Liberty Utilities

The Liberty Utilities building in Keene, as seen in March 2016.

Despite a pending appeal, Liberty Utilities says its plans to switch Keene’s propane/air system to natural gas remain on track.

The N.H. Public Utilities Commission gave Liberty the go-ahead in July to start the conversion. Keene City Councilor Terry M. Clark, who has opposed the introduction of natural gas for health and environmental reasons, appealed that order to the N.H. Supreme Court in late October.

John Shore, a Liberty spokesman, said in an email Wednesday that the company has already converted its commercial customers in Monadnock Marketplace to compressed natural gas, the project’s first phase.

“We are currently working with the PUC on a plan to convert the remaining customers in Keene to natural gas,” he wrote. “This will be phased in over multiple years. Mr. Clark’s appeal has not affected our timeline.”

About 1,200 customers use the propane/air system. Keene is the only community in the country where Liberty operates such a system.

Liberty has described natural gas as safer and more reliable than the existing system. An issue at the company’s Emerald Street distribution center in December 2015 caused a citywide gas problem in which emergency personnel took four people to the hospital and checked more than 1,000 homes and businesses for carbon monoxide.

In 2017, Liberty asked the PUC to rule that the same franchise that allows the company to operate a propane/air system in Keene also extends to natural gas.

Clark’s appeal argues the PUC followed a flawed process and introducing natural gas is contrary to the public interest “due to climate, health and other concerns.”

He has been especially concerned about the health implications of gas extracted by fracking. Liberty has said it will procure gas from various sources.

Paul Cuno-Booth can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1409, or pbooth@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter at @PCunoBoothKS.