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Amherst Board of Health asks Baker for more data on natural gas pipelines

  • Pipes are laid around a bend in July at the easement granted to Kinder Morgan for construction of the Connecticut Expansion Pipeline project, which runs through Otis State Forest. The Amherst Board of Health has sent a letter to Gov. Charlie Baker urging studies be done on the possible health effects of natural gas pipelines. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO



Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 24, 2017

AMHERST — Concern about the possible health effects of natural gas pipelines has prompted the Board of Health to send a letter to Gov. Charlie Baker urging studies be done before new construction takes place.

The Oct. 12 letter, unanimously approved by the five-member board with two abstentions, seeks more data on the health impacts of natural gas pipelines. The letter asks for health impact assessments whenever any new infrastructure is proposed, suggests a review of state and federal regulations and prohibits export of natural gas if it poses health risks to residents.

“Natural gas transmitted in pipelines contains contaminants that can cause human illnesses, even in low concentrations,” the letter reads.

Board member Stephen George said the letter was written after the Massachusetts Association of Health Boards, at the urging of the Massachusetts Sierra Club, suggested last spring that individual boards consider health risks from pipeline transmission infrastructure. But the Amherst board wanted to be able to have documentation for claims, which is why it didn’t sign that letter.

“However we researched the issue and did find valid reasons for concern about health effects, so we compiled our own letter that includes documentation,” George said.

The letter also notes that natural gas may contribute to global warming and that the fracking process to get gas comes with risks.

There were public discussions that included support from representatives of Mothers Out Front.

Andra Rose, a member of Mothers Out Front, said in an email that she is pleased that the board is writing its own letter, which supplements what other health boards across the state are doing.

“Amherst will join dozens of municipalities whose boards of health are asking for greater attention to health before new pipeline infrastructure is approved,” Rose said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com