Senators speak out against Kinder Morgan’s natural gas pipeline project

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LENOX -- U.S. Sen. Edward Markey has put the Kinder Morgan energy giant and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on notice -- he plans to closely scrutinize the company’s controversial proposal for a Tennessee Gas Co. high-pressure pipeline through more than 40 Massachusetts communities, including eight in Berkshire County.

"I will make sure that Kinder Morgan and our federal regulators are using the most up-to-date information and are completely transparent about whether this pipeline will be used to export the natural gas to foreign markets and that the interests of the people are put before the interests of the oil and gas industry," the Massachusetts Democrat told The Eagle in an e-mail message this week.

Markey’s statement came in response to a written appeal from the Lenox Select Board last week seeking intervention by federal lawmakers to block Kinder Morgan from using a proposed pipeline route that would cut through the town’s watershed and reservoir system as well as the heavily used, town-owned Kennedy Park.

At the Select Board’s Wednesday night meeting, Chairman Channing Gibson welcomed Markey’s response. Nearly identical letters were also sent to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, whose district includes Berkshire County.

"I share many of the concerns that have been raised by Lenox officials, and by families, businesses, conservation commissions and towns across Massachusetts about the Kinder Morgan pipeline proposal," Warren wrote in an e-mail message to The Eagle.

"I also oppose the current proposal, and I am committed to working with local, state, and federal officials throughout this process to ensure that FERC’s assessment of the project adequately accounts for the harm to our land and to the environment. We must upgrade our energy infrastructure in ways that are consistent with Massachusetts’ commitment to conservation, clean energy, and a sustainable future," Warren wrote.

Neal expressed strong agreement with the Select Board’s view "that there should be vigorous oversight throughout the entire application process" and promised to convey his viewpoint to FERC. "The public expects the proceedings with Kinder Morgan to be open and transparent," Neal wrote in a statement to The Eagle.

Kinder Morgan’s preliminary route shows the pipeline entering the state in Richmond, crossing land at the town’s reservoirs and paralleling a main trail in Kennedy Park, emerging on Arcadian Shop property before traversing Pittsfield Road (Routes 7 and 20).

The potential route would cut through residential properties in north Lenox, proceeding under the Housatonic River into portions of Washington, Pittsfield, Dalton, Hinsdale, Windsor and Peru, eventually terminating in Dracut.

Possible route modifications by Kinder Morgan are due at FERC by Oct. 31.

Markey noted the concerns in Lenox parallel those he has heard from many other communities impacted by the proposed pipeline.

"I hear those concerns loud and clear," he stated. "The Kinder Morgan proposal would ask our towns and residents to assume unnecessary environmental risks and endure disruption for a new pipeline that may facilitate natural gas exports out of New England."

He called for expansion of clean energy alternatives, describing Western Massachusetts as "already becoming a national leader in solar energy."

Markey acknowledged learning that Kinder Morgan had used maps drawn in 1988 to chart its proposed route for the 250-mile long pipeline. Those maps do not include housing developments. Individual homes built over the past 25 years, and other additions to the landscape.

After reading Markey’s statement at the Select Board meeting, Gibson said: "Sen. Markey has extended himself in a way that’s helpful. I think he really gets it."

The letter sent to Markey, Warren and Neal, written by Gibson and approved by the Select Board and Town Manager Christopher Ketchen, declared that the town "lacks the authority to protect itself against predation by a large corporation with federally granted powers of eminent domain."

It urged the lawmakers "to ensure that the town does not become the victim of misinformation, a poor federal permitting process, or any unwarranted harm to its public and private lands."

The letter also warned that, if necessary, the town will pursue legal action to protect its drinking water supply "which is so profoundly imperiled by the pipeline’s proposed route. However, we are deeply concerned that in the face of a large company and a federal permitting procedure, a small town’s best efforts might have limited or zero effect."

To contact Clarence Fanto:
cfanto@yahoo.com
or (413) 637-2551
On Twitter: @BE_cfanto


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