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Pipeline Protesters Cheer Warren's Stand


U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren held an open house Monday at her office in Springfield where an issue of concern to many of her constituents from rural western Massachusetts was front and center.

Addressing about 250 people in the lobby of a Springfield office building, Warren touched on several of her signature issues including reducing student loan debt, making college more affordable, and increasing Social Security benefits, but the loudest cheers rang out when she called on the federal government to listen to the concerns people in western Massachusetts have over a proposed natural gas pipeline project.

"And we are going to make sure next time around they hear all of our voices out here in in western Massachusetts,"  Warren said to loud cheers.

   Many in the crowd held anti-pipeline signs and appeared to have traveled from Berkshire and Franklin Counties to Springfield in order to encourage Warren to speak out against the controversial project proposed by Kinder Morgan.

While Warren said she opposed the pipeline, she stopped short of criticizing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which has jurisdiction over the project.

"  I want to be clear, we need regulatory agencies," said Warren, who led the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau before her election to the Senate in 2012.

 Warren said she believes vocal opposition to the pipeline can hold some sway with government regulators, saying protests had already prompted Kinder Morgan to reroute the path of the pipeline so less of it would run beneath Massachusetts.

" I think it is our responsibility as Senators to talk to FERC," she said adding " We can't make them listen, but you don't get what you don't fight for."

Anna Fessenden of Ashfield came to Springfield to urge Warren to speak out more often about the Kinder Morgan pipeline project.

"I'd like her to take an issue to the Congress to stop fossil fuel infrastructure of all kind," said Fessenden.

Amy Bookbinder of Northampton held a sign calling on Warren to endorse Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders for President.

" I think she's been working right along side him trying to save our democracy and reduce the influence of Wall Street and I think she needs to endorse him and I hope she will," said Bookbinder.

But Warren is still withholding her support in the Democratic presidential campaign.

" No endorsements now," Warren told reporters, who said she  did not know when she might endorse a presidential candidate.

Warren also met Monday with a group of students at Westfield State University to talk about student loan debt. The meeting was part of a college affordability campaign begun by U.S. Senate Democrats in January to drum up support for a legislative package that would slash interest rates on student loans and lower tuition at public colleges and universities.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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