By Hattie Nestel
Tuesday, July 21, 2015
(Published in print: Wednesday, July 22, 2015)
Dear Sen. Rosenberg:
The Nuclear & Carbon-Free Future Coalition of Western Massachusetts writes to thank you for advocating for the recent Department of Public Utilities (DPU) hearing that was held in Greenfield regarding Berkshire Gas Company and the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline that would come through Massachusetts, including Franklin County. As you probably know, an overflow crowd of more than 700 people attended the four-hour meeting where 96 people spoke.
By an overwhelming majority, the speakers expressed decisive, articulate, and passionate opposition to the proposed Kinder Morgan so-called natural gas (which is largely fracked gas) pipeline infrastructure in the state.
Topics addressed included lack of proven need for more gas as well as undeniable and inherent dangers posed by pipelines and compressor stations. Opponents expressed fears that placing pipelines in sensitive areas such as near our lakes, rivers, forests, farmland, and communities would adversely affect the air and water quality of our region.
In addition, it may actually increase our energy costs because, if this surplus of gas gets exported, we would be bidding for it against foreign buyers who would be willing to pay more than we currently do.
Our elected Reps. Stephen Kulik and Paul Mark received a tumultuous standing ovation when they registered opposition to the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline. They have strongly advocated for renewable energy to meet our energy needs into the foreseeable future and in order to provide safe and affordable electrical power for generations to come.
Unfortunately, the DPU has denied intervenor status to Reps. Kulik and Mark, the land protection coalition of Franklin County called Northeast Energy Solutions (NEES), and the broad-based coalition Pipeline Awareness Network for the Northeast (Plan-NE), which includes several municipalities and legislators as well as hundreds of landowners and concerned citizens. You might also be aware that, so far, 54 Massachusetts towns have passed resolutions not to allow the Kinder Morgan Tennessee Gas Pipeline to go through their towns.
NEES has already called on the state Supreme Judicial Court to halt the proceedings and preemptively challenge the DPU’s rejection.
The attorney general’s office was represented by Paul Brennan, who said the DPU decisions “should not be made in a vacuum.”
Attorney General Maura Healey asked that the DPU postpone its review of local gas contracts pending a thorough investigation into Massachusetts’s energy needs, but DPU denied that request. As of July 7, Healey announced that her office has launched an evaluation of options for Massachusetts’ electricity needs over the next 15 years, including whether we actually need more natural gas capacity. The study would look into what are the most cost effective solutions for ratepayers to achieve our regional climate goals by 2030. The study is to be completed by October.
Landowners who would be affected by the proposed pipeline in Franklin and Berkshire counties and beyond are in anguish as they receive calls and letters from Kinder Morgan about surveying their lands. Pipeline construction would bring in massive equipment, dynamite our bedrock, cut down thousands of trees, and destroy our highly valued wildlife habitats, wetlands and conserved watersheds.
At this time, Kinder Morgan proposes to bulldoze 110 Conservation Parcels under Massachusetts Article 97 parcels, 15 conserved farms, five state forests, five state wildlife management areas, five sections of national scenic trails, and eight conserved drinking supply watersheds.
Attorney General Healey calls upon the state DPU to “rigorously study” natural gas capacity needs before making any decisions related to proposed gas pipelines, including proposed Kinder Morgan compressor stations with 80,000 horsepower in Windsor and in Northfield.
Attorney General Healey announced Monday, July 6, that the necessary study to identify cost-effective approaches to energy needs will be conducted with support from the Barr Foundation of Boston whose major expertise is environmental sustainability. She said the study would identify and evaluate all available energy resources and options to address electricity reliability needs through 2030.
We ask you to join Attorney General Healey in her request for DPU to halt approvals of contracts between gas distribution companies such as Berkshire Gas and Kinder Morgan. We ask you to encourage DPU to allow elected officials including Reps. Kulik and Mark and our lawyers, environmental groups, and towns to be appointed as intervenors.
Hattie Nestel, a peace activist, lives in Athol.