Kinder Morgan officials to attend meetings in Pittsfield and Lenox


As energy giant Kinder Morgan prepares to file a preliminary application with federal regulators for its proposed natural gas pipeline project, Berkshire residents will have two opportunities to address their concerns over the potential route of the project.

Kinder Morgan officials plan to attend meetings this week in Lenox and Pittsfield regarding its 36-inch, high-pressure line, known as the Northeast Energy Direct.

Residents and officials in many of the 45 towns along the pipeline path through western and northern Massachusetts have expressed anxiety over the project being proposed by Kinder Morgan, parent company of Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. Opposition has been especially intense in Richmond, Lenox and Dalton.

But supporters have touted the plan as essential to meeting New England's increasing reliance on natural gas for heating and electricity as a less costly and cleaner alternative to other fossil-fuel energy sources such as oil and coal.

The informational session at Lenox Town Hall on Wednesday at 10 a.m. was organized by Berkshire Garden Club member Mary Taylor. Allen Fore, vice president of public affairs for Kinder Morgan, is scheduled to attend. Although an official of Berkshire Gas, one of the companies that would purchase natural gas from a new pipeline, was invited, he was unable to and will provide a statement instead.

Other participants include Lenox Select Board Chairman Channing Gibson, Narain Schroeder, director of land conservation for the Berkshire Natural Resources Council, Jane Winn, executive director of the Berkshire Environmental Action Team and Rosemary Wessel, co-founder of the opposition group "No Fracked Gas in Massachusetts."

After each participant offers a 10-minute presentation, members of the public will be able to question the panelists.

Since parts of eight Berkshire communities -- Richmond, Lenox, Washington, Pittsfield, Dalton, Hinsdale, Windsor and Peru -- lie along the potential pipeline path, the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission is holding an informational session on Thursday evening.

While the general public is invited to attend and listen, a BRPC announcement stated, the 6 p.m. session at Berkshire Community College's Koussevitzky Auditorium moderated by Pittsfield Schools Superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless is not a formal public hearing.

The commission described it as an opportunity for its members to become more informed about Kinder Morgan's plans "and be better educated regarding both the need for the pipeline and the federal permitting process which such a project entails."

Kinder Morgan officials are scheduled to make their case during the first hour, followed by a presentation from a representative of the Conservation Law Foundation. The environmental advocacy group has criticized Massachusetts and the other New England state governments that have supported the pipeline proposal for lack of transparency.

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After filing public records requests for detailed information, the foundation stated that "the documents we have obtained reveal not only outright hostility to conducting the planning process in the open, but also a troubling willingness on the part of state officials to take enormous risks with our money, our region's energy progress, and our climate."

Last month, Gov. Deval Patrick and other New England governors retreated, at least temporarily, from supporting investment in new natural gas pipelines, especially the provision that would require electricity customers to pay a surcharge to finance the projects.

Patrick sought a delay while his administration analyzes different energy scenarios, including those that would not require the construction of extensive natural gas pipelines.

‘'We clearly do want to continue working with our fellow New England states on a regional solution,'' Krista Selmi, spokeswoman for Patrick's office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, told the Associated Press. ‘'But we really do need to look at what our needs are at this point.''

Massachusetts is a linchpin of the regional plan since it consumes nearly half of New England's electricity.

The proposed new 250-mile Tennessee Gas Co. pipeline would stretch from Wright, N.Y., west of Schenectady to Dracut in northeastern Massachusetts. The cost is up to $4 billion for that line, and another $2 billion for a supply line carrying hydrofracked gas from southwestern Pennsylvania to central New York.

A formal application would be filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in 2016; if approvals are granted, construction could begin in April 2017 with a tentative completion date of November 2018.

If you go ...

Wednesday: A public information session with officials of parent company Kinder Morgan, the Berkshire Natural Resources Council, representatives of opposition groups and town leaders; 10 a.m., Lenox Town Hall Auditorium, 6 Walker St.

Thursday: An informational session by the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, with representatives of Kinder Morgan and the Conservation Law Foundation; 6 p.m., Koussevitzsky Auditorium, Berkshire Community College, West St., Pittsfield. The public is invited to listen.

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


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