Jenny A. Daniell: Who is the real eco-terrorist, Berkshire Gas or pipeline critics?

Last modified: Sunday, May 03, 2015

LEVERETT — In an April 25 article published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, Christopher Farrell, a spokesperson for Berkshire Gas, accused opponents of the Kinder Morgan pipeline of “eco-terrorism.”

We’ve been looking for the eco-terrorists, and so far, we haven’t had much luck.

And now, Farrell has apologized. But he did say it.

Was Farrell referring to the mothers and grandmothers in Amherst who have been collecting petition signatures against the pipeline?

Or perhaps the farmers in Deerfield who hosted a rally in their apple and peach orchard last summer? The Quaker pilgrims who walked the entire pipeline route a few weeks ago, praying as they went?

As terrorists go, we’re a pretty sorry bunch.

Berkshire Gas is doing everything it can to ensure that the Kinder Morgan pipeline is built. In addition to accusing their opponents of eco-terrorism, the company imposed a moratorium on new gas connections, claiming it cannot add new customers until the pipeline is operating.

But claims about the desperate need for a new gas pipeline shouldn’t be taken at face value. The Kinder Morgan pipeline will not be finished until 2018 at the soonest. If Berkshire Gas’ first priority is ensuring adequate supplies of gas for businesses and families, it shouldn’t be waiting on a new pipeline that’s still years away.

Instead, it should be doing everything it can to reduce waste by investing in energy efficiency and repairing gas leaks.

But Berkshire Gas is doing exactly the opposite. Public data from MassSave shows that in 2014, National Grid, NSTAR, Unitil Gas and Columbia Gas all outperformed Berkshire Gas when it came to energy efficiency. In 2014, Unitil Gas reduced demand for gas by 1.49 percent, compared to forecasted sales.

If Berkshire Gas had done the same, it would have saved an additional 29,000 decatherms of gas last year — almost as much as it has contracted to buy from the Kinder Morgan pipeline.

Berkshire Gas hasn’t done much better when it comes to gas leaks: the Attorney General’s office recently singled out the utility for reporting leaks inaccurately and failing to make enough repairs.

If Berkshire Gas were serious about ensuring access to energy for businesses and homeowners, you’d expect it to be focusing on gas leaks and efficiency. Instead, it has been busy working with Kinder Morgan to sell the new gas pipeline to Massachusetts residents. They’re hoping that if it talks enough about a dire shortage of gas, we’ll agree to fund the pipeline through a tariff on our electricity bills.

But the company’s not fooling us.

Kinder Morgan and Berkshire Gas claim that the purpose of the Kinder Morgan pipeline is to supply gas to Massachusetts customers. But the pipeline would carry 2.2 billion cubic feet of gas per day. The New England States Committee on Electricity has estimated that Massachusetts needs just 0.6 billion cubic feet a day at most — leaving 1.6 billion cubic feet left over.

If you’re curious about the destination of all that extra gas, you’re not the only one. Given that the Kinder Morgan pipeline will connect to planned LNG export facilities in Maine and Canada, it’s not exactly a stretch to suspect that the gas may be destined for overseas markets in Asia and Europe.

The Kinder Morgan pipeline threatens our communities, our health and our climate. If the project is allowed to go forward, an out-of-state gas company will seize property through eminent domain and cut a 50-foot swath of permanently cleared land from the Berkshires to Dracut.

Kinder Morgan will place a high-pressure pipeline, carrying gas laced with hundreds of toxic chemicals, alongside streams, underneath rivers and through land protected by the state constitution. Because the pipeline will run through rural areas, it will be held to the lowest safety standards. The pipeline will carry fracked gas, which is primarily methane, a greenhouse gas over 86 times more powerful than CO2. Recent studies suggest that when methane leaks are taken into account, fracked gas may be as bad for our climate as coal.

The proposed pipeline isn’t a bridge to clean energy — it’s a bridge to nowhere but profit for private companies like Kinder Morgan and Berkshire Gas. The utilities and fossil fuel companies shouldn’t be allowed to call the shots any longer.

It’s time for our elected officials, people like Attorney General Maura Healey and Gov. Charlie Baker, to step in and stop this unnecessary pipeline once and for all.

Jenny A. Daniell is an attorney with Climate Action Now and lives in Leverett.


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