Letter: Pipeline proposal weakens public trust

Posted

To the editor:

Massachusetts has one of the most vibrant land conservation communities in the country, a community of citizens, over 100 local land trusts, statewide organizations, and government. The Trustees of Reservations, founded in 1891, is proud to be a part of this community, which has worked for decades to identify and protect iconic landscapes, the most important wild places, and working forests and farms across the Commonwealth.

We are very concerned about the scope and ramifications of the proposed Northeast Energy Direct (NED) natural gas pipeline, which would cross our largest property, the 3,200-acre Notchview Reservation in Windsor, and continue on across public and private conservation land, historic sites, farms, recreational areas, and endangered species habitat. At least a quarter of the proposed NED route is through conservation land, meant to be protected in perpetuity from development of any kind.

We attended the recent Kinder Morgan NED open house in Greenfield hoping to gain a better understanding of the potential impact to Windsor, especially as an 80,000 horsepower compressor station needed to maintain pressure on the gas line, is proposed for the town. We were unable to get clear or consistent answers on what might happen, and similarly the NED maps and analyses of natural resource impact were lacking.

Land conservation is supported by public policy, including an article of the Massachusetts Constitution, to ensure the public benefit of protected open space. These benefits include clean drinking water, wildlife and game habitat, outdoor recreation, farms and the food they bring, and that intangible and infinite capacity to inspire and connect us to something greater than ourselves. This routing on miles of protected land would be a taking of public resources and an undermining of the public trust.

While we certainly understand that energy needs are changing, there are alternatives to a project of this scale. Massachusetts is a sophisticated state. We can continue moving forward with smart energy policy, without undoing decades of critical conservation efforts and undermining the public trust. Energy efficiency measures can be expanded, leaky pipes can be fixed, new renewable energy can be deployed. Existing infrastructure can be upgraded, rather than new being built.

Although it is the federal government that ultimately has the say, Governor Baker has said he's opposed to the NED project, and we hope that common sense like his prevails and the public trust is protected for everyone, forever.

Jennifer Ryan Boston The writer is director of policy for the Trustees of Reservations.

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