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Gas Pipeline

Pipeline walk to end with Statehouse rally

With a couple of days to rest after their statewide “rolling march” to fight the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. proposal, opponents are gearing up for a Boston rally in front of the Statehouse, where they plan to present two sets of petitions to lawmakers.

The timing, Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., comes just as the House and Senate are about to recess for a month-long vacation. But the proposed pipeline has already drawn opposition from several local lawmakers including state Reps. Paul Mark, D-Peru, Denise Andrews, D-Orange, and Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington, as well as state Sen. Benjamin Downing, D-Pittsfield, and U.S. Rep. James McGovern.

The first petition, carried along the 25-town path of the walk — including the nine towns in Franklin County — calls on Gov. Deval Patrick to rescind his support for a proposed tariff on electric utility customers to pay for TGP’s $4 billion project. That proposal, backed by the six New England governors, is being presented in the form of a petition to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as a way of supporting utility companies’ investment in new gas pipelines and electric transmission lines to the region.

The petition, signed by some of the estimated 1,600 people along the route, asks several questions, including, “Is our need for energy so great that you must promote a project that would erase the tremendous progress you’ve made helping our Commonwealth decrease our greenhouse gas emissions? Is it the role of the taxpayers to subsidize ‘Big Gas,’ the business venture of a multibillion dollar corporation?”

It concludes, “Few leaders, in their lifetimes, ever get the opportunity to make a decision that will change the direction of a nation. The opportunity to stop the spread of fossil fuel infrastructure has been handed to you on a silver platter. As our elected representative and ‘public servant,’ what do you stand for, Governor Patrick? What legacy do you wish to leave behind?”

A second petition, circulated online since March, calls for a ban on construction of new natural gas pipelines in Massachusetts and “to create and enforce more stringent energy efficiency standards and effective subsidies for energy efficiency,” as well as to promote localized, “distributed” energy sources.

That petition, to be presented to Patrick and to the secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs and the state House and Senate, had 10,220 signatures as of noon on Monday. But as an online petition circulated by MoveOn.Org, a national progressive organization, some of those signers listed their addresses as being across the country and as far away as Canada, the United Kingdom, Italy and New Zealand.

Rosemary Wessel of Cummington, one of the rally organizers, said both petitions “are wake-up calls to say, ‘Yes, there are people behind this.’”

In addition to the petitions, a host of speakers are scheduled at the event, including apple grower Ben Clark of Deerfield and landowner Jim Cutler of Ashfield, along with representatives of the environmental groups Toxics Action Center, Clean Water Action, Conservation Law Foundation and Berkshire Environmental Action Team.

Based on the number of buses from Greenfield and other communities that have been requested by town coordinators and the ride share network in place, Wessel said she expects attendance Wednesday to be “well into the hundreds, possibly a thousand or more.”

Local governments have no say over the pipeline and while the state Legislature may have some say over its route, it is the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that is the agency that licenses such interstate energy projects.

The currently proposed route for the 30-inch diameter pipe cuts through Conway, Ashfield, Shelburne, Deerfield, Montague, Erving, Warwick, Orange and Northfield.

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

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