Activist Susan Sarandon has joined with land trusts, community groups, local landowners, and citizens to take a stand against the proposed Tennessee Gas pipeline.
In a statement released today, Sarandon urges support for a coalition of grassroots groups including Mount Grace, Pipe Line Awareness Network for the Northeast (www.plan-ne.org), and the Mass Power Forward Coalition who are leading challenges to the proposed pipeline.
“At a time when religious leaders around the world are calling attention to climate change, the 400-mile pipeline would come at the expense of our environment by cutting across ecologically sensitive areas and spanning forests, farms, and neighborhoods along its route,” Sarandon said.
Sarandon’s statement arrives as the Massachusetts Legislature contemplates a bill to convey an easement through the Spectacle Pond section of Otis State Forest to Tennessee Gas. Article 97 of the Massachusetts Constitution, which guarantees that "The people shall have the right to clean air and water,” requires a two thirds vote of both the House and Senate to allow land already protected by the state or towns to be used for non-conservation purposes. More than 100 parcels of Article 97 land, including Spectacle Pond, are potentially impacted by Tennessee Gas.
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“Strategic conservation investments and beloved places of natural beauty are threatened by this unnecessary and oversized proposed pipeline,” said Mount Grace Executive Director Leigh Youngblood. “It is important for everyone to speak up so that cherished public conservation lands are not sacrificed for inappropriate and outdated infrastructure projects. Mount Grace thanks Susan Sarandon for bringing more attention to this project at such a critical time.”
Article 97 plays a unique role in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approval process, which has usually voted in favor of approving gas pipelines. FERC allows use of eminent domain to site large energy projects even against the will of the local communities. However, because FERC policy requires that eminent domain be used only in proportion to acknowledged public benefits, legislative votes against siting the pipeline raise the bar for approval.
Sarandon urges citizens to “act to influence the decision about whether the pipeline project will become a reality for New England,” and to support legal efforts to prevent the pipeline plan from going forward. PLAN-NE has hired an energy and regulatory attorney and is conducting a fundraising campaign for the legal fight.
"Right now, we’re challenging the pipeline capacity contracts that would form the financial backbone for the NED project," said Kathryn Eiseman, president of PLAN-NE. "Local gas utilities are contracting with Tennessee Gas to get this massively destructive pipeline in place, when there are far more prudent ways to meet their supply needs. There are many facets to the legal fight, but the questions of need and alternatives are fundamental."
Many of the properties on the pipeline route have been protected by Mount Grace, including Brush Mountain, and the Northfield Mount Hermon, and Richardson properties in Northfield; Poplar Mountain in Erving, and the Bitzer Farm in Montague.
Allowing the pipeline to cross the most rural parts of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New York runs against years of strategic conservation and habitat investments put in place for the benefit of all of the citizens of the three states and for future generations. “The Northeastern United States faces an energy crossroads, and we're grateful for Ms. Sarandon's support of a clean energy pathway forward,” said Joel Wool of Clean Water Action and the Mass Power Forward Coalition. “We can heed the call to shape the future of power by urging policymakers to support local renewable energy and avert dangerous, costly subsidies of Kinder Morgan's proposed shale gas pipeline.”