By Dick Lindsay
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POSTED: 07/28/2015 10:02:45 PM EDT
PITTSFIELD — Three Berkshire state lawmakers want federal officials to suspend discussion of Kinder Morgan’s scaled-down Tennessee Gas pipeline until citizens in the path of the massive project can thoroughly digest the revised plans.
State Reps. Paul Mark of Peru, Gailanne Cariddi from North Adams and state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing of Pittsfield urged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Tuesday night to halt its scoping process of gathering public input on the environmental concerns for the project.
Those concerns would be included in FERC’s Environmental Impact Statement regarding a proposal Kinder Morgan has yet to official file with the federal agency. The draft EIS report will be issued prior to a build or no-build decision in November 2016.
Four FERC representatives, led by biologist John Connor, explained the scoping process and, with the help of a stenographer, recorded the public input, without making any comments themselves. Kinder Morgan officials were present, but didn’t speak.
Mark spoke on behalf of Cariddi, Downing and other state lawmakers representing communities affected by the proposed pipeline during FERC’s public hearing at Taconic High School.
Before a crowd of nearly 250 people, the legislators stated Kinder Morgan’s revision is too cumbersome for immediate comment.
“These documents are massive and highly technical … they are incomplete,” Mark said, reading from a prepared statement.
Cariddi noted the heavy opposition to the pipeline from her constituents.
“I have had over 1,000 [comments] and all but one were opposed to the pipeline,” she said.
Kinder Morgan’s board of directors recently approved moving ahead with a formal application for a downsized natural gas project, using a 30-inch rather than 36-inch pipeline from Wright, N.Y., to Dracut at a projected cost of $3.3 billion, down from the company’s previous estimate of $5 billion for the total project.
The company’s current preferred 188-mile route through central New England enters Berkshire County from Stephentown, N.Y., and follows existing utility corridors through portions of Hancock, Lanesborough, Cheshire, Dalton, Hinsdale, Peru and Windsor. It then exits into Hampshire and Franklin counties, loops northward into southern New Hampshire and then re-enters Massachusetts to the Dracut terminal north of Lowell.
The Berkshire section of the pipeline includes a compressor station — one would need to be installed every 40 to 50 miles along the route — proposed for Windsor.
John Garcia of Windsor noted the compressor, an above ground facility, would serious impact six nearby households.
“They won’t be able to live,” he said. “The noise will be ruthless.”
Kinder Morgan reduced the size of the overall project earlier this month because it has not lined up additional customers beyond the seven it listed in March, including Berkshire Gas and National Grid. Kinder Morgan officials have emphasized that they may scale the project back up if they gain more distributors, an outcome they’re expecting.
Many pipeline opponents aren’t convinced that any amount of additional natural gas is needed in the Northeast.
“The need for the pipeline is still not clear and FERC should halt the scoping process,” said Williamstown Selectman Anne O’Connor.
Pipeline opponents fear the project will adversely affect drinking water, wildlife habitat, public safety, health and overall quality of life of those living and working in its path.
“The level of impact on our communities are profound,” said Nathaniel Karns, the executive director for the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission.
While the revised pipeline route steers clear of Lenox, town officials there worry about the affect on the region’s economy.
“We depend on tourist and second-homeowners drawn to our natural beauty,” said Lenox Selectman Channing Gibson.
Joan Wattman of Plainfield, who lives within the new pipeline’s proposed right-of-way, wants the region’s energy focus shifted away from fossil fuels.
“I would like to see more attention paid to alternative fuel sources,” she said.
Those who couldn’t attending Tuesday’s public hearing can submit by Aug. 31 written comments online at www.ferc.org via the eComment feature under the link to Documents and Filings.
What’s next ?
What: Public hearing on Tennessee gas pipeline proposal by the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board, a division of the executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 4
Where: Taconic High School auditorium, 96 Valentine Road, Pittsfield