Mina Hamilton: State doesn't need yet another heist


RICHMOND >> On Friday, April 15, the Berkshire Superior Court in Pittsfield will address a suit brought by Tennessee Gas Pipeline, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Kinder Morgan, to gain immediate access to Otis State Forest for the beginning of tree-felling for its Connecticut Extension pipeline.

If granted, this request would overturn Article 97, a key provision of the Massachusetts Constitution. Article 97 protects state park and forest land from eminent domain by any entity - unless the Massachusetts Legislature votes to allow said taking. The outcome of the suit will establish a precedent for additional pipelines, including the Northeast Direct pipeline. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is defending the state against the pipeline company.

Irreplaceable loss

An open letter to Richard Kinder, executive chairman of Kinder Morgan.

Mr. Kinder, you generously donate millions to the Museum of Fine Art in your home-town of Houston. Clearly, you appreciate fine art. Thus, we assume you are aware of the sad anniversary that just passed.

On a cold, dark night, two men overwhelmed guards at the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum in Boston. Famously, they said, "This is a robbery, gentlemen."

Seconds later the thieves took a sharp knife and slashed away at the perfection of Johannes Vermeer's "The Concert." The 17th-century masterpiece was ripped from its wooden frame. It was March 18, 1990. To this day, the painting is missing.

It was a theft that diminished the world. It wrenched the hearts of art-lovers and permanently left a gaping hole in our cultural heritage.

Driving a pipeline through Otis State Forest and other magnificent state parks in Massachusetts is also robbery. And it is one of even greater magnitude.

Perhaps, you will laugh at the analogy. You might protest that a tree is, well, just a tree — even an old-growth, mighty hemlock. Citizens of Massachusetts, citizens of the world, we all want the irreplaceable beauty of hemlocks, oaks, maples, and birches. We not only want — we need — the possibility of an excursion away from our stressed-out lives into the calm beauty of sylvan glades. We need the crisp revelations of a wind rustling through pine trees. Listening to the mew of a hawk is as vital to our survival as bread or rice.

Even more importantly, we must leave future generations places of peace and wonder, places where spirits are lifted, souls restored.

Do not talk to us about how there is no "net" loss in state park acreage as far as the Otis State Forest is concerned. "Net" is the language of profit-and-loss statements. "Net" deliberately obscures the real issue: the taking of a sharp knife to the heart and soul of every resident in Massachusetts, in New England and beyond.

Possibility of miracles

Whether we are eating macaroni-and-cheese, tweeting, composting our gardens or planning a visit to the Gardner museum, we all need the possibility of woods and wildness. And please note: those of us who are not billionaires or, for that matter, millionaires, cannot jet off to Aspen, Tahiti or Hawaii to restore our souls.

No, we need the possibility of miracles right here in our own beloved backyards. And that is what you want to steal from us.

Mr. Kinder, we respectfully submit it is time for you to go home. Please, let's not have another heist.

Mina Hamilton is a life-long environmental advocate and writer. She was a co-founder and co-director of the Sierra Club Radioactive Waste Campaign, a Research Associate at Radioactive Waste Management Associates and served on the Board of Directors of Greenpeace USA.

Her writing has appeared in Mother Jones, the Nation, the Progressive, dissidentvoice.org and wloe.org. She is a home-owner in Richmond and can be reached at minaham@aol.com


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