Pipeline protest walk begins Monday
To halt the flow of natural gas through a proposed pipeline from Pennsylvania fracking fields through Berkshire County and Franklin County to Dracut, north of Lowell, opponents of the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. project plan a “relay resistance walk” along the Massachusetts route, beginning Monday in Richmond, on the New York border.
The proposed pipeline route includes Ashfield, Conway, Shelburne, Deerfield, Montague, Erving, Northfield, Warwick and Orange.
The “Pipeline Resistance Relay Walk,” designed to call attention to the project, was organized by a variety of groups opposed to the $4 billion project, for which TGP and its parent company, Kinder Morgan, plan to file a pre-application in September with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission seeking expedited environmental review and to have the pipeline operational on Nov. 1, 2018.
Each day’s walk will average six to eight miles, according to organizers.
With a baton to symbolize the pipeline itself being handed off from residents at the eastern end of each town to those in the next town, participants plan to begin their walk in Richmond, followed by a walk in Pittsfield. The walk will reach Franklin County at the Ashfield-Plainfield line on Thursday and gradually the action will work its way toward Dracut, with a conclusion in Boston on July 29 or 30 to deliver to state legislators a petition calling for a ban on any new pipelines in the state.
On Thursday, the walkers will meet to start the Ashfield segment on Watson Road and head toward Bear Swamp, down Hawley Road and across Route 112 into the center of town, where it will become a parade involving children with parents as well as seniors, either on foot or on a hay wagon. Participants will continue along Baptist Corner Road toward Conway, with a traditional “Cleansing and Protection” ceremony by women after the relay pipe has been passed on to Conway marchers. The Northeastern Woodland Indigenous People’s Healing and Protection Ceremony, offered “to cleanse and protect” the power line area just east of Shelburne Falls Road where project opponents say TGP has plans to construct a compressor station involving 10 to 20 acres.
No photographs will be allowed during the sacred ceremony, according to organizers.
On July 11, the Conway walk is scheduled to transition to the Shelburne segment at Bardwells Ferry Bridge, and it will continue to Deerfield, ending at Clarkdale Fruit Farm in Deerfield, where a musical event is planned as well as tours of the farm and an “images in Peril” and art photograph installation depicting areas that would be altered by the pipeline.
A walk to the Greenfield Town Common is planned to begin July 12 at Clarkdale, followed by a walk south on Routes 5 and 10 the Cheapside Bridge. The following day, the procession will continue across the bike trail bridge to cross the Connecticut River into Montague and through the Montague Plains to Route 63 bridge at Millers Falls into Erving.
Montague walkers will pass the baton to Erving walkers at the bridge and walk under the French King Bridge as far as the Riverview Picnic Area.
The walk will continue there July 14 and walk nine miles over the mountain, joining Erving walkers for all or part of the route and ending at Laurel Lake.
The walk is scheduled for July 15 in Orange and for Athol on July 16.
“People have been asking us since February and March, ‘When do we storm the Statehouse?” said Rosemary Wessel of No Fracked Gas in Mass. “This is a way to include all the towns along the way and eventually end up in Boston to deliver the petitions,” calling for a ban on new gas pipelines and for focusing instead on energy conservation and renewable energy.
Organizers have collected more than 10,000 signatures on the petitions, said Wessel.
The walk has been organized by No Fracked Gas in Mass., the North Quabbin Pipeline Action Group, Stop the Pipeline Coordinating Committee and others, teaming up with existing groups such as Berkshire Environmental Action Team and the Mount Grace Conservation Land Trust, to protest the environmental damage to wetlands, conservation areas, state and town forests .
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