Our Opinion: State must insist gas company fix damaged roads
Kinder-Morgan is, as a spokesman said, "obligated" to restore the roads in Sandisfield and adjacent towns its subsidiary is pummeling while building its pipeline project in Otis State Forest. The state must make sure this obligation is met in full.
Pipeline traffic by Tennessee Gas is making Cold Spring Road and other roads "a real mess," according to Sandisfield Select Board Chairwoman Alice Boyd (Eagle, May 21). In an email to The Eagle, Kinder-Morgan spokesman Richard Wheatley said the company will "restore roads to their prior condition before construction began," but because the prior condition of the roads was not fully determined before construction started, Kinder-Morgan may have wiggle room in terms of how much repair work it does.
Even if the company has videotape of the way the roads looked before construction began, the absence of a civil engineering study of what lay beneath the road is problematic, according to Nathaniel Karns, executive director of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission (BRPC). Severe damage to the road base could have been done or will be done — the trucks carrying heavy pipe haven't even arrived yet — that as Mr. Karns pointed out, won't be cured by a coat of asphalt.
It is worrisome that Tennessee Gas backed out of a $1 million "community benefits agreement" and a "road-use agreement," both drafted in 2015, the day before a special town meeting was held to authorize Ms. Boyd to sign them. (Mr. Wheatley had no comment as to why the company bailed.) The town should request the three- or four-year surety agreement from Kinder-Morgan suggested by the BRPC so problems with the roads or road base can be addressed as they emerge with time.
Sandisfield, of course, doesn't have the clout or the money to go toe-to-toe with a corporation like Kinder-Morgan — but the state does. The office of Attorney General Maura Healey has been in contact with Kinder-Morgan to request its provide the financial support Sandisfield is do. It is encouraging that Governor Baker, asked about the road situation at an editorial board meeting with The Eagle last week, promised that his office would both look at the roads and ask the Department of Transportation to make sure that Tennessee Gas fulfills its obligations to the town. This should also apply to any neighboring towns whose roads are being used by Tennessee Gas trucks as they travel to the state forest from the Massachusetts Turnpike.
If road culverts are collapsing because of gas pipeline traffic, as appears to be the case in Sandisfield, and if the underpinnings of roads give way, which may happen in the near future, Kinder-Morgan is responsible for making repairs in full. The office of the governor and attorney general are in turn obligated to do whatever is necessary to make sure that responsibility is met.
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