Liberty Utilities gets green light for Loudon portion of pipeline project

Monitor staff
Published: 8/9/2016 11:35:06 PM

If no complaints are issued within two days, Liberty Utilities will have the green light to fully install a 5-mile natural gas pipeline underneath Route 106 in Loudon.

The New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission issued its approving order for the pipeline’s two river crossings July 26, noting it will go into effect Aug. 25. This is the last portion that needs approval before construction can be completed. 

Liberty filed its original petition with the PUC in February. The four-page document explains that the Loudon pipeline is part of the Tilton Hi-line reliability project, which aims to replace a 50-year-old, 6-inch steel gas main with a 12-inch steel pipe.

The multiyear capital project focuses on 22 miles of pipeline between Concord and Tilton. The intent is to improve reliability, since Liberty’s Tilton liquified natural gas and propane plants have been used more frequently over the years during colder months.

In addition, Liberty argues the project will allow for increased service in the Lakes Region. Liberty serves about 4,500 customers through its Tilton facility, plus 130 or so more customers from the Hi-line in Loudon, Canterbury and Northfield.

Customers served in those last three towns receive service through the first seven miles of the Hi-line, constructed between 2003 and 2004. That portion of the project runs between Broken Bridge Road in Concord and the Josiah Bartlett Road and Route 106 intersection in Loudon.

This newest section will run five miles along Route 106 beginning at Josiah Bartlett Road, and then will go west on Shaker Road for 3,200 feet, ending at an existing station on Old Shaker Road.

Spokesman John Shore said construction has already started replacing the Loudon line, and once the licensing order goes into effect, the project is expected to be complete by the end of the year.

Liberty was required to petition to the PUC due to two planned crossings underneath the Soucook River. Liberty said in the petition that it had shoreline permits from the state Department of Environmental Services and didn’t plan to go through any wetlands.

The utility company also obtained agreements with the state’s Department of Transportation for the portions of the right-of-way it would be crossing.

In its order licensing the pipeline project’s river crossings, the PUC noted there isn’t any foreseeable effect on the public, given that access to the Soucook River will be uninterrupted by the pipeline, and that no private land is being seized.

As a courtesy, Liberty representatives attended a May 2015 select board meeting and a June 2015 Loudon planning board meeting, according to minutes. While there were several different route options in the preliminary stages, town officials expressed their preference for the pipeline to travel along Route 106. This is the route Liberty proposed in its petition to the state.

No members of the Loudon select board could be reached by press time for a comment on the project.

The PUC’s order indicates interested parties have until Friday to file any official comment or written request for a public hearing on the pipeline’s proposed river crossings. Those submissions must receive a response within a week, and in the absence of any supplemental orders from the PUC, Liberty will be officially licensed to move forward with full construction after Aug. 25.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify that Liberty Utilities must wait until Aug. 25 to begin construction on the Soucook River crossings portion of this pipeline project, though the rest of the project, replacing old, smaller piping with new and larger piping, is already under way. 

(Elodie Reed can be reached at 369-3306, or on Twitter @elodie_reed.)

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