Liberty Utilities Fields First Public Input On Natural Gas Pipeline Plan

May 24, 2018

Liberty lobbyist Michael Licata, left, talks with a Manchester family and Cynthia McRae, right, of Fremont, at a Granite Bridge open house in Epping.
Credit Annie Ropeik / NHPR

Southern New Hampshire residents had a lot of questions for Liberty Utilities Wednesday night at the public unveiling of a proposed natural gas pipeline.

The project is called the Granite Bridge. It would be buried along Route 101 between Stratham and Manchester, with a large liquefied natural gas storage tank in Epping.

Liberty says it needs the 27-mile, $340-million project to meet growing demand and expand natural gas service for commercial, industrial and residential customers.

Liberty lobbyist Michael Licata says without the pipeline, it would have to pay to upgrade existing infrastructure – costing customers far more than Granite Bridge will.

He says the company knows residents have disliked past pipeline proposals, such as Kinder Morgan’s Northeast Direct, which would have served multiple states and infringed on private property. He says Granite Bridge won’t do either, and is smaller-scale.

“A lot of lessons we learned from [Kinder Morgan’s failure],” he says. “As well as, quite frankly, public outreach – you know, to really get out and explain your project, provide a lot of detail.”

Liberty had hoped to tap into the Kinder Morgan project. When the Texas-based firm withdrew its application, citing a lack of business prospects, Licata says Liberty devised Granite Bridge as an alternative.

Neighbors like Cynthia McRae of Fremont grilled staff like Licata at Wednesday’s open house on how the utility will ensure safety at the storage tank, how construction will affect traffic and nearby homes, where the gas in the pipeline will originate, and why the project is necessary.

“I know that they’re well-schooled in their business and that’s what this is all about, and I’m concerned about what the reality of it could be,” says McRae, who lives beside the planned storage tank location.

Licata says they’ll take residents’ feedback from this and future public events into account as they develop their applications to state regulators.

Granite Bridge is at the beginning of a state approvals process that could last years.