Locals cheer suspension news

  • Jinx Hastings, left, and Holly Lovelace, right, embrace a friend arriving to celebrate the halting of the Tennessee Gas Co. pipeline project on Gulf Road in Northfield Wednesday evening. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Jinx Hastings, left, and Holly Lovelace, right, embrace a friend arriving to celebrate the halting of the Tennessee Gas Co. pipeline project on Gulf Road in Northfield Wednesday evening. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Holly Lovelace puts a blue X on the anti-pipeline sign that was in front of her Northfield home. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Holly Lovelace, center, is all smiles as her neighbors and supporters arrive to celebrate the halting of the pipeline. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Supporters gather for a group picture during an impromptu celebration at 518 Gulf Road in Northfield at the Lovelace home near where the planned gas compressor was to be built. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Ben Clark, left, Becky Clark, Deerfield Selectman Carolyn Shores Ness and Tom Clark celebrate the announced suspension of the Northeast Energy Direct project Wednesday evening. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Published: 4/20/2016 11:22:39 PM

NORTHFIELD — “This is what I’ve been hoping and praying for, for more than a year, that this might actually happen,” said a jubilant Holly Lovelace. “That they would go away.”

Lovelace lives on Gulf Road in Northfield, not far from where a large-scale gas compressor station was expected to be built to help push 1.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas along a proposed 30-inch diameter pipeline, the Northeast Energy Direct, each day.

But on Wednesday, Lovelace received the news she and hundreds of other area residents had been hoping to hear for the better part of two years: the project has been suspended “in its current configuration,” according to energy giant Kinder Morgan, the pipeline’s Houston-based developer.

The company cited a lack of customers to purchase the gas it would have transported from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale fields to Dracut, north of Lowell, as the main factor driving its decision. It attributed that to the current low-price market conditions for the commodity.

Since the project has been suspended, many county residents said they remained concerned that it could rear its head once more in the future, but for now, they lauded the news.

The project’s announcement in 2014 spawned a groundswell of opposition not only in Franklin County, where eight towns would have been crossed by the pipeline, but across New York, southern New Hampshire and other parts of western and northern Massachusetts. Meetings held by the company itself or various federal and state agencies regularly resulted in packed houses, while marches and protests occurred on a near-weekly basis, and the opposition grew in scope and sophistication.

In Deerfield

Ben Clark of Clarkdale Fruit Farms in Deerfield, who has criss-crossed the state to testify before state legislative and department hearings in his efforts to prevent the pipeline from being close to his family’s 100-year-old orchards, let out an audible sigh of relief while discussing the announcement with a reporter over the phone.

“It’s amazing. Our family is overwhelmed and overjoyed,” he said. “We’re happy to be on the winning side with so many of our neighbors and other committee members who’ve opposed this all along. We’re glad they finally got the point.”

Deerfield Selectman Carolyn Shores Ness, who lives on the pipeline’s proposed path and who has been involved with a volley of town legal actions to halt the project in one way or another, expressed relief at the news, but vowed to continue working to build a case against the project should it be revived at some point.

“I’m so excited and thrilled, I can’t even say enough. There are no words to express it,” Ness said. “But we can’t let down our guard, can’t give up the fight. We have solid legal arguments that we have to pursue,” she said, citing a fight over whether Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co., the Kinder Morgan subsidiary that would have built the project, can cross land in Otis State Forest protected by Article 97 of the state Constitution for its Connecticut Expansion project.

Opposition vigilance

Jed Proujansky of Northfield, the chairman of the Municipal Coalition Against the Pipeline, said he hopes area pipeline opponents will now look toward that case and offer their help there.

“It’s the same issue, with a different pipeline,” he said.

Clark, too, stressed the need to remain vigilant, but hopes the project has been put to rest for good.

“I just really want to thank everyone who helped in the opposition,” Clark said. “It’s been a long fight, and one that none of us wanted, or ever thought we’d get involved in. It’s nice to not worry about losing our water and land here, to sleep a little easier at night.”

West County joy

Maple sugarer Dana Goodfield of Stonegate Farm in Conway was delighted to hear news.

“Wow! Obviously, we’re very happy with that — because it was slated to go through our sugar bush.”

A few miles away, in Ashfield, Will Elwell was on a tractor, tilling a field, when his wife, Donna, called out to him: “The pipeline is dead.”

“I’ve just come in to read it online,” Elwell said Wednesday afternoon. A few weeks ago, Elwell had built a replica Henry David Thoreau cabin directly over the pipeline route, as an act of protest against a pipeline that seemed on a course against the will of the landowners involved. Dozens of residents had helped him build it, including two of the town’s Selectboard members.

James Cutler of Ashfield, a pipeline opponent and the founder of Hilltown Community Rights, believes it was Article 97 that stopped the pipeline.

“Article 97 trumps and it should trump; that’s why they stopped it. That was much more meaningful than anything,” said Cutler, who was in Puerto Rico when he heard the news. “This was such an uphill climb for them. This (natural gas) wasn’t for local consumption. This was for import. It’s a states-rights issue that will have influence over national geopolitics — from our little corner of the world. This is huge,” said Cutler.

In Shelburne, where the pipeline was to go through the James and Prudence Wholey farms, James Wholey was concerned that the news about halting the pipeline may not be permanent.

He said the halt “may give the state a chance to do something — but we’ll see.”

His sister Prudence was more optimistic. “I hope that it never comes here,” she said of the pipeline.”

Shelburne Selectman Joseph Judd was happy, although he added: “I don’t think this is the time to let our guard down.”

Shelburne’s town meeting warrant has a few articles designed to mitigate the impact of a pipeline on the environment. When asked if a request for $13,000 for legal fees or services regarding the pipeline will be kept on the warrant, Judd said, “This may be money that we never have to spend. But it we need it for this purpose, it will be there. Always prepare while we oppose,” he said. “That’s what I’m thinking right now.”


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