Berkshire County may be confronting its own mini-Keystone pipeline debate with Tennessee Gas Pipeline exploring a new natural gas line through Western Massachusetts on its way east to Dracut. The environmental concerns are considerable, and town officials in affected communities must take them seriously.

The route would apparently begin in Richmond where an existing gas line from New York State reaches the border and extend through Lenox, Pittsfield and Dalton. Several other county towns could be on the route depending on what Tennessee Pipeline, which is in the process of contacting landowners to perform survey work, chooses to do. The pipeline would then continue through neighboring Franklin County. (Eagle, February 26).

Tennessee Pipeline is attempting to build on the increased popularity of natural gas, which has advantages over fuel sources like coal. Like any fossil fuel, however, natural gas has disadvantages, and high among them are pipeline leaks. Studies have found that the methane leaked from gas lines has up to 30 times the greenhouse gas effect of carbon dioxide, a major contributor to global warming. Any pipeline going through Berkshire County will encounter wetlands and forests where gas leaks could be
devastating.

If built, the pipeline will surely be delivering gas produced in New York State through fracking, a process in which water and chemicals are injected at high pressure into underground rock formations to release gas. This is an environmentally controversial process that county residents may not want to be a part of, especially at a time when the nation needs to be ending its fossil fuel addiction and pursuing green energy sources. The Greenfield Recorder recently quoted a homeowner in Montague who said the pipeline company had been denied permission to survey her property "based on the advice I’ve seen coming out of the movement in New York that questions pipelines environmentally and on a bunch of other grounds."

Tennessee Pipeline may confront similar concerns in Berkshire County and it will not be enough to write off those concerns as hysteria, which the fossil fuel industry is inclined to do. All county towns, not just those directly impacted, should become educated on the pipeline proposal while it is still in its early stages.