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Charges against pipeline protesters reduced

  • Protestors run a chain across one of the main access points for workers on the Tennessee Gas Pipeline project Tuesday, May 2, 2017, at the Otis State Forest in Sandisfield, Mass. The protestors did not leave their posts until State police officers and the Berkshire County Sheriff's Department gave them notice and arrested nine people. Stephanie Zollshan, The Berkshire Eagle via AP./The Berkshire Eagle via AP)



@amandadrane
Thursday, May 18, 2017

GREAT BARRINGTON — The last of 24 pipeline protesters arrested in Sandisfield earlier this month — the majority of whom are from the Pioneer Valley — had their criminal charges reduced to civil infractions Thursday at the Southern Berkshire District Courthouse in Great Barrington.

Activists, all members of the Sugar Shack Alliance, say it was their goal to hinder tree-cutting in advance of construction of the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. pipeline, which they oppose. The company is a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan.

The climate activists faced criminal trespassing and disorderly conduct charges.

Vivienne Simon, of Northampton, was among those arraigned Thursday. She said the group plans to plead not guilty to civil charges, asserting “it’s still just an open public forest and we all have the right to be there.” She said they remain unsure if they’ll pay any civil fines associated with the charges. 

Action will continue, she said, until Federal Energy Regulatory Control Commission holds the hearing they promised.

“FERC still hasn’t had the rehearing that the residents of Sandisfield were told they were going to get,” she said. “We’re not going to stop, because there’s no one else who’s going to do it.”

A previous version of this story misstated the plea protesters plan to file in regard to pending civil charges.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@gazettenet.com.