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Mass/My Turn: Case for the pipeline

I have not jumped on the Stop-the-Pipeline bandwagon. Why? I am confident that there is a real and immediate need. All six New England governors declared a regional need. Locally, Berkshire Gas has testified that Franklin County has the most critical need. In addition to Berkshire Gas, 11 other gas companies have already subscribed to the pipeline, based on known need.

Berkshire Gas estimates capacity to provide approximately only 150 dekatherms of additional natural gas to the entire county. A dekatherm serves the average residential natural gas user for heat and hot water. Commercial and industrial users need substantially more to heat larger spaces and in their production process. That 150 dekatherms accounts for the Kennametal expansion, but not the New England Natural Bakers expansion. It does not contemplate development of the Lunt Silversmith property or any other future commercial or industrial use. Because Greenfield is at the end of the lateral spur for the current full capacity pipeline, proposals to take the pipeline along the Massachusetts Turnpike would stifle Franklin County economic growth far into the future. The last gas line expansion serving Franklin County was in the 1980s.

Simply put, the proposed pipeline means jobs.

Yes, it means very important and high-paying construction jobs for the Laborers Local 596. It also means jobs at the expanding employee-owed New England Natural Bakers. It means jobs at an expanding Argotec, at a redeveloped Lunt Silver Smith and at a desperate UMass-Amherst. It means jobs at many developments that have not even been contemplated. All that development creates even more construction jobs. The pipeline is not only a pipeline for natural gas, but it is a pipeline for new construction and jobs.

Natural gas is critical to development because developers are keenly aware of energy costs. In today’s global environment, business has the ability to easily relocate to areas where energy, labor and taxes are low. Massachusetts has a competitive advantage with a highly trained work force. But companies attract our best and brightest out of state to where there is a lower cost of living. This is why Massachusetts continues to lose population. To attract business, we must continue to provide a total picture that is competitive with Texas and North Carolina.

My friends say that we should do more energy conservation. I agree. Massachusetts already leads the country in energy conservation. We don’t do that because we are enlightened or altruistic, but because the electricity costs are so high. Massachusetts has one of the highest energy costs in the country.

Despite our continuing conservation efforts, electricity will continue to go up. It rises because Vermont Yankee is shutting down. We also shut down coal- and oil-fired plants not meeting new EPA standards. When supply goes down, price goes up. This pipeline can slow the rise in our electric bills.

My friends say “use more renewables.” I agree. However, the land required for solar and turbines to meet our needs would swallow our local farms and destroy the landscape we depend upon for tourism. I hope for a day when scientists develop methods to harness more energy safely and efficiently. But until the world builds a better mouse trap, we have to use the ones we have.

Concerns about hydraulic fracturing are reasonable. Right now, over 60 percent of natural gas in Massachusetts is fracked. Within five years, it will be over 90 percent, whether the pipeline comes or not, because of the proximity of the Marcelles Shale. While I have concerns about fracking, I am more concerned about our dependency on foreign oil and how it puts our country in global jeopardy. For years, I have heard the same opponents to the pipeline lament wars for foreign oil. Without this pipeline, we will be more dependent on foreign oil.

Additionally trucking or shipping oil by rail is much more dangerous than an underground pipeline. We are far more likely to see an oil spill, derailment or explosion than we are to see problems with natural gas. Fracking presents serious environmental problems, but so does deep sea oil drilling, topping mountains for coal, clear-cutting forests for biomass, eating up farmland for solar and vibrations from wind. If we want to stop fracking, the way to do that is through federal regulation and not by opposing the pipeline that we sorely need.

This does not mean that we should approve of the pipeline proposal hook, line and sinker. We should be actively involved in making sure it is done in the right way. We need to demand that Kinder Morgan mitigates local environmental impacts. We need to reroute a proposed pipeline around the Clarkdale fruit farm. And we need to ensure taxpayers do not foot the bill.

But just saying “no” is not enough.

Isaac Mass is an at-large member of the Greenfield Town Council.

