Opposition to the proposed Tennessee Gas Pipeline project appears to be growing in Berkshire County, with this weekend’s cross-state march against the project likely to further crystallize opposition in Massachusetts. Absent any attempt by the company to address legitimate concerns raised by residents and town officials, that resistance would seem certain to grow.
Kinder Morgan, the parent company of Tennessee Gas, wants to expand its natural gas pipeline as it passes through the state as a response to increased demand. The pipeline would transport gas that is "fracked" from the ground, an environmentally destructive process, and after passing through the state would likely be shipped to Canada and elsewhere. It would presumably not lower energy costs for state residents but would threaten the Berkshires aesthetically and environmentally, given the real possibility of leaks.
Richmond, Lenox and Sandisfield are among the Berkshire communities that are actively exploring options to protect their watersheds, parks, farms and hillsides from potential injury if not destruction. Approval for the project is ultimately in the hands of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is usually sympathetic to projects offered by large corporations, but a state that is at the forefront of environmental protection cannot shrug its shoulders. The best the company has offered communities in compensation is the possibility of additional tax revenue, which even if realized is not good enough in light of the potential hazards.
According to a story in the Vancouver Sun, Kinder Morgan, which wants to triple the capacity of its pipeline from Alberta into British Columbia, claimed in a report filed with the Canadian government in April that while there is low probability of a major pipeline spill, spills can have benefits because "Spill response and cleanup creates business and employment opportunities for affected communities ..." While that assertion sounds like a satirical riff from Stephen Colbert, it provides unsettling insight into the mindset of a company eyeing the Berkshires.