Former DCR head working for pipeline co.

Last modified: 11/11/2015 9:59:21 AM
Among the Kinder Morgan representatives greeting visitors to Wednesday night’s open house in Northfield, some visitors were surprised to see Jack Murray, who served as state Department of Conservation and Recreation commissioner under the Patrick administration.

Murray became commissioner in June 2013 after serving as deputy commissioner with the agency, which among other functions oversees the state’s network of parks and forests.

Rosemary Wessel of the pipeline opposition group No Fracked Gas in Mass was among those who spoke with Murray, who was dressed in his blue shirt embroidered with “Kinder Morgan” over its left pocket.

“It definitely seems strange,” said Wessel, who said Murray told her that he’s been working about eight weeks as a spokesman for the company that is proposing to build a roughly 415-mile natural gas pipeline from Pennsylvania to Dracut, north of Lowell.

“He was interested to hear what our objections are — environmental, landowner rights, threats to waterways? I told him, ‘Yes, it’s all those things. But the overriding thing is that for all the risk, there’s no need for it.’ He definitely seemed sincere about hearing the other side.”

Murray told Wessel that he’s sequestered from the aspect of the company’s proposed projects that involves gaining approval to use state-protected lands under Article 97 of the state constitution, to which she and other people engaged in conversation with him responded, “By working for the company, you’re part of the process.”

Under Chapter 268A of the state’s general laws, Section 5, former state employees are barred for one year after leaving state employment “from personally appearing before any agency of the state in connection with matters that were under their authority in their prior state positions during the two years before they left.”

The state Legislature, which would have to approve by a two-thirds vote a change in use of state protected lands, is scheduled to air its first Article 97 bill in a committee hearing involving a parcel in the Berkshire County town of Sandisfield, on Nov. 10. That legislation, for Kinder Morgan’s Connecticut Expansion Project through Berkshire County is seen by many as a harbinger of measures to come before the Legislature in coming years on NED, which would affect eight Franklin County towns.

Kinder Morgan spokesman Steve Crawford said in a written statement that Murray is Kinder Morgan’s northeast director of public affairs, joining the company at the end of August.

“Prior to his employment, he sought and received an opinion from the Massachusetts Ethics Commission for his work at Kinder Morgan throughout the northeast region and in Massachusetts. In accordance with ethics guidelines, he will have no formal contact with his former agency for up to a year from his departure date with the state or work on any Article 97 issues as they relate to the Connecticut Expansion Project.”

​Crawford added that the Ethics Commission advised Murray that it would be OK to work on the Northeast Energy Direct project and issues related to it, but would not be OK for him to have contact with his former agency for a year.

Michael Pill, a Shutesbury attorney representing Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust, which is tracking the Article 97 issue because dozens of protected parcels are along the route through Massachusetts, said of Murray’s role, “Even if it’s legal, it’s morally disgraceful and reprehensible. What the man is clearly doing is trading the knowledge and connections he’s made in the public sector. Kinder Morgan thinks they have an inside man ... They need some kind of political insider who hopefully for them will dampen the widespread public outrage” over the pipeline project.

Murray’s situation is hardly an anomaly, since there are numerous former state officials who have taken positions working on energy projects for various companies. For example, former state Environmental Protection Commissioner Robert W. Golledge, Jr., who worked in the Romney administration and left in January 2007, is a consultant to the company on permitting issues, according to Crawford.

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




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