Good Point! Mr. Mass also feels that big box stores will help the local economy: right, close local businesses and buy from China while contributing to an entity that pays nearly nothing in taxes, and whose employees are paid so poorly that we subsidize their healthcare and food stamps. Way to go Mr. Mass . . . about as much of a poorly infomred fossil as could be imagined. God, look at Holyoke . . . they are attracting clean energy businesses and redeveloping their city with creative use of green energy. that's the kind of thinking we should be seeing from leadership in Greenfield.

Also: "However, the land required for solar and turbines to meet our needs would swallow our local farms and destroy the landscape we depend upon for tourism." Sooo, the answer is to build a pipeline that will swallow our local farms and destroy the landscape, and also be obsolete in 10-15 years and be much more poisonous and polluting than turbines or solar panels? Mr. Mass needs a course in critical thinking.

Jobs?? Ha! Yeah, for maybe a few months, and only if a few Greenfield residents happen to be in the local pipefitters union - I hear in PA these union members would often be from 2 hours away as they worked through various locations, they weren't local. And let's not forget the jobs that go away when half of Clarkdale's crop is destroyed so an ex-Enron billionaire can make a few more million before he heads to Hades. These are short-term jobs - show me an area where the economy has blossomed due to a natural gas pipeline and maybe I'll believe you, but this is all about exports (why else would they be building so over-capacity?) - Greenfield and Massachusetts are barely going to benefit, but we will be paying for both the construction and the inevitable clean-up costs while Kinder Morgan reaps all the foreign profits. Gee what a great deal! We are new to town but very much looking forward to next town council election to vote Mr. Mass out of office; his ideology blinds him to common sense and long-term thinking. He's not right for Greenfield, or the 21st century. I can't believe that any politician falls for this stuff these days with 150 years of fossil fuel slash-and-burn-business history to refer to; it's not that hard to figure out their business model is based on exploitation. Just look at Louisiana - oh how that state has just blossomed these past decades with all their pipelines...

Here's a few more facts to chew on: Gas investments deliberately lobbied to insure that repairs to leaking pipelines that bilk ratepayers of of 1.5 BILLION dollars in gas every year, won't have to be fixed for twenty years. Gas investments gouged the area for prices on the spot market. Gas investments purchased Brayton Point and took it off line five weeks later. Gas investments purchased Northeast Utilities, so now Nstar provides all "information" about energy needs: they posted profits all during the merger, by the way. Gas investments reported that "companies were forced to close" during winter, when in fact a subsequently illegal program prearranged this as an incentive: this was the subject of litigation, but was mischaracterized in the news. Sorry folks, but business owners and well-meaning, but really uninformed individuals in our state, are really being duped big time, and the future for our state in all of this is quite grim.

Sadly you are missing a great many facts. The only study done to date indicated a regional need for the forseeable future of .6 bcf. The pipeline proposed for the northern half of our state is 2.2 bcf. That is considerably more gas than the region will ever use. AND there is another pipeline along our Eastern Seaboard that is 2.5 bcf. Then there is the expansion of the existing southern pipeline that seeks to increase: so we've moved from a "need" of .6bcf- yes, that's point six, to 5.0 bcf. There are also lateral pipelines planned all over this state, so that we become a shipping and holding grid for Marcellus gas. Extra radioactive Marcellus gas. (Resnikoff, 2012) They are trying to take more private property from Massachusetts than could ever be necessary for any actual need. 3000 part time jobs? The immediate costs to small businesses and families will be another giant wealth transfer to the .01%, and those jobs will cost everyone an enormous amount of money: especially given the effect on housing and property values all over state. Gas is not ever going to be cheap: we will pay billions now, and especially when we're competing with world markets for gas we already subsidize. (Yes, the Northeast is more populated, so we pay more to subsidize: but get gouged by gas investment interests) Here we go again! This case is being ginned up for that reason, and these pipelines are seeking to locate in ALL of our water areas.

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