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Gas Pipeline

Andrews opposes pipeline project

ORANGE — Rep. Denise Andrews, D-Orange, says she’s opposed to the gas pipeline that’s been planned to cross Franklin County and the North Quabbin region and would be willing to get arrested to stop it.

Andrews, the first area legislator to publicly come out in opposition to the proposal, shared her concerns with a gathering of more than 100 pipeline opponents at a meeting last week in Athol, where the town Conservation Commission has since voted to rescind permission for Kinder Morgan surveyors to access a town-owned conservation parcel to examine that section of the pipeline route.

“The priority ought to be conservation, reduction, efficiency, renewables, and then the more challenging energy resources,” said Andrews. “To have a pipeline come through, with compression stations and the upset to the environment, to provide for either the city of Boston or to export, I don’t think we should be doing that — especially export, no way. I’ll do everything I can to represent the people who don’t want it and see if we can not get it through here.”

The Tennessee Gas Pipeline’s 179-mile “Northeast Expansion” project between Wright, N.Y., and Dracut, would cross parts of Erving, Northfield, Warwick, Orange, Athol and Royalston, as well as Ashfield, Conway, Shelburne, Deerfield and Montague on a path that Kinder Morgan spokesmen say is still preliminary.

Bruce Winn of the Berkshire Environmental Action Team told last week’s gathering that the pipeline is not needed, suggesting that renewable sources could be expanded instead.

Andrews said her opposition is based in part on concerns about the environmental impacts of hydrofracking natural gas from shale, “even though the fracking is not in Massachusetts, it’s still our environment.” And she raised concerns about the environmental effects of potential leaks as well as “uprooting and destruction” caused by laying the pipeline, especially if the direct benefit is not to the North Quabbin region.

Andrews, also a nuclear power opponent, was arrested during a 2012 protest at Vermont Yankee headquarters in Brattleboro, Vt., with trespass charges later dropped.

“There are a lot of roles for activism and leadership, including really putting it on the line and saying, ‘No, we’re not doing that.’ Part of what makes this country great is we can exercise a lot of different forms of protest. I’m willing to do that. If we can’t call it in this section, I don’t know who is going to lead this kind of work.”

The Athol Conservation Commission, after hearing the arguments of landowners and area residents concerned about the pipeline route coming through the northern portion of town, voted 6-0 on Tuesday to rescind its permission for Kinder Morgan agents to do sampling and survey work in the 30-to-40-acre town-owned Neale Conservation Area in the northeastern part of town.

“It was not a good scenario,” commission Chairman Robert Muzzy said of the possibility of the pipeline route coming through the protected part of a network of water-rich areas in the North Quabbin region. “We didn’t have that information before.”

Earlier this month, Turners Falls Water Commissioners refused to take similar action on water district property near Lake Pleasant, but Ashburnham Selectmen voted to rescind permission to survey property in that town. Montague selectmen have not granted access to town-owned property, although a Kinder Morgan spokesman told the board recently that, if necessary, the company can petition the state Department of Public Utilities to gain access to parcels denied for survey work.

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

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