LWVA Members Attend Greenfield DPU Hearing on Proposed Pipeline

At least a dozen LWVA members attended a lengthy, four-hour-plus hearing sponsored by the Department of Public Utilities at the Greenfield Middle School on June 11, 2015. Following a request by Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, the hearing was scheduled to allow citizens in Western Massachusetts the opportunity to publically comment on the petition by Berkshire Gas for approval of a long-term supply agreement with Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co., the developer of the proposed Northeast Energy Direct pipeline (NED). The proposed 430-mile pipeline route would traverse Berkshire, Franklin and Hampshire counties, including 8 towns in Franklin County and Plainfield in Hampshire County. NED would bring natural gas from Pennsylvania to increase the supply of natural gas in New England.

The 650-seat auditorium was packed, and opponents of the Berkshire Gas application and the proposed NED pipeline overwhelmingly dominated this highly charged hearing. About 100 speakers, including many elected officials, expressed their strong opposition, raising major questions about the need for the pipeline, the negative environmental impact, health risks, and various engineering concerns. Many comments focused on the observation that most of the gas would be exported. Two speakers spoke emotionally about their houses being essentially “condemned” by their proximity to proposed compressors. A substantial number of negative comments were directed to Berkshire Gas for its recent moratorium on new customers “until such time as new interstate pipeline capacity is built.”

Alice Swift read a statement on behalf of LWVA.

As Stan Rosenberg observed at our Legislative Reception the following day (photo at left), only the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has the authority to decide whether or not the pipeline can be built. A decision is expected within the next 15 months. Neither the state DPU nor local authorities and commissions can effectively reject the pipeline or alter its route.

Kay Fite