Rosenberg hears strong concerns about pipeline in testimony he’ll deliver to FERC

Last modified: Wednesday, September 23, 2015

GREENFIELD — Local seventh-grader Rowan McKeon’s mother always told him that it’s not right to make a mess and expect others to clean up after him. Lately, he’s found himself concerned that that’s exactly the situation he and his generation will be left with if the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approves a controversial new natural gas pipeline proposed to pass through Franklin County.

Speaking before Senate President Stanley Rosenberg and a packed house in the Greenfield Community College Dining Common during the Amherst Democrat’s “Tell FERC” public comment session Thursday night, McKeon had strong words for the federal agency, which regulates natural gas pipelines and will have the final say in whether the project is allowed to move forward.

McKeon laid out his concerns about the effects Kinder Morgan’s proposed 400-plus-mile Northeast Energy Direct (NED) pipeline project would have on local water resources, the environment and air quality.

He also addressed the possible safety risks involved with natural gas pipelines.

“I am concerned that I will be cleaning up after the mess you have made,” McKeon said. “Can you assure me that this is the best choice for our energy needs, given the long-term effect of land contamination that you will leave behind? Can you promise me that you are making this decision with full awareness of how wasteful fracking is in terms of water usage?”

McKeon also challenged the agency to consider living in the world that the issues he was concerned about could potentially create.

“Pipeline explosions, poor air quality and destruction of the environment seem like risky, irreversible downsides to this short-lived energy solution,” he said.

McKeon was one among over 60 who testified before Rosenberg. The senator organized the hearing after FERC denied his request to delay its hearing in July, due to the public not being afforded enough time to review materials released by Kinder Morgan just days before the event.

The agency later agreed to allow Rosenberg to hold his own meeting and accept all testimony collected during it. He has promised to hand-deliver it to FERC headquarters in Washington at the end of the month.

Whether there is a need for the pipeline project, which is expected to bring 1.3 billion cubic feet of natural gas into the region per day, was the most commonly discussed topic during the hearing.

Kenneth Berthiaune said New England already contains plenty of underutilized natural gas infrastructure, including GDF Suez’s Distrigas liquefied natural gas terminal in Everett and the company’s two offshore terminals, as well as Berkshire Gas’ LNG facility in Whately.

He also pointed to recent studies that found that the state’s existing natural gas infrastructure is leaking billions of cubic feet per year before it ever reaches its customers.

“There must be a requirement to fix the problems that exist before more infrastructure is installed,” said Northfield Select Board member Jed Proujansky, referring to the leaks. “Clean up those problems before creating new ones.”

David Gilbert Keith of Deerfield made the case that the pipeline is far larger than is necessary for the region and that most of the gas that it will transport will eventually find a market overseas.

“By the time the NED is built, it won’t even be needed,” said Gilbert, noting that other natural gas expansion projects are already underway or will be soon. “NED is an export project; New England does not need it, and should not be made to pay for it.”

Others touted development of more renewable energy resources and increased energy-efficiency programs as better solutions to the region’s energy needs than building a new pipeline through relatively undisturbed lands.

Many speakers described the effects the pipeline could have on the value of their properties and homes, including reduced sales value and resale options, tax liability for land that can’t be built on and increased health and safety risks.

Northfield Select Board Chairman Jack Spanbauer lambasted a “lack of transparency and consistency by FERC and Kinder Morgan,” noting the way that the project’s details, such as the pipeline’s diameter, the final location a compressor station that has been sited in his town, and how many miles of each town the project would cross, seemed to be constantly in flux.

“Kinder Morgan needs to be consistent, transparent and honest going forward,” he said.

Kathryn Eiseman, president of the Pipeline Awareness Network for the Northeast, voiced her concerns about Kinder Morgan’s plans to site contractor yards to store construction materials on wetlands and agricultural lands. She also spoke about how the pipeline’s construction could serve as a conduit for contaminated groundwater to make its way into isolated wells and aquifers.

The proposed project was not without its supporters, however. Frank Callahan, president of the Massachusetts Building Trades Council, told The Recorder he was there to speak in support of the construction jobs the pipeline would bring and further, long-term job creation that he expects would result from more availability of natural gas to growing industry.

Stephen Crawford, Kinder Morgan’s spokesman for Massachusetts, was also in attendance.

“The comments offered tonight add valuable information to the input that FERC and our team have already gathered. We appreciate the efforts of the Senate president and all those who took the time to attend the meeting,” he said.

Representatives from Congressman James McGovern’s office, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey’s offices and the state attorney general’s office also attended the hearing.


Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061


© 2018 Daily Hampshire Gazette