Neighbors to the west voice concerns about gas pipeline proposed to start in Southborough (Updated)

Above: A proposed high pressure gas pipeline in Southborough and Westborough prompted vocal opposition at a Westborough hearing. (images cropped from informational flyer)

Earlier this month, the Community Advocate covered public opposition in Westborough to a proposed natural gas pipeline that would start in Southborough. The article focused on a public hearing held in our neighboring town where the pipeline would continue. Eversource’s preferred proposed route would run mostly through Westborough, though it would begin on the southside of Southborough.

The story specified:

Eversource’s Worcester Feed Line Improvement Project would see the construction of a 16-inch, underground, high-pressure gas main beginning at the intersection of River Street and Southville Road in Southborough, continuing along Southville Road into Flanders Road in Westborough and ending at the intersection of Lyman Street and Route 9. Construction would be expected to start in April 2021 and last two years.

The article noted that Eversource has yet to formally apply for any permits for the proposal. (They planned to begin next month.) But clearly they had started communications in Westborough*. So I followed up to find out more about the status in our town.

According to Eversource’s Media Relations Manager, the company has yet to present to any boards or committees in Town. Instead, they invited Southborough abutters to open houses. Reid Lamberty explained:

Residents who live along the project route were notified by mail and invited to come, view maps and meet with the project team to learn about the project and ask questions. . . 

We have also met with the Southborough fire and police chiefs, Department of Public Works and an agent for the conservation committee. It is important to note that this proposed project is in its infancy stages, and we will hold additional meetings in the future as the project progresses.

I asked Lamberty for more information on the high pressure line and other lines in town. He confirmed that the proposed pipeline is for regional transmission (not a higher pressure, multi-state transmission line).* The pressure is proposed to operate at 273 psi.

The CA story included Eversource’s explanation of the project need:

The purpose of the project, according to Eversource officials, is to improve the operation of an already existing gas line that serves approximately 31,000 customers.

“Without the feed line improvement project, we will lose the ability to serve existing customers and increase capacity in the region,” said Sean Lauziere, Eversource’s senior community relations and economic development specialist, at the hearing.

“It’s not strictly new demand, although new demand is the crux of it. It’s also maintaining energy supply to people who are already attached” to the line,” he added.

According to the CA, Westborough residents lined up at a Board of Selectmen meeting to voice opposition to the plan. It appears the main objection was its route through a highly populated residential area.

Some pushed for an alternate path along Route 9. According to Eversource reps, Mass Department of Transportation was firmly opposed to that. It appears that so is the Westborough Fire Chief:

Westborough Fire Department Chief Pat Purcell said that he is not comfortable with that option. Running a new 16-inch high-pressure gas line along a 12-inch line already existing on Route 9 would be dangerous, according to Purcell. A disruption involving two high-pressure gas lines would be “catastrophic,” said Purcell.

Eversource Pipeline proposed routes (images cropped from flyer)
(click to enlarge)

In looking on the Eversource website, it appears that alternate route would also require a lot more of the pipeline to run through Southborough’s residential area.

Eversource’s “Preliminary Preferred” routes run for a 1.2 mile before crossing over the border to Westborough’s back roads. The marked “Preliminary Noticed Alternative Route” would run 2.4 miles along Southborough’s Southville Road and Parkerville Road. From there, it would run another 1.4 miles on Route 9 to the Westborough border.

You can read the full article here.

You can also find more project information on Eversource’s website here. On the site, an informational flyer notes that anyone with questions can contact Sean Lauziere, Community Relations Specialist at 508-305-6898 or

*Updated (3/6/20 8:33 am): Initially, I had written that clearly Eversource had started reaching out to Westborough. A Westborough selectmen notified me that wasn’t the case. Allen Edinburg wrote:

Eversource did not reach out to Westborough. We requested an info session that was held in Oct 2019. There was so little info, we (bd of Selectmen) requested the public hearing.

I haven’t heard back about how the Town initially learned about the plans.

Edinburg’s comments also made me aware that my original wording choice “local distribution line” would be confused with a local service line. The proposed pipeline would transmit gas to Worcester. My point was to differentiate from higher pressure transmission line that feeds across multiple states.

(At the time, I relied on a glossary of pipeline terms that I can’t now relocate. It had differentiated service/feeder lines, distribution lines, and transmission lines. Another website I found today defines distribution line as a service line. And its definition of transmission line appears to encompass the proposed line. So, sorry about any confusion I caused.) 

The selectman updated that his board had voted on January 28th to file as a former intervener. The message was on January 29th but buried in my Facebook page’s message box.

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John Kendall
3 years ago

I understand that the size of the line is undersized for the area it serves, and the current line is old. That being said, as seen in the Merrimack Valley, accidents occur during improvements. What exactly is Eversource putting on the table for mitigation? A lot of questions need to be answered before permits are issued. I would hope the town would hold a very tight thumb on this.

Russ r
3 years ago

This isn’t going to end well… That’s how they started the electrical connection project from Sudbury to Hudson… Which despite opposition has gained approval to pass through and destroy wetlands, habitat of endangered turtles and conservation land, in close proximity to the towns drinking water well which will likely all be contaminated with chemicals from construction and ongoing herbicide to maintain the passage.
It’s back in court on appeal. Interesting read…

3 years ago

Westborough had their public hearing. When will Southborough residents in this neighborhood get a say?! All inconvenience and additional risk with no benefit to the surrounding neighborhood—not a single new line will become available to bring gas service to this neighborhood.

passing gas
3 years ago

There are two existing lines on my street in Southborough, one lower pressure line and one higher pressure. My understanding is that the gas is first shipped to Boston (as LNG?), then piped into a distribution system.

