Taking Steps to a Renewable Future: 53-mile pipeline protest walk steps off from Windsor

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Photo Gallery | Pipeline protest march

Video | Protesters against the proposed natural gas pipeline in Western Mass march in Cummington on a four day journey.

WINDSOR — Roughly 200 opponents of the proposed Northeast Energy Direct pipeline — including significant numbers of college students on spring vacation — have begun to walk all or some of the 53 miles between Windsor and Northfield.

The four-day trek, Taking Steps to a Renewable Future, is "designed to energize people" and "organize a broad base" ready to demonstrate against the proposed natural gas pipeline by Kinder Morgan subsidiary Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co., organizers said.

"The people who come on this walk will also be the people we talk to about forming organized opposition groups," said organizer Jane Crosby. "Many of them are already doing so. Six colleges and universities will be represented. College students have been some of the key organizers of this walk."

Walkers took off Thursday after an 8 a.m. oatmeal breakfast at Windsor Town Hall.

The protesters are expected to walking roughly 14 miles per day, sleeping bags on their backs, and spend nights in churches. The route passes through Cummington, Plainfield, Ashfield, Buckland, Shelburne Falls, Greenfield, Turners Falls and Millers Falls before ending in Northfield.

The proposed 412-mile pipeline would start in New York and enter Massachusetts in Hancock. It would cross through nine Berkshire County communities before reaching into Hampden County. Compressor stations would be built in both Windsor and Northfield — which organizers identified as the symbolism of the walk.

Compressor stations, industrial facilities located along natural gas lines, remove water and compress gas to a higher pressure to maintain flow. Studies have found the facilities are significant sources of air and noise pollution.

Accordingly, pipeline opposition in Windsor has been significant.

The group Compressor and Pipeline Opposition in Windsor (CAPOW) has organized some programming in the town — two physicians recently spoke about the potentially negative health impacts of breathing in the chemicals compressor stations emit — and canvassed door-to-door against the pipeline.

"I would say about 95 percent of people in the town are opposed," said Jan Bradley of CAPOW.

Bradley said she plans to walk on two of the days of Taking Steps to a Renewable Future.

"It gives you an opportunity to feel empowered in a situation where very often you feel powerless," Bradley said. "The importance is keeping community awareness high and taking part in the wonderful networking that goes on amongst the people and the towns."

She added, "As towns come together and unify in this battle, it definitely makes us stronger."

According to weather forecasts, the protesters will likely see temperatures in the low 50s and high 40s, with potential rainstorms on Friday.

The pipeline application currently in the hands of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which will ultimately decide whether the project is in the public interest.

A report released in November by state Attorney General Maura Healey found that "a much more cost-effective solution [to new gas pipelines] is to embrace energy efficiency and demand-response programs that protect ratepayers and significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

Kinder Morgan called Healey's report "seriously flawed."

Crosby said regular people can influence FERC's ultimate decision through activism.

"By actively opposing it on every front, we can get this pipeline stopped," she said.

On the Web ...

The walk is sponsored by the recently formed Sugar Shack Alliance, organized "to educate people on what it sees as the detrimental environmental effects of fossil fuel power generation" and oppose NED. For information, visit sugarshackalliance.org/


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