Visit from state sparks pipeline protest in Shelburne Falls

  • Protestors came out to give Matthew Beaton, Massachusetts Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, their views at the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls on Wednesday morning. April 19, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Protestors came out to give Matthew Beaton, Massachusetts Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, their views at the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls on Wednesday morning. April 19, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Sen. Adam Hinds speaks at the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls on Wednesday morning. April 19, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Rep. Stephen Kulik speaks at the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls on Wednesday morning. April 19, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Protestors came out to give Matthew Beaton, Massachusetts Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, their views at the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls on Wednesday morning. April 19, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

Recorder Staff
Published: 4/19/2017 11:38:00 PM

SHELBURNE FALLS — Standing on the Bridge of Flowers, State Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton probably drew a bigger crowd than he expected, as dozens turned out in protest of news that the Kinder Morgan’s Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. has the OK to proceed through Otis State Forest.

The pipeline company received a “Notice to Proceed with Tree Clearing and Construction” from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Beaton was in Buckland to promote a Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) grant program that would help towns like Buckland study hazards and build resiliency in the face of climate-change related storms and floods. The demonstrators applauded his presentation, but also pressed their point that they don’t want pipelines on state land under conservation restrictions.

After Beaton finished talking, Felicia Mednick, who is with the environmental group “Mothers Outfront: Mobilizing for a Liveable Climate,” gave Beaton a copy of “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss. The 1960 book is a cautionary tale about the dangers of disrespecting the environment. She said Seuss had been a Massachusetts hero for the environment, and hoped the same was true of Beaton.

Beaton thanked her for the book, and said he would read it that night to his children.

The activists carried a faux-casket with a sign saying: “Here lies Otis State Forest and the demise of its Article 97 Protection. Rest in pieces.”

Article 97 in the Massachusetts Constitution prohibits development on state conservation land, but a judge has ruled that the U.S. Natural Gas Act, which allows eminent domain for pipeline development, preempts Article 97 of the Massachusetts Constitution.

“We wanted to make sure that Mr. Beaton understands we are totally against pipelines, and that Article 97, which we thought protected our conservation land, has been overridden,” said Will Elwell of Ashfield.

Last year, Elwell and dozens of other pipeline opponents built a post-and-beam cabin in the path of the Northeast Direct (NED) pipeline. The cabin was a symbol of resistance to the pipeline that was to have come through Ashfield, Conway, Shelburne, Deerfield, Montague, Erving, Northfield and Warwick. A few months later, the plan was withdrawn by Kinder Morgan.

“One reason we’re here is to mourn the passage of Article 97, and fear it sets a precedent for other abuses of our Constitution,” Elwell said.

“If you want to get out of a hole, quit digging,” said Kathryn Eiseman, president of the Pipe Line Awareness Network.

“The other part of resiliency is stopping climate change from getting worse,” said Rose Wessel, director of No Fracked Gas in Mass.

State lawmakers present, state Rep. Stephen Kulik and state Sen. Adam Hinds, knew many in the crowd and spoke to them afterward.

Kulik thanked them “for a successful anti-NED battle,” which drew a big cheer.

After the presentation, Hinds remarked he thought it was a travesty “that the court is not upholding Article 97.”


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