Last modified: Tuesday, September 15, 2015

DEERFIELD — Deerfield has officially made its submission to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s environmental impact statement scoping process. The 12-page document, approved by the Board of Selectmen during their meeting last week, details the town’s concerns about the impact the pipeline could have on the town’s economy, public safety, geology and natural resources, among other sectors.

In public safety, the report said the town’s emergency services personnel would be hard-pressed to police the pipeline to prevent vandalism or terrorism, or to adequately respond to an incident or emergency along the route. The town is also concerned that the additional preparations and planning that would be required to ready a response to such an emergency could become costly and time-consuming.

“It is very likely that the town would be ill-equipped to deal with a major incident related to a damaged or ruptured pipe, or to damage or failure at the metering station,” the report read.

The report cited inherent safety risks related to transporting natural gas along pipelines and the lack of independent oversight on safeguards implemented along them.

It said the pipeline could also hamper remediation efforts at the East Deerfield Railyard, part of which it is expected to pass underneath before crossing the Connecticut River. Projects to clean up portions of the railyard that have been contaminated by chemicals and asbestos have been ongoing for the better part of a decade and are in their final stages.

“The sensitive nature of the remediation on this site could be undermined by any underground drilling, excavation or other construction,” the report read. “In particular, the pipeline’s planned route could allow the spread of hazardous materials and could potentially introduce them to the Deerfield or Connecticut River resource areas.

The town is also concerned about the effects that construction, which would require drilling and blasting, could have on town roads, power lines, farms and businesses, and that it will cross protected and preserved lands and the Pocumtuck Ridge. It would also pass within a mile of Woolman Hill Retreat Center.

At a public forum where residents were able to add their own comments to the report held on Aug. 12, air and water quality were among the top concerns. The report said a proposed metering station located near the north entrance to Old Deerfield would adversely affect the air quality by releasing pollutants into the atmosphere and the gas that would travel along it could pollute water supplies and resources were the pipeline to rupture or break.

The construction of the pipeline, including planned horizontal drilling, could damage wetlands and alter surface drainage patterns, causing damage to agricultural or natural areas, the report said. It is also critical of the low level of detail provided so far on measures that would be taken to reduce the risk of frost damage to the proposed pipeline.

The town’s economy could also be affected by the pipeline through reduced property values, tougher times insuring homes, and decreased tourism to attractions like Historic Deerfield and the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association.

Deerfield also contains a number of historic Paleo-Indian archaeological sites, which the report said the pipeline could destroy.

“The route of the proposed pipeline passes immediately adjacent to the so-called ‘Pine Hill’ site, which has been described as ‘a key locus in the cognitive map of the Pocumtuck.’” the report reads. “No provision for archaeological study or preservation has been indicated in the proposal or plan related to the pipeline.”

An extensive package of various town residents’ comments included with the report raise concerns over the lack of hard data being provided by Kinder Morgan in its filings and proposals, whether most of the gas would be used for export to foreign countries, and the damage it could cause to agricultural lands.

“The amount of land to be taken for the project is continuously misrepresented with the acreage of trees to be permanently removed in constant flux, as are the numbers, placement and size of access roads,” wrote resident Reba-Jean Shaw-Pichette. “The presented information is frightening in its inaccuracies and borders on fraud.”

The town has also sent a letter to the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board, the state board with jurisdiction over the construction of intrastate natural gas pipelines in the state, outlining similar concerns.

Tom Relihan can be reached at trelihan@recorder.com.


 


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