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Pipeline Becomes An Early Point Of Contention In Mass. Senate Race

This is a picture of the inside of the Massachusetts State House
Jim Levulis
Inside the Massachusetts State House

A proposed natural gas pipeline running through western Massachusetts is becoming an early point of contention between the Democratic candidates for the area’s state senate seat.The Northeast Energy Direct project has spurred steady activism and countless media reports for much of the past two years with energy company Kinder Morgan filing preliminary information with federal regulators back in September 2014.

Most Berkshire area politicians oppose the project, including Senator Ben Downing. In January, the Democrat announced he would retire after 10 years in office. So far two Democrats, Andrea Harrington and Adam Hinds, have been publicly campaigning for the seat. Rinaldo del Gallo has taken out nominating papers, but has not yet announced his candidacy. Still, the Pittsfield lawyer is blasting his fellow Democrats for saying they were still looking at the proposed pipeline in early March.

“I don’t think that’s a position of a leader,” Del Gallo said. “I think if you’re going to run for office, on a major issue like that of such foremost concern, you should have had a position.”

Harrington and Hinds have since publicly announced their opposition. When asked about Del Gallo’s statements, Hinds, who was the first to announce his candidacy, says he welcomes more people entering the race.

“That has absolutely no connection to my policy positions,” Hinds said. “I came out against the pipeline in March and I’m proud of that position and I’m sticking with it. Ultimately we do have an urgent need to look at these short-term energy outlooks but now is the time to be accelerating efforts to promote clean energy technology and energy conservation and efficiency. I really hope to play a strong role in that as a state senator.”

Del Gallo says news of his intention to run, at the end of March, pushed Harrington and Hinds to oppose the pipeline. Harrington says that is pure fiction.

“I was opposed to the pipeline as a private citizen living in Richmond where the pipeline was going to be going through, and I’m opposed to the pipeline as a candidate for state senate,” Harrington said. “I’ve made that clear I would say since February. I’ve been opposed to the pipeline, always.”

In a WAMC interview in early March, Harrington said she was still considering where she stood on the pipeline. Now, Harrington says as a new candidate for political office it’s important to take into account all sides of an issue.

“I think it’s important when I take a position to very clearly be able to articulate why I’m taking that position,” Harrington said. “I’ve been very clear on the fact that I’m opposed to the pipeline. I support Attorney General Maura Healey’s position that there are better ways for our area to create energy.”

Del Gallo was vocal about his opposition to the pipeline during a recent protest before a Berkshire Superior Court hearing about land access for the Connecticut Expansion Project. The pipeline that is slated to run through constitutionally-protected land in Otis State Forest is another Kinder Morgan project. Some see the court case as potentially precedent setting. Hinds was also at the protest, a presence that Del Gallo calls “half-hearted.”

“I did make an appearance and I was proud to do that,” Hinds said. “It’s clear that our state constitution protects our conservation land under Article 97. It seems that state lawmakers are not acting on legislation to waive Article 97. I’m with the state on this important matter.”

Del Gallo says it’s inexcusable that the two candidates did not publicly state their opposition from the get-go since state lawmakers may vote on allowing a pipeline to cross constitutionally-protected land.

“This really smells of two candidates that didn’t have the conviction to stand up for the environment,” Del Gallo said. “And saw ‘Oh Del Gallo’s entering the race, there’s that Bernie Sanders-progressive and green environmentalist. He’s going to be to the left of us. Me too, me too, me too.’ That’s followership. That’s not leadership. These are the ‘me too’ kids.”

Republican candidate Christine Canning says she opposes Kinder Morgan’s projects in the region.

Jim is WAMC’s Assistant News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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