SLIDESHOW Pipeline protest held in Boston

Last modified: Wednesday, August 13, 2014
BOSTON — An estimated 400 to 500 people rallied on the Boston Common Wednesday, bringing their “Stop the Pipeline” message to the Statehouse.

Speakers included state Reps. Stephen Kulik, Paul Mark and Denise Andrews, all opposing Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co.’s proposal for a nearly 300-mile pipeline that would cut across nine Franklin County towns on its way to Dracut, north of Lowell.

Following the two-hour rally, five of the organizers met privately with Gov. Deval Patrick and Energy and Environmental Secretary Maeve Vallely Bartlett, calling on them to oppose to the pipeline project and presenting them with two petitions.

Reader submitted slideshow of photos from July 30 anti-pipeline protest. Photos courtesty of Marcia Gagliardi

Patrick told reporters Wednesday that he didn’t necessarily favor the TGP pipeline proposal, although he acknowledged all six New England governors have been promoting the need for additional natural gas capacity for the region.

“On this particular proposal, from what I know of it, I’m a little skeptical of it,” he said. “Because one wonders why they want to use a new right-of-way when they already have an existing right-of-way. I’m not one who believes we shouldn’t have any new natural gas.”

Patrick added, “All of us have talked about how as a region we work to bring electricity prices down and we do that in ways that are more energy-efficient and environmentally sensitive,” he said. “And large-scale hydro is one way to do that, offshore wind is another way to do that, and as a bridge to that future, additional natural gas.”

But he said that was “certainly not” an endorsement of the pipeline that TGP and its parent, Kinder Morgan, seek to build. And while Kinder Morgan plans to file its preliminary permit application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission next month, the governor noted, “There isn’t actually a proposal in front of any agency at this point. It’s an idea that’s being floated.”

Kathryn Eiseman of Cummington, one of the organizers at the meeting, said Patrick said he was willing to revisit the Massachusetts portion of a New England study that projected a severe energy supply shortage for the region, and how much of that could be met by reducing demand.

Eiseman said that rather than the utility ratepayers’ tariff broached by the New England governors to pay for pipeline, she and other opponents suggested that a tariff could encourage conservation and energy efficiency, furthering Massachusetts’ already aggressive position in promoting renewable sources and conservation.

One of the petitions presented, signed by an estimated 1,600 people, calls on Patrick to rescind his support for a proposed tariff on electric utility customers to pay for pipeline project, expected to cost between $3 billion and $4 billion. A second, with more than 10,000 online signatures, calls for a ban on construction of new natural gas pipelines in Massachusetts and urges the state “to create and enforce more stringent energy efficiency standards and effective subsidies for energy efficiency,” as well as to promote localized, “distributed” energy sources.

The rally, for which organizers arranged buses from Greenfield and other points, as well as online ride-share posting, was “very enthusiastic,” said Jim Cutler of Ashfield, one of two Franklin County landowners along the route who addressed the crowd.

Ben Clark of Deerfield, who described how the pipeline would cut through his family’s orchard, Clarkdale Fruit Farm, along the path of 600 trees, also described how as a firefighter, he has grave concerns about their ability to deal with an explosion or fire on the pipeline.

Among other speakers opposing the project were Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust Executive Director Leigh Youngblood and Erinn Cosby, who read a letter on behalf of her parents, Bill and Camille Cosby of Shelburne,.

“We honor your collaborative determination and strength to oppose the ... plan to penetrate our region with its toxicities,” the Cosby statement said, “and it has political allies; such as, all six New England governors. That is astounding.”

Also read was a statement from U.S. Rep. James McGovern of Worcester, the only member of the Massachusetts federal delegation to come out opposing the project he called “irresponsible.”

“The proposed route was made with little consideration for the environment, cutting through land that has been permanently conserved by multigenerational farmers, individual landowners, and trusts and the Commonwealth ... I have heard — loudly and overwhelmingly — from constituents in opposition to the pipeline. If we allow a corporation to disregard conservation agreements and the voices of the people, what kind of example does that set? ... We say no.”

The “Fracked Gas Bomb Jazz Band” played as the last contingent of participants in a cross-state pipeline march arrived from Dracut, where the relay march officially ended on Saturday.

If there was a surprise to Wednesday’s rally, it was the announcement that, according to The Boston Globe, three members of the governor’s Global Warming Solutions Act Implementation Advisory Committee had resigned in protest of administration policies they say hinder the state’s goal of significantly cutting greenhouse gases, including its consideration of the new natural gas pipeline.

The news met with “a positive response from the crowd,” said Eiseman.

The currently proposed route for the 30-inch-diameter pipe cuts through Conway, Ashfield, Shelburne, Deerfield, Montague, Erving, Northfield, Warwick and Orange. Another roughly 70 miles of smaller-diameter lateral pipeline is also planned for the various points along the path.

Representatives from Kinder Morgan last week held an informational briefing before a standing-room-only crowd of legislators and Statehouse staff.

“What we’re talking about is an expansion of an existing pipeline in Massachusetts,” spokesman Allen Fore told the gathering.

State House News Service contributed reporting to this article.