By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher
BOSTON – Spending my day today in solidarity with the residents of Sandisfield in southwestern Mass., who fill the Gardner Auditorium at the State House to implore legislators to reject bill H.3690. That bill seeks to set aside Article 97 protection so that a Texas-based gas pipeline company — run by the guy who used to run Enron – can essentially jeopardize their scenic Mayberry-like community of less than 900 year-round residents.
Article 97 of the Mass. State Constitution says that lands set aside for conservation cannot be used for any other purposes without a two thirds disposition vote of both the House and Senate on Beacon Hill. It is our only hope as residents of the Commonwealth to fight back against not only Kinder Morgan and its notorious CEO Richard Kinder – who helped create that mess that was Enron – but also a five-person appointed board in Washington, DC, called The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
Even though there is overwhelming public opposition to this pipeline — which will slash through Massachusetts and southern NH — FERC is expected to grant approval to build Kinder Morgan’s Northeast Energy Direct Pipeline Project.
But back in the Texas offices of Kinder Morgan, they probably should be saying “Houston, we have a problem.”
After all, Article 97 battles are setting up all over the Commonwealth, as KM seeks to take as many as 100 environmentally protected parcels for a project that will be of no benefit to the residents of Massachusetts. Since our Independence Greenway bike path is set aside conservation land, we could end up having our own day too here on Beacon Hill, which is why I’m sitting in the balcony right now listening to compelling testimony from residents who are asking their legislators to please do the will of the people and kill this bill in committee. If we stop H.3690 and stop them from taking Article 97 land in Sandisfield, then we might be able to do the same in Peabody. This is our precedent-setter.
Right now, residents of this beautiful little community, and others, are making a plea before the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight, which is co-chaired by our Senator Joan Lovely.
What this comes down to is a battle between residents of the Commonwealth, a company bent on increasing its already obscene profits, and the federal government. Clearly, we’re just a potentially dangerous and disruptive pass through, since it’s become clear that most of the gas shipped in the NED pipeline is destined to be loaded on LNG tankers, and shipped to lucrative overseas markets.
Facts are stubborn things, and the fact is that the NED pipeline, and five other pipeline projects on the drawing board for Mass., will produce five times more natural gas than is needed to meet future demand in the state. Peabody has zero need for additional gas, and the Spectra pipeline currently running through the bikeway area is on most days at half capacity. We assume all of the risk, get no benefit, and KM increases it’s already huge profits.
It’s not about lowering your electric bill, or keeping your home warm. But it is about big energy and big money. H.3690 was filed by a State Rep from Hingham named Garrett Bradley. His district is a 3-hour ride from Sandisfield and Otis State Forest, with its scenic and endangered Spectacle Pond, and old growth forest, yet it was he who brought the bill forward on behalf of the pipeline company. Wonder if he doing KM a solid here has anything to do with the campaign contributions Brian Hickey & Associates – the pipeline company’s main lobbyist on Beacon Hill – made to Rep Bradley’s war chest?
The fact is that Beacon Hill these days is awash in Kinder Morgan blood money. But here’s hoping that our state legislators do the right thing. Are you listening Rep. Ted Speliotis and Senator Lovely?
This needs to be about protecting the quality of life of the residents of the Commonwealth. This should be about doing the will of the people. It’s about the public trust set established when we the people voted to add Article 97 to our Constitution more than 40 years ago.