Amyot/My Turn: Pipeline politics
When I read that local unions are hoping that the area will welcome the gas pipeline that is being proposed by Kinder Morgan in the hope that the project would provide temporary jobs, I shuddered.
As someone whose family has experienced joblessness several times and, once, for a whole year, I believe I can safely say that I understand the fear, the anxiety, the limitations and the loss-of-face that go with being unemployed.
At the same time, I can categorically say that I enjoy breathing clean air and drinking and swimming in clean water. I love the trees, the forests, the hikes, the farms and their local produce and the incredible and varied creatures with whom we share our environment here in New England.
And I sincerely believe that we do not have to choose between the two.
With the $2.6 billion the New England governors have promised to pay for the construction of this pipeline, I am certain that we could, instead, build renewable energy sites that would provide jobs, not only temporarily, but for years to come.
Those same sites could provide us with most of our energy needs without negatively affecting our environment and without leaving us dependent on fracked gas or any other polluting source of energy.
We know that Kinder Morgan, as their subsidiary Tennessee Gas, is prepared to apply for eminent domain if only a few people resist their efforts. This would mean that they could take private property as well as land that is currently legally protected and in conservation. We know that Tennessee Gas would need to clear up to 150 feet of that land in order to build the pipeline and then would need to maintain about 50 feet of clearance around it indefinitely. We also know that they are prepared to dig into streams and rivers in order to pass their pipeline straight through to Acton.
As you can well imagine, all of this would threaten much of our native wildlife — some of it already in danger of extinction — as well as our waterways and beloved fishing and swimming spots.
The potential dangers of such a pipeline would cause the values of the affected properties to drop drastically, perhaps rendering them unsalable and, in many cases, driving their insurance companies to either drop them or increase their rates astronomically.
What’s more, I fail to see why our hard-earned tax dollars should be used to pay for the construction of said pipeline so that gas could be sent to the coast for export to Europe and elsewhere while our region would gain little or nothing by way of available energy. In addition, Kinder Morgan has told us that we would all be assessed a fee, indefinitely, on our electric bills in order to “pay” for this construction while all its huge profits would go to a private corporation whose profits and CEO compensation are already obscenely over-inflated.
Our nation is full of communities that invited corporations into their midst in the name of jobs and that have since lost whatever quality of life they once knew. Besieged with polluted water sources from such horrors as coal ash or chemicals, air so full of pollutants that countless pregnancies end in miscarriages, babies are born with physical and/or developmental handicaps, children die young and adults die of cancers heretofore unheard of, I strongly suspect that many of these communities would gladly rescind those welcome mats if they only could.
Do we really want to risk so much for the sake of a few temporary jobs?
Among the many things we all have loved about living in New England have been our lovely environment of plentiful trees, abundant rivers and lakes, charming and productive farms with the beautiful vistas they create and the privilege of being able to live in or easily escape to quiet, peaceful and refreshing places. In this day and age, none of these benefits is guaranteed and must be fought for daily, relentlessly, against the possible ravages of the faceless, uncaring, greedy corporations and those folks in government who would do their bidding.
We have a responsibility to ourselves, to our forefathers and, especially to our children and grandchildren to preserve what we have and to ensure its future.
Instead of fighting each other over this important issue, I would encourage all of us to join together in calling on our governors to rescind their pro-gasline vote and to invest those billions, instead, in the future of our region with more of the excellent jobs and clean-energy initiatives they have already begun. We can do this. We only need to understand that our needs are common to all of us and can be safely met with careful forethought and our combined efforts.
Louise Amyot is a 40-year resident of Greenfield, raised her family here, loves the area and considers it home. She is dedicated to keeping it livable for generations to come.