Valley coalition to present forum on pipeline expansion

  • Industrial pipe with gas and oil Prykhodov

For the Gazette
Published: 9/21/2018 12:36:58 AM

A coalition of Pioneer Valley organizations will gather next week to discuss a natural gas pipeline expansion proposed by Columbia Gas through parts of Hampden and Hampshire counties.

The forum will focus on the Columbia Reliability Project, a 6-mile-long, 12-inch pipeline from Agawam to Holyoke and an additional pipeline to a compressor station in Agawam. The project expands gas infrastructure through Agawam, Easthampton, Holyoke, Longmeadow, Northampton, Springfield and West Springfield.

The forum, sponsored by Climate Action NOW and 38 other organizations, is scheduled for Tuesday at 7 p.m. at First Churches Northampton. Organizations involved with the forum promote social and environmental justice initiatives throughout the Pioneer Valley.

“Our first job to do is education and organizing,” Marty Nathan, a steering member of Climate Action NOW, said in a phone interview with the Gazette.

“This (forum) is to get folks together to know the reality of gas expansion,” Nathan added.

The forum was organized prior to last week’s explosions and fires from Columbia Gas pipelines in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover.

“We are horrified and supportive of the victims,” Nathan said. “We have to be very careful when expanding gas infrastructure. We need to seek alternatives.”

No representative from the local coalition invited Columbia Gas to the forum.

“We have not personally invited Columbia Gas, it is a public event,” said Susan Theberge, co-founder of Climate Action NOW.

Columbia Gas did not return the Gazette’s request for comment.

In November 2017, the Gazette reported Columbia Gas President Stephen Bryant’s plans to move forward with the new pipeline, and undertaken efforts to fix leaks and aged infrastructure.

Jacqueline Velez, Holyoke organizer for Neighbor to Neighbor, said explosions like those in the Merrimack Valley are not isolated events.

“This happens all the time. Pipes will always leak and overpressure,” Velez added. “It’s not if they will leak, it’s when.”

In Springfield, in 2012, Columbia Gas was involved in a gas explosion following a natural gas leak at the Scores Gentlemen’s Club that injured 28 people.

“We want them to fix and repair (existing) pipes, but not create new ones,” Velez said.

“My job is to bring the issues to light,” she said. “Empower them (people) with the information.”

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