Dalton residents revoke permission given to Tennessee Gas Co. to survey land


DALTON -- Invite rescinded.

Responding to mounting opposition to a proposed gas pipeline through the Berkshires, the Select Board last week voted to withdraw the permission it had granted Tennessee Gas Co. to perform survey work in the town.

Nearly 50 residents flooded Town Hall on Tuesday for a special meeting to encourage the Select Board to rescind that permission, granted in February, to survey a 19-acre parcel off East Street.

Tennessee Gas aims to build a 250-mile pipeline to carry natural gas from upstate New York to Dracut, north of Lowell. The company two weeks ago reported that the survey was imminent.

The Northeast Pipeline Expansion Project calls for a high-pressure, 36-inch line to pass through portions of Richmond, Lenox, Washington, Dalton, Hinsdale, Peru and Windsor.

Several of those communities have expressed opposition to the project for a number of reasons, including environmental concerns, the rugged path along which the proposed pipeline would travel and fears that gas would be exported elsewhere with little or no benefit to Berkshire residents.

Opponents on Sunday began a protest march, beginning in Richmond and following the path of the proposed pipeline through the state.

Whether community opposition will hold any sway on the fate of the proposed extension is not yet known. It's widely accepted that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which will decide whether to grant the company its desired Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, holds the only say on the matter.

But Dalton residents, who said it was the third time they'd publicly asked the board to act, most recently at a special town meeting on June 30, were intent to be heard.

One by one, they spoke out against the proposal. "Never trust a Texas oil man," one resident said, referring to parent company Kinder Morgan, based in Houston.

"I don't see where anyone comes up a winner in this except for Kinder Morgan," resident Howard Grable said. "Everything's going to be all on you, your constituents and everyone else in Massachusetts."

Others opposed the continued reliance on fossil fuels "in favor of alternative renewable energy resources," read a petition signed by many residents and presented at the meeting.

The petition alleged that the fossil fuel industry is hampering renewable energy development and the people's ability to participate in "economic, health and environmental [planning] beyond the financial interests of the fossil fuel industry."

In the end, the board voted 3-1 in favor of rescinding the permission, drawing applause from the audience.

"I would never vote to have something put on somebody's land that they didn't want," Selectwoman Louisa Horth said.

Selectman John W. Bartels Jr. cast the lone vote against rescinding the permission, saying he thought the survey would produce valuable information that he was interested in viewing.

However, the rest of the board pointed out, to the agreement of the room, that if the project moves forward and a public process begun, the board and every resident will have a chance to view the information anyway.

To reach Phil Demers: pdemers@berkshireeagle.com or (413) 281-2859. On Twitter: @BE_PhilD


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