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State Police get $957K for pipeline patrols

  • Pipes are laid around a bend July 24, 217 at the easement granted to Kinder Morgan for construction of the Connecticut Expansion Pipeline project, which runs through Otis State Forest. Gazette File Photo



For The Recorder
Monday, December 11, 2017

Massachusetts State Police have been paid more than $950,000 from Kinder Morgan for policing the area near its pipeline expansion project through Otis State Forest in Sandisfield, according to invoices prepared by the state police.

Records shared by a member of the Massachusetts Pipeline Awareness Network (MassPLAN) detail the hours troopers spent at the site working for overtime pay from May through October 2017. The network represents a coalition of groups and organizations opposed to the pipeline.

All told, Massachusetts State Police were reimbursed $957,682.15 for the time officers spent at the site. The majority of the officers were with Troop B in Northampton and the hourly overtime rates range from $56.43 for a trooper to $127.99 for a captain.

“They are using the commonwealth’s assets for private corporate use,” said Cathy Kristofferson, a member of the MassPLAN. “They are purchasing an arrest power.”

David Procopio, a State Police spokesman, said the troopers’ work in Sandisfield is not considered “detail work,” and compared the police presence in Sandisfield to the work troopers have done providing public safety at events like the Boston Marathon and Sail Boston.

“Our role here was to protect the safety and security of all the parties,” Procopio said. “Part of that includes protecting the rights of a company that has legal rights to complete a project.”

Procopio said the troopers who were on patrol at the state forest were acting as state police and never act as a private contractor. Throughout the construction of the pipeline expansion, the area has been a hotbed for protests, which have led to dozens of arrests.

“We do not take direction or orders from any private entity,” Procopio said.

Kristofferson began making requests for the payroll records after the nonprofit organization MuckRock requested invoices for the month of May.

The amount Kinder Morgan paid will likely grow as a public records request by Kristofferson for November invoices has not been completed. It is also unclear if the information provided contains invoices for police dogs that may have been used.

Kinder Morgan spokesman Dave Conover said the company does not comment on law enforcement and security matters.

Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co., a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan, began work on the $93 million Connecticut Expansion Project last April. The new pipeline will upgrade an existing infrastructure to meet increased demand for natural gas transportation capacity in the Northeast, cutting through Albany County in New York, Berkshire and Hampden counties in Massachusetts, and Connecticut’s Hartford County.

The expansion project consists of about 13.42 miles of new pipeline in three sections along an existing route from New York to Connecticut that runs through Berkshire and Hampden counties. Four miles of new pipeline will cut through Otis State Forest in Sandisfield.

Vivienne Simon acts as the legal liaison for Sugar Shack Alliance, a group formed to build the direct action movement against Kinder Morgan’s Northeast Energy Direct pipeline. She said when the group members found out how much the state police had been reimbursed for their time, they were shocked. Simon characterized the payments as turning the state police into “a private arresting force for a for-profit corporation that was invading our public land.”

“It was horrifying, actually, to realize the depths of what happened,” Simon said.

Procopio said that the state police have been open about their “mission” at the state forest from the start.

“Troop B of the Massachusetts State Police will maintain a presence during project operations to ensure the safety of all involved parties, including the project team, local residents, and demonstrators,” Procopio wrote in a statement earlier this year. “The state police will seek to ensure that the rights of all parties are protected, including the rights of the contractors to complete this legally authorized project, the rights of nearby residents to safety and privacy, and the constitutionally-protected rights of demonstrators to have a safe environment to lawfully assemble, speak, and protest.”