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Northampton City Council resolves to oppose gas pipelines

  • Pipes are laid around a bend July 24, 217 at the easement granted to Kinder Morgan for construction of the Connecticut Expansion Pipeline project, which runs through Otis State Forest.

  • A banner opposing the Kinder Morgan Connecticut Expansion Pipeline project, which runs through Otis State Forest in Sandisfield, is displayed Aug. 9, 2017 on the railroad bridge over Route 9 in Northampton.

  • Lily Lombard speaks in favor of the resolution against new area natural gas infrastructure at Thursday's Northampton City Council meeting. Bera Dunau—Bera Dunau



Staff Writer
Friday, October 05, 2018

NORTHAMPTON — Taking a stand to combat climate change, the City Council unanimously passed a resolution on first reading Thursday opposing the expansion of natural gas infrastructure in the area.

Additionally, the resolution asks Columbia Gas to provide the city facts and figures that show new infrastructure is needed to meet the city’s demand for gas, to repair its current infrastructure, and to lift its moratorium on new gas service in Northampton where alternatives cannot safely or adequately be utilized.

The resolution expresses the will of the council, but is not legally binding, as with all resolutions the City Council passes. It will be voted on again in second reading at the council’s next meeting.

Around a dozen people spoke in favor of the resolution, with climate change being a prominent concern of those who asked the council to pass it.

“I urge you to stop prioritizing short-term economic interests over my health, safety and well-being,” said Alex McKinley, a sophomore at Smith College.

“Think about your children and your grandchildren,” said the Rev. Peter Ives.

When Lily Lombard asked those in attendance at the meeting to stand if they supported the resolution, nearly the entire audience rose to its feet.

Paul Whittredge also talked about the danger of a new natural gas pipeline becoming a “stranded asset,” which he defined as a large capital investment that can never pay for itself because economics changed in the course of its lifetime.

A march against a memorandum of understanding between Holyoke Gase & Electric and Columbia Gas for HGE to build a pipeline from Agawam to Holyoke was also held in Holyoke earlier on Thursday. Northampton resident Susan Theberge, one of the speakers at the council meeting, took part in the march,

“This resolution, which I’m strongly in favor of, is a real support to communities that are desperately fighting,” she said.

The resolution was put forward by Councilor-at-Large William Dwight and Ward 7 Councilor Alisa Klein, as well as the Northampton Sustainability and Energy Commission. An amendment was also added to the resolution acknowledging the recent gas explosion in Lawrence.

Speaking in support of the resolution, Ward 1 City Councilor Maureen Carney said she has a friend and colleague who was made homeless by the explosion.

Since 2015, Northampton and Easthampton have been under a moratorium from Columbia Gas, meaning that no new connections in those cities are allowed. Columbia Gas has said that this is because of infrastructure issues. However, Dwight said the company has not provided data on consumption to the city.

“They have yet to prove a need,” said Dwight.

He also said that addressing the issue of gas leaks in existing infrastructure could allow for accommodations for new hookups.

Ward 3 Councilor James Nash did suggest sending the resolution to committee, so that Columbia Gas could be called in and asked difficult questions. However, this encountered resistance from some of the councilors, and he withdrew it in favor of working with the chair of community resources committee to reach out to Columbia Gas.

“My idea was not to stifle energy but to actually build on the energy of this resolution,” Nash said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettent.com.