Pressing the governor for pipeline moratorium

Recorder Staff
Published: 10/11/2016 9:44:15 PM

A group of Massachusetts doctors, nurses and other health professionals called on the Baker administration Tuesday to impose an immediate moratorium on development of all pipeline projects and natural gas facilities in the state until a comprehensive health impact assessment can be performed and submitted to federal agencies to address “cumulative health hazards” posed to communities, according to the group.

Massachusetts Health Care Providers Against Fracked Gas, whose members include Northfield registered nurses Karen Chase and Judy Wolter, called on Baker to add a Comprehensive Health Impact Assessment to be added to all environmental assessments and environmental impact statements required by state and federal agencies before development of gas pipelines can be approved.

“Raw methane and contaminants — derived from hydro-fracking and leaked, emitted or released from gas pipelines, distribution and storage facilities — is toxic to humans,” the letter says. “Over the last five years, studies of the adverse health effects of leaking ethane contaminants have developed clear evidence of these effects. Our federal and state regulatory system has remained unresponsive to this public health hazard that is now affecting the health and safety of our patients and our communities.”

Among the pipeline projects mentioned by the group, which developed a “white paper” study of “The Role of Comprehensive Health Impact Assessment in Evaluating Natural Gas Infrastructure Proposals” are Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co.’s Connecticut Expansion Project in southern Berkshire County, Spectra Energy’s Access Northeast, Algonquin Incremental Market and Atlantic Bridge pipelines.

Although the gas pipeline review process by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission requires environmental impact review, there is no such “assessment or evaluation of the potentially dangerous impact on the numerous toxic, carcinogenic and radioactive pollutants these projects produce on the health of the citizens living in these communities,” it says.

According to the group’s February white paper, the typical environmental impact statement “does not consider the human health impacts of the project, and when it does, the analysis is narrow; does not encompass human health in the “description of the affected environment; does not review pertinent medical research and public health studies; and rarely involves health experts and officials or proposes the ‘no action’ alternative or mitigation measures to protect and promote health.”

The health professionals’ group’s call for greater attention to public health impacts comes a month after the Franklin Regional Council of Governments called on the region’s congressional delegation to press for change in the review process for projects like the abandoned Northeast Energy Direct proposal through eight Franklin County towns.

Among a dozen recommendations presented by the COG for changes in the pipeline review process is one to require a public health impact assessment for any pipeline, compressor, metering or venting station or related facilities as part of the review process.

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