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By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher
Less than a week into Peabody’s fight to keep a 36-inch, high-pressure natural gas line from slashing through our community and intruding on our quality of life, we may have found a way to keep Kinder Morgan from marching to the sea.
In fact, Peabody might even be ground zero for a fire wall that could make the energy giant think twice about disrupting any Massachusetts cities and towns with a project that is of no benefit to the Commonwealth.
It’s called Article 97, aka the Public Lands Protection Act, and it is a part of the Massachusetts State Constitution. We the people approved it with our votes in 1972, and you can read more about the amendment here.
But here is the gist of it:
“Article 97 of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution requires that lands or easements taken or acquired for natural resources purposes are not to be used for other purposes or disposed of without a two-thirds vote of each branch of the legislature.”
The proposed route of the current Kinder Morgan pipeline through Peabody not only runs through land that was set aside for conservation, and includes the Ipswich River Watershed, but also right through the Independence Greenway (aka, the bikeway). Peabody used $3.5 million to build its section of the bikeway, of which a large chunk of money came from funds set aside for development of conservation lands.
It’s become clear to us that in order for Kinder Morgan to run its project through the bikeway area, it will need the Massachusetts State Legislature to dispose of Article 97 protection in this area.
But there’s more to this than just protecting the residents of Peabody. Kinder Morgan’s ultimate goal is to run its pipeline to the sea, where it can then ship most of this natural gas to overseas markets, primarily in Europe, while making an even more obscene profit.
It’s expected that it will be easier for them – with the help of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission – to take land by eminent domain in areas where there is more wide-open space, and fewer people to protest, namely in western and central Mass.
KM sees a problem, though, as it heads further east, into the more congested population areas. If it doesn’t go through conservation land in eastern Mass., the company has few alternatives. It would, after all, likely be cost-prohibitive for the company to re-route and take hundreds of homes by eminent domain, and face the wrath of what would be an even more vehement public outcry.
This is why Peabody’s fight needs to be shared by affected communities across the Commonwealth. If we can keep two-thirds of our state legislators from saying yes to granting an Article 97 waiver in the Ipswich River Watershed area, then Kinder Morgan might even be forced to abandon its plan to slash through Mass. with its destructive pipeline.
It’s time to get our state reps and our state senators involved and on our side all across the state.
Peabody can be our firewall. But it will take a united effort of groups who fight everywhere to get this done.