Environmentalists located in counties along the proposed new natural gas line route across northern Massachusetts are preparing to oppose the development known as the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Plan.
According to a letter received by Shelburne Selectman John Payne on Jan. 8, the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company wants to upgrade its existing system. Proposed actions include pipeline expansion, additional meter stations and modifications to the company’s already existent faculties.
“In response to the increasing demand for natural gas and related transmission services into the Northeast,” the letter said, “Tennessee [Gas Pipeline Company] is proposing the Northeast Expansion Project to upgrade its existing pipeline system within New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire. As configured, the proposed project will result in the construction of approximately 250 miles of new pipeline.”
The project overview predicts the gas pipeline will create at least 3,000 jobs during the peak construction period and be up and running in time for the 2018 winter heating season if everything runs smoothly. The project overview stated “outreach meetings,” along with route selection processes and permit preparations, are ongoing. If everything goes according to plan, construction will begin in April 2017.
However, in recent weeks, the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company has contacted landowners along tentative routes in the Berkshires, seeking permission to do survey work. This supposed route would go from New York to Richmond, passing through Lenox as well as other towns in the Berkshires. The route would also make its way through Franklin and Hampshire counties.
With this recent local attention, negative aspects of the project have been brought to the attention of the community. The large, new gas reserves the company plans on employing for the pipeline are going to be using gas extracted by the controversial method of hydraulic fracturing, colloquially known as fracking. While this method costs less, environmentalists argue that fracking causes unacceptable environmental damage to water supplies and releases excessive quantities of methane into the atmosphere. Fracking involves the injection of water and chemicals under high pressure into underground rock formations to release trapped gas.
Bruce Winn, president of the Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT), has voiced his negative opinion on the proposed project. “We don’t want fracked gas,” Winn said. “It is not a selling point with us.”
Other major concerns include the gas line industry’s history of gas line leaks and the related problems that might would cause. Additionally, the pipeline is supposed to run through sensitive areas like wetlands that would not respond well to construction
or to the environmental dangers of fracking.
While members of the Berkshire community who share these negative views of the pipeline are not yet taking collective action, many individuals have publically expressed concerns over the proposed construction to keep as many people informed as possible.
Rosemary Wessel of Cummington, for example, recently formed the website www.nofrackedgasinmass.org with a few other citizens. Wessel posts information about the gas line project and hopes to keep residents informed about the progress of the proposal in the coming months.
Other than the desire to keep fracked gas out of Massachusetts, Wessel said the group has concerns about wetlands, farmland and forest areas in the projected pathway. “We are against this pipeline and favor alternative forms of energy,” Wessel said.
While the plan to build through the Berkshire area is still speculative, individuals like Winn and Wessel, as well as many other concerned Berkshire community members, are looking to mobilize and express their concerns with the project.