By RICHIE DAVIS
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
(Published in print: Thursday, November 27, 2014)
Five top executives of Kinder Morgan — the Houston-based corporation that hopes to build a pipeline through Massachusetts — each made the maximum allowable personal contributions to the campaign of Gov.-elect Charlie Baker, according to state campaign finance records.
The $500 contributions — all made on Election Day, Nov. 4 — went to the Republican candidate before his defeat of Democrat Martha Coakley even though he expressed reservations during the campaign about building new gas pipelines such as the Northeast Energy Direct project planned by Kinder Morgan subsidiary Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co.
Company Chairman and CEO Richard Kinder, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Kimberly Dang, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Steven Kean, east region President Kimberly Watson, all of Houston, made the maximum contributions to Baker, as did Kinder Morgan attorney J. Curtis Moffatt of Potomac, Maryland.
Baker was the only candidate on the Massachusetts ballot to receive their personal contributions.
While campaigning for governor, Baker said he believes that the state needs additional gas pipeline capacity to provide the state’s energy needs until more renewable sources can be put in place, but he prefers expansion of existing pipelines instead of new construction.
Baker transition team spokesman Jim Conroy told the Boston Herald that the contributions were not solicited, adding, “Charlie’s position on this issue has been crystal clear. The governor-elect opposed the proposed Kinder Morgan project because he believes we should look to address our increasing natural gas requirements by expanding our existing infrastructure.”
Kathryn Eiseman, director of Massachusetts PipeLine Awareness Network, which opposes the pipeline, said, “It is encouraging to see Mr. Baker’s opposition to the Kinder Morgan proposal reiterated. His appointee for secretary of Energy and Environment, (Matthew) Beaton, has a background in energy efficiency and an interest in solar, which we hope will help inform the administration on better ways to meet our energy needs than massive increases in gas infrastructure anywhere in the state.”
Kinder Morgan spokesman Richard Wheatley told the Herald that his company doesn’t make political contributions, nor does it have a political action committee, and that the contributions to Baker were made by Kinder and the others as individuals.
The decision on whether to allow construction of a pipeline is up to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, although the state will be asked to weigh in on the choice of route — which Tennessee Gas Pipeline appears on the verge of diverting through southern New Hampshire after passing through Plainfield, Ashfield, Conway, Shelburne, Deerfield, Montague, Erving and Northfield.
A state consultant’s report on whether a gas pipeline is needed for the region is scheduled to be completed next month.