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Lebanon Will Detail Energy Goals to PUC, Adopts Position on Natural Gas Pipeline

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 9/7/2017 12:30:55 AM
Modified: 9/8/2017 10:37:12 AM

Lebanon — The City Council on Wednesday night decided to adopt a position regarding plans to build a natural gas pipeline in Lebanon, but that position may not be as strong as some would like.

Rather than outright oppose Liberty Utilities’ proposal to construct a natural gas facility off of route 12A, officials instead will point out Lebanon’s renewable energy commitments during today’s proceedings at the Public Utilities Commission in Concord.

City Councilor Clifton Below, a former PUC commissioner, was chosen to represent Lebanon’s case before the three-member commission, which will decide whether Liberty ultimately obtains a natural gas franchise.

He said he’ll make clear to the commission that Lebanon’s Master Plan supports sustainable energy solutions. Below also said he intends to inform the commission that favorable references to natural gas recently were struck from that guiding document.

The commission also will receive information regarding Lebanon’s commitment to regional climate goals, as well as the Paris climate accord, Below said. He won’t, however, be recommending that Liberty be denied a franchise.

“The city is very clear what we think our energy future is and it’s not natural gas,” City Councilor Karen Liot Hill said, adding that Lebanon has adopted several documents that speak for themselves.

Liberty’s proposal to construct a natural gas pipeline has been under PUC review since November.

If the franchise is approved, construction would take place in two phases. The first would build a “turnkey supply operation” in West Lebanon, with a second phase branching out into downtown Hanover.

The company has said it would like construction to begin in 2018, and is estimating it will cost $9.7 million during the first five years.

Although Lebanon has participated in proceedings so far, it has remained largely neutral.

Lebanon officials have kept a watchful eye over documents being submitted while also maintaining a position that further review should occur before the city’s land use boards, rather than the state Site Evaluation Committee.

Lebanon’s new position brings it in line with Hanover, which has argued the environmental impacts of natural gas go against the interests of its residents and businesses.

Hanover residents voted in May to transition the community’s electricity to 100 percent renewable sources by 2030, with heat and transportation making the switch by 2050.

But some Lebanon citizens, including City Councilor Sarah Welsch, called for the city to take a stronger stance against the project.

“We know that lots of the people that come to our meetings on this subject oppose fracking and oppose fracked gas,” she said, referring to the method of injecting a water mixture at high pressure to break up underground rock formations and obtain natural gas.

Welsch said she doesn’t support the proposed pipeline because she saw firsthand fracking’s negative consequences on communities during her time living in Ohio.

Assistant Mayor Tim McNamara agreed that natural gas has a negative impact on the environment, but questioned whether the city should step in the way of businesses that potentially could benefit financially from the pipeline. Dartmouth-Hitchcock, Kleen Laundry and Pike Industries all utilize the fuel, he said.

“I hate to make that decision for them. I don’t want to make that decision for them,” McNamara said.

Residents opposed to the pipeline also spoke in favor of Lebanon taking a harder line, saying those businesses can continue to purchase natural gas without it.

“They don’t need this pipeline that’s strongly opposed by the rest of the citizenry,” resident Darla Bruno said. “I really strongly feel that you should say that we strongly oppose this pipeline.”

Michael Licata, a Liberty representative, urged the council against such a stance, saying creation of the pipeline “commits the city to nothing.”

“This is not a commitment to a specific fuel source. Really, it provides residents of Lebanon with an option that large businesses have already taken advantage of,” he said.

The council ultimately elected to send Below to Concord, asking him to reference city documents without making a formal stance opposing the project.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.




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