Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, a subsidiary of national energy giant Kinder Morgan, will file an application for a 420-mile natural gas pipeline next month that may have implications for the town of Vernon.
The application for the pipeline, which is slated to run through New England, will not include an extension into Vermont.
The proposed route will run through western Massachusetts and New Hampshire, within seven miles of Vernon, and some residents there think the town would be a good candidate for a natural gas power plant.
Allen Fore, vice president of public affairs at Kinder Morgan, says the company has been talking with people in Vernon about supplying gas for a power plant. He says a lateral extension into Vermont can be added later if a developer can get a plant built.
"We have had conversations in Vermont. Now, we don't have as part of our application any extension of the project into Vermont, but our project is an open access pipeline," Fore says. "We very much want potential local distribution companies, power generators and others. We want them to have the ability to sign up for our project in the future."
A seven-mile extension of the pipeline into Vernon would require a separate application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. But Fore says that process would be much less complicated than the more-than-6,000 page application the company will file for the Northeast Energy Direct Pipeline.
Fore says the company has commitments in hand for less than half of the the gas that can be transported through the 30-inch pipeline of the market path segment of the pipeline.
So if there is support for a natural gas power plant in Vernon, Fore says the company could handle the added load.
"There is sufficient capacity of providing natural gas to additional customers, like this potential facility, if it reaches fruition," Fore says. "We have the ability to expand our system to serve power generation needs, like what we're suggesting in Vermont."
Kinder Morgan wants to build a supply pipeline from the natural gas fields in Pennsylvania to Wright, New York. From there a market line would run through western Massachusetts and southeastern New Hampshire to Dracut, Massachusetts.
Permitting will probably run through 2016 and the company hopes to begin construction in early 2017. The pipeline could be in service by November, 2018, a company spokeswoman said.
The regional energy market is in flux with the planned 2019 shutdown of Entergy's 680 megawatt Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Massachusetts.
ISO New England, the operator of the region's bulk power system and wholesale electricity marketplace, says the region will have lost more than 10 percent of its power generating capabilities when Pilgrim closes, adding to the loss of other older oil, coal and nuclear plants.
ISO New England expects natural gas to make up about two-thirds of the 11,000-megawatt of proposed new generation.
Vernon Planning Commission member Janet Rasmussen says there will be stiff competition across New England to tap into the natural gas pipeline to produce that energy.
The electric infrastructure in place around Vermont Yankee could make Vernon a prime candidate for a natural gas power plant, but Rasmussen says developers need to know if there is support for the project.
"We know that there are a couple of sites that people are looking at in Hinsdale," Rasmussen said. "We know that there a couple of sites up the river. So if we want to get first in that process we have to move forward. Otherwise if another site is chosen by another set of facilitators or developers, it won't matter if the town is ready to have a parade; we're done ."
Developers have not yet come forward with a specific plan for Vernon.
Planning Commission Chairman Bob Spencer said property owners in town have been contacted about selling their land for a potential power plant. But he says the town, at this point, is not involved with any negotiations.
Vernon has scheduled a public forum on the proposed natural gas power plant for November 10.