Tenn. Gas Pipeline responds to protester arrests

  • Vivienne Simon holds up her cuffed hands after she and eight others were arrested for trespassing during a protest against Tennessee Gas Pipeline project on Tuesday. ap photo

For the Gazette
Published: 5/4/2017 12:29:55 AM

SANDISFIELD — Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. said in a statement issued following Tuesday’s arrest of 18 protesters at the Otis State Forest site of its planned Connecticut Expansion Project that it has completed the installation and inspection of erosion protection devices on its right-of-way.

It will soon begin full construction activities for the project, which it hopes to complete by Nov. 1.

The project, including a 2.3-mile path through the forest, “has received all required state and federal approvals to begin construction, including tree clearing,” said the statement.

The Narragansett Indian Tribal Council Historic Preservation Office maintains that the process for adhering to the National Historic Presevation Act was not followed properly.

Eighteen protesters, including nine from Hampshire County, were arrested Tuesday morning at two nearby entrances to the forest after they blocked pipeline project access roads. They were protesting the government allowing the private company to build its pipeline through protected public lands.

TGP, whose contractors were attempting to begin preparatory work on its project, said in its statement that it respects the rights of individuals to engage in peaceful and lawful protests.

“It is our desire that protest activity be peaceful and lawful and that work areas are not disturbed or damaged,” the statement said. “We are working closely with local, state and federal law authorities to seek to ensure that protesters have a safe and secure opportunity to exercise their First Amendment rights, including providing a secure area for them to do so, while, at the same time, providing for the safety and security for the much-needed critical infrastructure project.”

The company added it is continuing work on its right-of-way and is diligently seeking to adhere to permit and other conditions associated with state and federal approvals, including approval to proceed with construction granted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Numerous issues relating to protection of the environment, the natural habitat, Native American sites/features, tribal consultation with federally recognized tribes, and a host of related matters have undergone extensive state and federal reviews during the course of the permitting process, the company said.

Several protesters, members of the Sugar Shack Alliance of 17 affinity groups, crossed into land now closed to the public. Another group split off and blocked a second access road.

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