have among the highest energy prices in the continental U.S. (although Hawaiians would be happy to only pay $0.13 per kWh). Even with the meager state incentives for solar this means Solar City, the country’s largest installer, is setting up an office and hiring 100 people to start installing solar around New Hampshire. That appears to be a way better option for us to reduce the reliance on imported energy, and a much better economic proposition overall. A gas pipeline will never create close to that many local jobs.

Why would anybody want a project that would instantly lower New England property values, making it nearly impossible to sell real estate in the affected areas, only to increase profits of a private company from Texas? Still boggles my mind.

I believe, now is the time to reject ill thought out pipelines transporting natural gas mainly for export purposes; instead let’s focus on better resource management, investing in efficiency and quickly building out locally beneficial renewable energy projects.

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4 comments on “Eminent Domain + Gas Pipelines = Bad Business

It’s crazy. People think they will be getting better access to cheaper gas but the truth is there is no infrastructure to provide gas to locally. The pipeline will end at the MA coastline, to be exported internationally. No one in NH will gain from the pipeline. Why don’t people realize that?

Great point Daniella. You’re right, while a portion of the gas will be used for power plants, the remainder will be piped to the coast to be converted to LNG for shipment abroad.

Great job Oliver! Just to clarify – for NH the only “customer” is Liberty Utilites who only sells gas for heating. There is no current arrangement for gas from this pipeline to go to the electricity producers (they get their gas from Spectra).
Here are a couple of great links related to testimony in the current PUC hearings on this project:

Great job! Electricity prices are even higher in NH now than as quoted in your article…eia dot gov shows it up over 19 cents/KWh, but that only makes solar more attractive! Also, NY has plenty of pipelines and cheap gas, but their residential rate is still higher than ours.

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