Northampton latest community to consider opposing Tennessee Gas Pipeline through western Massachusetts

Tuesday, May 06, 2014
NORTHAMPTON — Northampton is joining the chorus of regional voices raising concerns about a new natural gas pipeline that would stretch through the northern reaches of western and central Massachusetts.

Though the proposed Tennessee Gas Pipeline is not planned to run through Northampton, a proposed route has it cutting through Plainfield and nine Franklin County towns, including Deerfield.

Many of those communities have spoken out in recent days at Town Meetings against plans for the 179-mile natural gas pipeline that would run from the New York border to Dracut, Mass. The Northeast Expansion Project pipeline is proposed by Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co., a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan Inc.

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Ward 3 City Councilor Ryan R. O’Donnell said he felt compelled to add Northampton to the list of communities concerned about the pipeline, which he calls a “real threat” to the region.

In addition to going through scenic forests and under the Connecticut River, the pipeline would transport natural gas obtained through hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” This drilling method can cause potential for ground-water contamination and have negative impacts on air quality, among other concerns, the resolution states.

“This pipeline traveling through one of the most beautiful parts of the world is really a symbol that we’re heading in the wrong direction,” O’Donnell said.

He has crafted a resolution opposing the pipeline and urging the governor and state legislators to use the power of their offices to stop its construction. City Council President William H. Dwight is co-sponsoring the resolution, which the council will consider at its May 15 meeting.

While a resolution is nonbinding, O’Donnell said it is imperative for the city to join its neighbors throughout western Massachusetts that are taking a stand against the proposal. One community cannot stop the pipeline by itself, but a group of communities carries more weight, he said.

“It’s clear that this is a project that will make money for one company but doesn’t deliver much to the people who live in the Pioneer Valley,” O’Donnell said. “In fact, it puts us and our natural environment at risk.”

The pipeline proposal gives the state an opportunity to have a discussion about energy policies and to weigh its commitment to renewable and alternative energy sources, O’Donnell said. The resolution states that these energy challenges are best addressed through investments in green energy solutions.

The proposed pipeline would cut through Plainfield, Ashfield, Conway, Shelburne, Deerfield, Montague, Erving, Northfield, Warwick and Orange along the route between Wright, N.Y., and Dracut.

The project is at an early stage, Kinder Morgan Public Affairs Director Allen Fore recently stated at a Montague public meeting. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission would have to give permission to the project, likely in 2017.

Several Franklin County towns in recent days have approved resolutions voicing opposition to the pipeline. Deerfield did so at a Town Meeting last week when residents voted to ask the Select Board to refuse Kinder Morgan permission to access town land for the project. Other communities, including Montague, have denied requests to allow access to town-owned lands.

At Town Meetings held Saturday, Leverett, Plainfield, Cummington and Worthington all approved resolutions against natural gas pipelines from passing through their towns. Pelham, meanwhile, approved a measure banning hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” for gas or oil in the town.