Land Trust to Gov: No pipeline on protected land
Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust is asking Gov. Deval Patrick to assure that the path of a planned natural gas pipeline is kept off all state-owned and state-protected conservation land.
“Land protected for long-term public health and conservation purposes must not be sacrificed for short-term private financial gain,” Mount Grace Executive Director Leigh Youngblood wrote to Patrick this week regarding Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co.’s exploration of a route for a 175-mile pipeline from Wright, N.Y., to Dracut, through Conway, Shelburne, Deerfield, Montague, Erving, Northfield, Warwick and Orange.
“Mount Grace adamantly opposes compromising public or private conservation land with an unnecessary, rashly proposed and environmentally detrimental scheme that includes exporting our nation’s natural resources in a manner that sacrifices our own economic and energy interests,” she wrote in the March 11 letter that was copied to state environmental officials, area members of Congress and members of the state legislative delegation.
The Athol-based land trust, whose work is concentrated primarily in the Mount Grace region and has helped protect 27,000 acres, has learned recently from owners of property protected with conservation restrictions that they have been approached by right-of-way agents wanting to survey their private land.
“These landowners were specifically told that conservation protections on their land are not an obstacle to the feasibility of placing the pipeline through their land using provisions of eminent domain,” she wrote.
Youngblood calls on Patrick to “please take every step possible to uphold and honor the Massachusetts Constitution,” including Article 97: “The people shall have the right to clean air and water, freedom from excessive and unnecessary noise, and the natural, scenic, historic, and aesthetic qualities of their environment ...”
Article 97 requires a two-thirds vote by the state Legislature to allow the taking of any lands or easements taken or acquired for conservation by the state.
Area legislators, who met last week with representatives from Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co.’s owners were assured that the company, which is in the early stages of planning a 30-inch diameter “Northeast Expansion” to carry natural gas, plans to abide by all state and local environmental laws, including Article 97.
Rep. Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington, said after that meeting that he believes such a two-thirds vote by both chambers would be a difficult hurdle in many cases.
Youngblood said that based on cursory maps she has seen, “many of the areas being crossed are large forest blocks,” and there are wetlands that would be impacted as well.
“These are the uplands,” she said. “We anticipate that construction would involve blasting in some areas, and blasting is not an intended conservation use. There’s also the known leakiness of gas pipelines, which puts toxic elements on the land.”
The lines on the maps she’s seen go through the state-owned Wildlife Management Area, and would also pass through the Northfield-Erving-Warwick State Forest and “dozens and dozens of conservation areas.”
Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition, representing 130 member land trusts, wrote a similar letter to Patrick and other state officials on Feb. 25 expressing its “deep concern” about the issue.
Calling Patrick “an incredible champion for land conservation” in the state, protecting over 100,000 acres during his tenure, Coalition President Richard K. Hubbard of Franklin Land Trust, with Executive Director Charles E. Knox, urges him “to defend your legacy and the extraordinary investment in decades of land protection by forcing Tennessee Gas to seek alternative routes for its proposed pipeline using existing right-of-ways, including transportation corridors, and to avoid at all costs, and under all circumstances, public and privately owned conservation land.”
You can reach Richie Davis at email@example.com or 413-772-0261, Ext. 269