It's one of the more, shall we say, parochial questions presidential candidates have faced on the campaign trail this year: What do you think of the proposed gas pipeline that may be routed through New Hampshire?
The pipeline is officially known as the Northeast Energy Direct Project. And the question of whether it should run through the southern part of the state has been posed to a number of both Republicans and Democrats, including Jeb Bush.
Bush’s response is worth noting because the pipeline’s backer is Houston-based energy company Kinder Morgan. And according to a list released by Bush’s campaign in concurrence with the most recent round of campaign finance reporting, Kinder Morgan Executive Chairman and co-founder Rich Kinder and his wife Nancy are among more than 340 donors who have each helped to raise at least $17,600 toward Bush's bid for the Republican presidential nomination.
Bush has declined to take sides when asked about the pipeline proposal at a town hall in New Hampshire this summer — it should remain a local issue, he said. When contacted Monday, Bush campaign spokeswoman Allie Brandenburger said the candidate's position on the pipeline has not changed in the months since.
“There’s a trade-off in this every time, which is how public policy works,” Bush told a questioner at that July town hall, according to footage from local news station WMUR. “The trade-off is, how do you balance the economic interests of working class families with environmental considerations? And those are best sorted out at the state level, not in Washington, D.C.”
Bush is among several presidential candidates who have publicized lists of “bundlers” collecting contributions to their campaigns leading up to the 2016 elections.
Kinder, a 71-year-old Houston resident, has a net worth of roughly $9 billion, according to Forbes. That ranks him the 52nd richest person in the country. According to records from the Federal Elections Commission, he's put his money behind a number of conservative causes and candidates over the years, including Bush's brother, former president George W. Bush.
FEC records from June show that Kinder also contributed $1 million to Right to Rise USA, the super PAC supporting Bush’s presidential bid.
Bush's response to local questions about the pipeline project is similar to those offered by other candidates, according to a roundup of candidates' comments compiled by local news station NH1. Hillary Clinton has emphasized that the issue is “a local matter,” according to NH1, while John Kasich, Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham and Ben Carson have also nodded to residents’ concerns about property rights.
As reported by the Concord Monitor, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul also sided with property owners in response to a question about the pipeline during a visit to the state in January, several months before he launched his campaign.
Project developers say the pipeline is designed to address demand for natural gas in the region, and will bring jobs and additional tax revenue to New Hampshire. Environmentalists are worried about potential risks from leaks or explosions, alarmed by reports of such incidents in other states. Many residents along the proposed pipeline route have coalesced against the project, citing these and other concerns.
Kinder Morgan still needs federal approval before it can go forward with the pipeline.