Clancy/My Turn: Don’t let pipeline land here

I am a farmer’s daughter, born and raised in Sunderland, taught to respect the land and to not be wasteful.

My brother and I own our family’s land, much of which is under 61A conservation protection. We rent to local farmers. Even though the proposed Tennessee Gas Pipeline (TGP) will not cross our land, I still have grave concerns about how it will affect this area and want to share with you information and reasons why TGP and its parent company Kinder Morgan should not be allowed to build their expansion pipeline in this beautiful valley.

Kinder Morgan, a $110 billion pipeline conglomerate, is proposing to bury a 36-inch diameter pipe below ground through private property, farmland, commercial orchards, State and local land trusts conservation land, protected environmentally sensitive land, woodlands and under the Connecticut River 179 miles from Richmond to Dracut.

Cost estimate is $2.6 billion. A 100-foot-wide swath would be clear cut for the huge cranes to lower the pipe simultaneously to avoid damaging it. Because our area has 10 or fewer houses per mile, the pipe can be a Class 1 (least effective coating against corrosion and leakage, thus more cost effective). More densely populated areas require a higher class level since loss to health/life due to pipeline failure could be higher (more liability against Kinder Morgan). Is our health and safety less valuable than those of folks who live closer to each other?

Farmers whose land is bisected by the pipeline will not be allowed to run their farm machinery over the line to avoid damaging it. Clarkdale Orchards stands to lose countless apple and peach trees. Homeowners may face problems with property values, mortgages and/or insurance coverage. Since the pipeline carries hazardous materials, property values will decrease. If the value dips below the outstanding loan, or the mortgage is shaky, the loan may be called in. Home insurance may not cover losses or injury to others if there is a pipeline accident.

We all will be paying in losses if there is a disaster, even if the pipeline doesn’t cross our property. A disaster will call on towns’ emergency responders straining already stretched budgets. The Conservation Law Foundation has reported that the New England governors have had closed-door meetings with electric and gas utility companies to devise a plan to pass on the cost of projects like the proposed pipeline onto electric customers in the form of a tariff. If this happens, Kinder Morgan (remember it’s worth $110 billion) will lay down a $2.6 billion pipeline for FREE.

The natural gas will be extracted from the ground in Pennsylvania by fracking, a very controversial and environmentally disruptive process. Fracking flushes out the gas along with several impurities, including methane and radioactive substances. Before the gas is released into the pipeline, an apparatus called a “pig” is sent through to clear out these impurities. There is little control over how and where these impurities are disposed. It’s possible this could be near farmland, ground water or rivers and reservoirs.

Since the pipeline is 179 miles long, it will require compressor stations to push the gas along, one of which is proposed on the Conway/Ashfield border. The fans to cool the heat generated by the compression are enormous and very noisy. If there were an explosion, the heat signature is intense enough to ignite homes close by not even touched by flames or sparks. Methane could be released by the relief valves requiring the area to be evacuated. The expenses of these emergency responses would be borne by the towns, not Kinder Morgan.

The benefits and profits from this proposed expansion pipeline are overwhelmingly tipped in Kinder Morgan’s favor while we and our towns will bear the majority of the risks. No one is saying what happens to the gas once it reaches Dracut. Will anyone in these towns have access to this gas? Will it be sold on the open market or overseas, where Kinder Morgan could get higher profits? Also there is no guarantee that local workers will be hired to build the pipeline.

If you’re worried about whether this gas is necessary for our energy uses, consider this: A conservation group has calculated that $2.6 billion would cover the cost of putting solar electric panels on 100,000 homes, which could be fossil-free and self-sufficient. Or that amount could be spent on reinforcing and plugging leaks in existing pipelines to handle this compression pipeline.

Finally, if every homeowner got an energy audit and followed the recommendations for conservation and efficiency, and considered installing solar, we probably wouldn’t be talking about this pipeline because we would not need more energy.

Please get involved with your community to oppose this pipeline. Sign petitions, attend town meetings, read newspaper articles, attend presentations, write to your legislators. Good luck to all of you working on this cause now and in the future.

Reenie (Irene Grybko) Clancy is a South Deerfield resident.

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