Protesters ‘die-in’ against pipeline, hundreds come out for dueling info meetings in Northfield

Last modified: 11/23/2015 2:17:39 PM
NORTHFIELD — The banner read, “Kinder Morgan — a dying business.”

On Thursday night at Northfield Elementary School’s dueling pipeline information sessions, approximately 40 people laid down on the gymnasium floor and enacted silent and peaceful death representing the amount of people the project could kill. The protesters’ main goal was to remind Kinder Morgan representatives and those in favor of the pipeline that the proposed Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co.’s Northeast Energy Direct Project — slated to go into operation in 2017 — is unwanted in Franklin County and surrounding areas.

“This demonstrates the stark reality of what this pipeline represents,” Northfield resident Steve Stoia announced to the gymnasium crowd.

The 400-mile-long, 30-inch-diameter natural gas pipeline is expected to pass through eight Franklin County towns as it carries a projected 1.2 billion cubic feet of gas from Wright, N.Y., to Dracut each day.

Deerfield resident Becky Clark participated in the silent demonstration and said this is one of the many peaceful protests that Kinder Morgan will see if the project is permitted for approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

“We put our bodies where our hearts and minds are,” Clark said. “It will be nonviolent but there will be people protesting from across the county when the bulldozers come.”

Northampton resident Irvine Sobelman traveled from Hampshire County to attend the dueling informational sessions and said she thought it was important to lie down and show her support for the residents who could be affected with the installation of the pipeline and the 41,000-horsepower compressor station slated to sit in Northfield.

“I feel like we are at a significant time and need to stand up — or lie down in this case — to protect our future generations,” Sobelman said. “Research shows that opposition to the pipeline has been cited by natural gas companies as the most significant impediment to their process and it’s our intention to speak the truth and educate people about climate disruption.”

At the same time that Kinder Morgan representatives stood at their numerous poster boards in the gymnasium outlining the project’s advancements thus far and persuading visitors that a natural gas pipeline will benefit the residents, the Selectboard hosted a simultaneous event down the hall in the cafeteria. Individuals from various organizations and businesses including the Northfield Historical Commission, Pipeline Awareness Network for the Northeast and the Northfield Trails Association stood at their designated areas and reminded visitors that the beauty and tranquility of the Pioneer Valley could be lost with the installation of the pipeline.

“Declining tourism will be a huge economic impact and there will be significant deterioration of the environment,” Northfield resident David Thomas said as he stood at his poster board representing Northfield businesses against the pipeline. “From a business standpoint, it’s comical that this is good for the state, it seems like it’s only good for Kinder Morgan.”

“There will be over 3,000 of local union jobs over the entire course of the project,” argued Allen Fore, Kinder Morgan’s vice president of public affairs, as he spoke to why the pipeline would positively impact the region and individual landowners.

“We face a crisis in New England because we pay too much for energy while those south of us pay considerably lower prices,” said Adam Lupino, regional policy coordinator for the Laborers International Union New England regional group. “We have local business owners who say they can’t hire, invest or make more products because their energy bills are too high. This project will support business owners and provide them with lower energy costs.”

Fore added another benefit of the project’s construction. In Northfield, he said, the pipeline is planned to run through 8.5 miles and 32 landowners’ properties and combined will generate $2.35 million back in taxes.

“They would receive that tax based on the pipeline and assets of the compressor station,” he added. “Every landowner will be paid for us to access their property for the construction and operation of the pipeline.”

Many residents in opposition of the pipeline are deeply concerned about the safety of transporting natural gas through pipes. Fore advises each of those who are skeptical of the project to research Kinder Morgan’s history and relationship the company has with landowners, businesses and residents in towns currently under a Kinder Morgan operation, adding that the company is committed to communication and transparency and wants to debunk false information.

“The pipes are made of high-quality steel, have cathodic protection and are inspected through air and foot patrol,” he said. “They are monitored remotely 24/7 and are immediately shut down when a problem is detected on the system.”

The two-hour open house ended at 8 p.m. There wasn’t any civil disobedience like the Selectboard had anticipated as each visitor was checked by Northfield police before entering Kinder Morgan’s session.

“(The Selectboard) attended the session in Windsor last night and we followed their procedures,” Northfield Town Administrator Brian Noble said. “The police checked all bags and made sure nobody was carrying anything that could be threatening to another person. We just wanted to keep everybody safe.”


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