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Under a new plan, Kinder Morgan's proposed natural gas pipeline will no longer go through Richmond and will skirt much of northern Massachusetts, traveling instead through New Hampshire on its way to Dracut.
The towns of Cheshire, Hancock, Lanesborough and Shelburne would newly be affected by the route, according to plans outlined Friday at a briefing in Boston.
Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co., a Kinder Morgan subsidiary, said its two alternative routes for the Northeast Energy Direct project would minimize environmental impacts by using existing utility corridors and allow for the expansion of natural gas service in the Granite State.
The company plans to submit an amended filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Monday.
The proposed route change, according to the company, will enable it to "avoid and substantially minimize" the crossing of so-called Article 97 properties and areas of critical environmental concern in Massachusetts.
The new route from Wright, New York, to Dracut will be 90 percent in areas that are already used for utilities, such as power lines, according to Kinder Morgan spokesman Allen Fore.
Fore said the old route was about 35 percent along existing right-of-ways. He said nearly 100 percent of the route through Massachusetts would be through land already in use.
"There is no cutting through new unimpacted areas," Fore said.
Towns no longer impacted include Athol, Ashby, Ashburnham, Dunstable, Groton, Orange, Pepperell, Pittsfield, Richmond, Royalston, Tyngsborough, Washington and Winchendon.
"A number of towns that opposed the route are still on the alternative," said Fore, who said the company is responsive to concerns, saying, "We're going to listen to that. We're going to hear what the towns have to say."
Opponents of nat gas pipeline demonstrate outside ISO NE meeting. Expect route change thru NH pic.twitter.com/poBdfblLf0
— Bruce Gellerman (@AudioBruce) December 5, 2014
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