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Gas Pipeline

Pipeline spurs joint meeting

GREENFIELD — The proposed Tennessee Gas pipeline will be the subject of what’s believed to be the first meeting of its kind of the Franklin Regional Planning Board and Franklin Regional Council of Governments Thursday.

The 7 p.m. meeting, with a presentation by Kinder Morgan Energy Partners Public Affairs Director Allen Fore, will be for COG and Planning Board members and a limited number of town officials because of space limitations at the John W. Olver Transit Center.

“We wanted to get as many stakeholders as we could at one meeting because there are a limited number of those meetings that Kinder Morgan will be coming out to,” said COG Executive Committee Chair Bill Perlman of Ashfield, who will co-chair what’s scheduled to be a 75-minute meeting in a conference room that can accommodate about 100.

Kinder Morgan is the parent corporation of Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co., which is planning to construct a 179-mile natural gas pipeline from Wright, N.Y., to Dracut, potentially crossing nine Franklin County towns as well as parts of Berkshire, Worcester, Middlesex and Essex counties.

There has been no formal filing yet with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and Kinder Morgan insist that plans for the pipeline, on which they hope to begin construction three years from now, are preliminary.

“The COG and the (regional) Planning Board could be fairly key players in this,” Perlman said. “The executive committee had an interest, as did the planning board and the council as a whole, so we invited everybody.”

At the same time, he said, organizers of the meeting see it as purely informational, so they wanted to prevent the session from becoming a protest where people could attack company officials.

Perlman said he can’t recall a joint meeting of the two boards since the COG began nearly 17 years ago.

The meetings of both boards, which have a combined membership of nearly 100, will be opened up to noncouncil members as space allows in the 100-person capacity conference room allows. Those interested need to sign up on a waiting list by emailing info@frcog.org, mentioning what town they’re from and what municipal board they represent. The meeting will be taped by Greenfield Community Television for viewing by those unable to attend.

But Perlman explained, “We don’t want a meeting where people are attacking people and putting them on the defensive.”

Regional Plannning Director Peggy Sloan said, “We don’t know if we’ll have space problems or not. We thought about having it at another location, and we thought about having a live feed to another location,” but that didn’t seem like it would be possible or practical.

Following a presentation by Fore, the meeting will allow 40 minutes of questions in a forum moderated by Perlman and COG Executive Director Linda Dunlavy.

Neither the COG nor the regional planning board have taken a position on the project, which has come under fire from a variety of groups who question the benefit it would have for the region, have environmental and safety concerns about the pipeline and object to it transporting natural gas that’s been hydrofracked from Pennsylvania shale, which critics say contributes to climate change and detracts from efforts to promote renewable energy.

As the regional planning agency for Franklin County, where the pipeline would cross Ashfield, Conway, Shelburne, Deerfield, Montague, Erving, Northfield, Warwick and Orange, the regional planning board is expected to articulate its own critique of issues affecting the region, including the pipeline project when is reviewed under the National Environmental Policy Act and other federal and state processes.

Editor’s Note: This story has been changed from an earlier version that contained incorrect information.

You can reach Richie Davis at rdavis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, Ext. 269

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