The case against Tennessee Gas’s construction of a pipeline from Richmond to Dracut as part of its Northeast Expansion project was always dicey and it is not getting any better as more is learned. The question is whether it is a fait accompli as the company undoubtedly assumes.
One of the pipeline project’s drawbacks, arguably its major one, is shared with the controversial Keystone project -- its benefits to the area covered by the pipeline are modest compared to potential risks. From Dracut, the natural gas would head north to Canada, destined largely for electric generation plants in Europe and Asia. It will not be heating homes in Massachusetts. Similarly, the Keystone pipeline would send tar sand oil, a heavy pollutant, from Canada to the US where the oil would again be transported elsewhere. Pipelines always pose environmental risks, in this case to states that will not benefit.
Bruce Winn of the Berkshire Environmental Action team provided this and other information, much of it gained from the company’s files, at a rally against the pipeline last week in Richmond. The cost of the $2 billion, 250-mile project would be born by ratepayers as proposed by Tennessee Gas’s parent company, Kinder Morgan. Kinder CEO Richard Kinder, another of the preposterously wealthy corporate chieftains America keeps sprouting (see Joe Nocera column on opposite page) is personally worth $9.4 billion, so let him reach into his bank account to fund it.
Massachusetts is aggressively pursuing green energy sources like solar and wind as alternatives to environmentally destructive fossil fuels and as such should not play a part in increasing world dependence on fossil fuels. Natural gas obtained through hydraulic fracking poses environmental risks on the ground, and then to the atmosphere when it is burned. The company’s claim that the pipeline will provide 3,000 jobs seems exaggerated, but even if true, they are more likely to go to Tennessee Gas employees brought in from other states than state residents.
Tennessee Gas must receive a permit for the project from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which as a rule is not in the business of denying such permits. The company is exploring land purchases along the proposed route and it has the option under state law of using eminent domain proceedings to acquire land from a recalcitrant property owner. The odds are long against blocking this project but that doesn’t mean the state and its residents have to roll over.