Nestel/My Turn: At DPU hearing, effects of gas pipeline plan already painfully clear

 

Greenfield Recorder
By Hattie Nestel
Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Opponents of the proposed Kinder Morgan Tennessee Gas Pipeline filled Greenfield Middle School to capacity on Thursday, June 11, when people of Franklin County and beyond had a chance to speak at a meeting called by the state Department of Public Utilities to hear public opinion regarding Berkshire Gas buying gas from the proposed pipeline that would come through much of Massachusetts, including Franklin County and parts of New Hampshire.

Officials turned people away as the crowd exceeded capacity in the 700-seat school auditorium.

More than 90 people signed up to speak. Most were vehemently opposed. The hearing went from 7 till 11:30 p.m. in order to allow three minutes per person, with only a few supporters of the pipeline among the speakers.

After DPU officials recognized a representative from Berkshire Gas, State Representatives Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington, and Paul Mark, D-Peru, took to the floor to a thunderous standing ovation that went on for several minutes in recognition of their opposition to the pipeline. The DPU has denied them intervenor status in legal matters involving the proposed pipeline. Both Kulik and Mark have been fighting the pipeline ever since hearing from alarmed constituents in the winter of 2014.

Constituents fear the prospect of a pipeline carrying fracked gas through their towns. Construction of the pipeline would result in cutting down thousands of trees, threatening rivers and water supplies, and disrupting the rural and agricultural environment they so cherish.

The state attorney general’s office was represented by Paul Brennan, who said the DPU decisions “should not be made in a vacuum.” Brennan said the region’s gas capacity needs must be considered. Attorney General Maura Healy’s request, that the DPU postpone its review of local gas contracts pending a thorough investigation into our energy needs statewide, was denied by the DPU.

Opponents of the pipeline believe that more gas is not necessary for our energy needs and have created a coalition Pipeline Awareness Network Northeast (PLAN-NE). They were also denied intervenor status by the DPU. Greenfield Town Council President Hillary Hoffman said that denial of intervener status is “disturbing” when elected officials, citizen groups and the municipalities of Montague and Greenfield have applied.

Probably the most moving testimony of the evening came from Holly Lovelace. Holly and her husband Gordon live in Northfield some 1,500 feet from a proposed 80,000 horsepower compressor station integral to pipeline operation. Compressor stations would be placed every 40 or so miles along the pipeline to facilitate the flow of dense gas from fracking fields in Pennsylvania. Noise emitted from compressor stations 24/7 resembles the sound of jet planes taking off. Lights are lit 24/7, obliterating beautiful dark skies valued by area residents. Compressor stations and a 36-inch-wide pipeline would threaten wildlife habitats and clean air and water.

Holly spoke poignantly about the prospect of having her much-loved home and 22 acres “effectively condemned.” Many of us wept at her distress and the prospect of destruction of her home and land.

The Lovelace home in the proposed pipeline “Extreme Impact Zone” is deemed unsalable and uninsurable. The Lovelace home is at stake for a proposed pipeline many of us believe would be constructed to generate corporate profits from exports and not for any genuine need of Massachusetts residents, who ultimately would pay for it on their energy bills.

Holly and Gordon Lovelace have signed up with the website GoFundMe to raise funds to retain a lawyer who specializes in Federal Energy Regulatory Commission appeals. The Lovelaces need our help. Potentially thousands of homeowners in Massachusetts and New Hampshire will end up facing losses similar to those confronting the Lovelaces if the pipeline is built. Valuable conservation land, pristine state forests, and beautiful waterways, in addition to family homes, are at risk.

We must dig in and work together to stop the Kinder Morgan Pipeline that threatens so much that we value.

Hattie Nestel, a peace activist, lives in Athol.