Actions by town officials in Dalton and Lenox this week have escalated the opposition in the Berkshires to the proposed Tennessee Gas Company pipeline project through Berkshire County. At the same time, parent company Kinder Morgan’s apparent indifference to opposition indicates its confidence that ultimately local opinions are of no consequence.
In Dalton, the Board of Selectmen voted to withdraw the permission it had granted Tennessee Gas to perform survey work on a 19-acre parcel of land off East Street. The vote came following a special town meeting in which residents expressed their concerns about the project’s environmental impact and the integrity of Kinder Morgan. The board granted the approval before the pipeline became a heated issue, and after some apparent initial reluctance, has bowed to the will of pipeline foes.
In Lenox, where the high-pressure pipeline could impact Kennedy Park and the Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, Selectmen have authorized Town Manager Christopher Ketchen to write a letter to Berkshire legislators and state and federal officials expressing strong opposition to the proposal. Opposition will have to move up from the grass-roots level to Washington, D.C. to have any impact, and impact is far from assured. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will decide on the plan, and judging from its reluctance to address concerns about leaks or reveal the eventual destination for the "fracked" gas passing through the Berkshires, Kinder appears confident it will get that approval without having to bother with opposition from the communities its pipeline will pass through.
A Barron’s article from February noted that Kinder’s motto is "run by shareholders, for shareholders," which is great news if you are a shareholder, as the company is well-regarded on Wall Street. Like General Electric, another company known for putting stockholders above all else, Kinder Morgan doesn’t have much to say about its responsibility to local communities and to the environment. Indications are that it doesn’t believe it has any. It does, however, which Berkshire and state residents and officials must insist upon.