The question is what is the proposed pipeline to be used for? Electricity generating power plants? Homes and businesses? Is the planned pipeline to be buried or will it run along the surface?

What are the specific objections to the pipeline?

An excerpt from Senator Warren on makes a plea for not investing in gas infrastructure and to focus instead on ‘clean technologies of the future’ and not dirty fuels of the past.

Equipment that uses gas as a fuel is more than 90% efficient, with some as high as 98% efficient. What can be said for oil – the dominant heating fuel used in New England? How about those wood and pellet burning stoves that seem to be so popular?

Gas is an extremely clean fuel!

Sure, we can go solar and use wind power! Those sources of electricity co$t the most! Let’s opt for even higher utility bills! Would the gas pipeline opponents now propose that we heat our homes and water and cook with electricity? Has anyone taken a look at the co$t of electricity lately? Reliance on unreliable solar and wind will only INCREASE the cost of electricity – as they already have.

Has anyone given thought to the fact that there are real and high costs with trying to integrate wind and solar power into the grid? It’s expen$ive!

It seems there is always a noisy NIMBY faction in this central MA area. Let’s ask the NIMBYs – where shall the gas line be placed, if not in the proposed route? Whose neighborhood would you have affected?

All things must pass.

Frank Crowell
3 years ago
Reply to  passing gas

You had me at Senator Warren is against gas pipeline infrastructure spending.

Al Hamilton
3 years ago

In the US there is a massive, largely invisible, natural gas pipeline infrastructure. It constitutes about 3 million miles of piping,

In Mass, there is about 1000 miles of interstate pipeline that feed about 21,000 miles of Mains (the lines that bring gas to our homes and businesses)

Most of the gas we use arrives via these interstate pipelines from the South or Canada.

We are utterly dependent on this invisible infrastructure. Natural gas is relatively clean compared to other heating fuels (Yes, CO2 and methane are greenhouse gases which contribute to global warming). It is far better to replace these pipelines in a timely fashion than to cause endless bureaucratic delay and risk catastrophic failures

Kelly Roney
3 years ago
Reply to  Al Hamilton

Natural gas would be an improvement over heating oil, true. (And, for full disclosure, I cook and heat with gas.)

Existing gas pipeline infrastructure, both high pressure and low pressure, needs maintenance, for both pollution abatement and safety.

However, looking forward, how much investment and disruption are really justified by the future of gas-related energy costs? Photovoltaic solar electricity generation costs have dropped precipitously over the last 20 years, with more drops to come. Full electrification of our economy is not a pipe dream. (I’d be happy to switch to an inductive cook-top!) is the best source I could find today, but a friend in the business has previously sent me better sources.

BTW, the infographic ES.1 is not without problems. For one thing, it lumps all fossil fuels into a single range of costs (the green shaded rectangle at the bottom). It would be better for our purposes to distinguish gas from oil, for example. It might also weight the range with levels of current usage. Is the high end of the range limited to stopgap uses that come on line to fill gaps in other sources. Those are often much more expensive than normal use.

So, it’s complicated.

Al Hamilton
3 years ago
Reply to  Kelly Roney


Even if we were to ban all new NG hookups, the NG infrastructure would need to be maintained for decades. This is a classic appliance modeling problem. In this case there are 10’s of thousands (or more) devices hooked up to this particular pipeline that rely on its safe, dependable operation. Some of those devices are new and some are old. Over the course of 30 or 40 years they might all be replace but until then the infrastructure needs to exist and it needs to be properly maintained.

NG is the cheapest fossil fuel around and arguably the cleanest. It is so cheap that it is replacing coal without a lot of regulatory pressure. Even Trump can’t save coal. Electric power is still expensive relative to NG. Demand for it is growing.There is a move afoot to begin running trucks and buses on it vs diesel.

In short, the real choice is to huddle in our NIMBY enclaves and run the risk of catastrophic failure or see to it that things are properly maintained.

Full Disclosure, I heat and cook with gas and a 30 inch high pressure line runs within 200 yards of my home.

Kelly Roney
3 years ago
Reply to  Al Hamilton

Yes, Al, as I said, “Existing gas pipeline infrastructure, both high pressure and low pressure, needs maintenance, for both pollution abatement and safety.” We agree on that.

Al Hamilton
3 years ago

If you want to educate yourself on our natural gas pipeline infrastructure here are 2 government resources:

3 years ago

I’m on Southville in the affected area and I do not recall getting an invite to an open house. Not like we would have been given any say, I’m sure it was simply to give us their spin and keep us from objecting down the road.
I’ll be looking into this but don’t feel as though I would be able to change anything.

My only question at this point is if this would be in the road or along side the road. I really don’t want to loose whatever crappy plants and trees have survived the National Grid pruning and road runoff.

3 years ago

Unless Southborough residents are offered the option to get a gas line to their house, we should say no to this pipeline that gives us nothing in return for the risk.

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