Describing herself as a strong environmentalist, Selectman Beth Jones on Tuesday declined to support the town’s long-awaited agreement with the utility company to bring natural gas to New Canaan.
Casting a lone dissenting vote on the Board of Selectmen and saying the town should invest instead in renewable energy, Jones during the group’s regular meeting said she was “worried for the communities where the fracking is happening.”
“You can have a ‘NIMBY’ attitude about it and say it won’t affect us in New Canaan, but it affects others,” Jones said at the meeting, held in Town Hall.
She referred to a plan that will bring natural gas from Route 106 in Stamford up through South Avenue. First Selectman Rob Mallozzi and Selectman Nick Williams voted in favor of the approval.
According to Jones, both Maryland and New York have banned fracking, due in part to debates over how to dispose of waste.
“If, down the road, we are tied into a 15-year deal where we are required to get gas from you and you start getting sued for polluting the ground or water, and things end up more expensive, it could cost an incredible amount to the town,” Jones said.
Eversource’s Christopher Luca responded that the economics of the contract could be revisited at any time, and that the town could “basically buy themselves out of the contract.”
He added that most of the natural gas that would enter Connecticut is liquified from the southeastern United States rather than fracked from Pennsylvania.
Even so, Jones voted against the agreement, saying, “It still haunts me that I did not oppose the artificial turf, so I have to oppose this.”
Luca, who had addressed the Utilities Commission the night before, outlined the three phases of the expansion. With a $25 million investment from Eversource, the company plans to lay approximately 4.7 miles of lines, which will serve residences along South Avenue, South School, Saxe Middle School, and NCHS, before bringing natural gas to an even greater number of homes along the route to East School.
“We’re aiming our marketing efforts towards the residential portion of the community,” Luca said. “We have a unique position with residential communities at the moment—we now have the tools that we can use to get into a residential type settings, which we have not been able to do in the past. We’ve worked with contractors to control costs for residents. The town will not be impacted and the taxpayers will not be impacted. It’s actually a cash flow positive project for you.”
Director of Public Works Tiger Mann worked closely with Eversource, and assured the board that the project will be managed to the town’s standards. Further, Eversource will make an effort to ensure that construction of infrastructure will come at no cost to residents, who will instead only have to pay for conversion costs, officials said.
Mallozzi and Williams said they were impressed by the presentation.
“This is a good deal for the town,” Williams said. “We’ve started this sort of dance [with Eversource] a few years ago, and I’m glad we’ve come to this agreement that works for our citizens.”