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Northampton joins opposition to Tennessee Gas Pipeline

NORTHAMPTON — The city became the 12th community in western Massachusetts to take a stand against a proposed natural gas pipeline in the region when the City Council approved a resolution Thursday highlighting the project’s potential dangers and encouraging further investment in green and renewable energy.

The resolution’s chief sponsor, Ward 3 City Councilor Ryan R. O’Donnell, said it is vital for Northampton to join many of its Hilltown neighbors in speaking out against the northeast expansion of the Tennessee Gas Pipeline. While acknowledging the resolution is nonbinding, O’Donnell said it is important to remind politicians who may rule on the pipeline that many of their constituents believe it’s a bad idea.

“The resolution is not just the right thing to do, but it is the only thing to do,” O’Donnell said.

The measure was approved 8-0, with Ward 5 City Councilor David A. Murphy abstaining.

The proposed route of the 179-mile pipeline proposed by Kinder Morgan Co. would cut through Plainfield and nine Franklin County towns, including Deerfield, between the New York border and Dracut.

In addition to going through scenic forests and under the Connecticut River, the pipeline would transport natural gas obtained through hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” This drilling method can cause potential for ground-water contamination and have negative impacts on air quality, among other concerns, the resolution states.

“Pipelines of this kind carry inherent risks such as leaks and ruptures, and, as conveyors of flammable gas, can cause accidents,” the resolution states, noting one such 2010 accident in California that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.

Ward 2 City Councilor Paul D. Spector said that not only would the pipeline transport natural gas that the region does not need and would not use, but its construction would also undermine many of the positive steps the city and region have taken in recent years in the areas of energy efficiency.

“This is a gas we don’t need, done with a process we don’t approve of,” Spector said.

He also said the city and this region must be leaders when it comes to decisions that involve climate change. Spector pointed out that while Kinder Morgan promotes the pipeline as a new energy source for the region that is better than oil, its own study concluded that the gas would not be needed if the region continues its support for renewable energy resources.

City Council President William H. Dwight, a co-sponsor of the resolution, agreed the region will benefit much more by “doing what we are doing” than by a new pipeline. “We will incur no benefits but all of the liabilities,” he added.

The impetus for the project began last winter when the six New England governors called for more gas pipeline capacity in hopes of leveling out natural gas prices. Kinder Morgan representatives have said in recent weeks that the company has not determined whether to bring the project forward for permitting through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and multiple state agencies. Construction would not begin until 2017 at the earliest.

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