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Pipeline protesters steamed


Greenfield Recorder 05/16/2014, Page A01

Concerns about safety, fracking, protected lands prompt big turnout


GREENFIELD — “Keep your fracking gas out of Mass.”

The slogans on protesters’ signs summed up their feelings toward the proposed 179-mile Tennessee Gas Pipeline expansion, which would cut a swath across nine Franklin County towns on its way from Wright, N.Y., to Dracut.

The gas is produced by hydraulic fracturing of shale, otherwise known as “fracking.” Protesters have routinely played on the similarity between the words “fracking” and a well-known expletive.

The protesters that gathered on the Town CommonThursday evening were from Franklin County and beyond. By hand-count, about half came from towns on the proposed pipeline’s route, and the rest came out in support of those communities. They came from as close by as Greenfield, and as far as Easthampton and Holyoke.

The protesters, more than 100 strong, were there to speak out against the pipeline and its proponent, the Kinder Morgan Co.

They said they were worried about the pipeline’s safety, after hearing about accidents with similar projects. Others were more concerned about the environmental impacts of the pipeline, and the fact that the proposed route cuts through state forests and protected conservation lands. Others worried that a buried pipeline would lead to lowered property values.

“The only way to not have the pipeline come through is if we’re clear with our policymakers that we don’t want it,” said State Rep. Denise Andrews.

She lauded community members for lobbying their town and state officials, participating in forums focused on the pipeline, and organizing to speak out against the project. She referred to a Tuesday meeting in Warwick, where nearly 100 people came out to ask the pipeline company’s representatives about the project.

“I think the other side saw the intellectual capacity and strength of character we’re so proud to have in this area,” she said.

Andrews said opponents need to carry on with the momentum they’ve built, and take their fight beyond the pipeline.

“We need to use this as a catalyst to define better energy policy in Massachusetts and our communities,” she said.

Instead of subsidizing $2.7 billion of the pipeline’s construction, she said, the state should invest that money in renewable energy development.

Other state legislators also weighed in, though they could not be physically present.

“We are deeply concerned that the proposed route may pass through lands that the public has set aside for conservation, agriculture, and wildlife preservation,” said Chris Capucci, legislative aid to State Rep. Paul Mark. The statement was signed by Mark, as well as state senators Stan Rosenberg and Ben Downing, and State Rep. Steve Kulik.

“We are not pleased with both the lack of specific information about this project and the proposed route that has come from Kinder Morgan,” Capucci continued. “We are very disappointed and concernedabout the way that the company is dealing with property owners and town governments who would be impacted by the pipeline.”

The statement said the state legislators would do what they could, though the permitting authority for the project lies with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The protest was scheduled to be held during a meeting of the pipeline company and the Franklin Regional Council of Governments and its Regional Planning Board. The meeting was canceled due to a possible open meeting law violation, stemming from the fact that the John Olver Transit Center was too small to hold the expected crowd.

“The good news is that (protesters’) numbers are growing so fast, they’re running out of rooms big enough for everyone who wants to go to their meetings,” said Jim Cutler, with Hilltown Community Rights.

His group is focused on educating landowners, abutters to the project and whole communities on the pipeline’s implications and their rights to fight the project.

Kinder Morgan, meanwhile, continues to tell landowners and towns that the pipeline will benefit them through taxes, and that the transmission line won’t leak harmful substances into the ground and waterways.

Another sign summed up demonstrators’ feelings toward the company’s words.

“Pipe down — we don’t want to hear you.”

You can reach David Rainville at:drainville@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 279 on Twitter follow: @RecorderRain