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Springfield City Council urges rejection of Eversource pipeline project

The Springfield Climate Justice Coalition rallied at Springfield City Hall to protest the natural gas pipeline project proposed by Eversource
Paul Tuthill
The Springfield Climate Justice Coalition rallied at Springfield City Hall to protest the natural gas pipeline project proposed by Eversource

Utility seeks state approval for a new natural gas pipeline from Longmeadow to Springfield

The Springfield City Council has recorded an official protest to a controversial natural gas pipeline project in western Massachusetts.

Citing the need to rapidly transition from fossil fuels, the danger of explosion and fire, and the cost to ratepayers, the City Council passed a resolution stating its opposition to a plan by Eversource to build a high-pressure natural gas pipeline from Longmeadow to Springfield.

All nine Councilors present remotely when the vote was recorded Monday night supported the resolution. It was authored by City Council President Jesse Lederman and had 9 co-sponsors.

Councilor Zaida Govan said Springfield, and the state, need to stay on a course to greatly decrease dependency on fossil fuels.

“We need to start doing things to reach that goal and not putting in new pipelines,” Govan said.

Eversource has said the new pipeline is needed as a backup for infrastructure that is 70-years-old. If the existing pipeline is damaged, or needs to be shutoff for maintenance, 58,000 Springfield customers could be without natural gas service potentially for months, the utility has stated. The cost for the project is currently put at $65 million.

With the passage of the resolution, the Council joins a growing list of opponents to the pipeline project including the Longmeadow Selectboard and half-dozen members of the local state legislative delegation who recently sent a letter of opposition to state utility regulators.

Several rallies to protest the project have been put on by the Springfield Climate Justice Coalition.

“I think we are joining some good groups to make sure that we align our goal for the future and for our children and grandchildren,” Govan said.

Routes that have been proposed for the five-mile underground pipeline would take it through the densely populated Forest Park and South End neighborhoods.

Councilor Maria Perez faulted Eversource for not soliciting input from residents.

“I think the issue with the pipeline is not only the pipes, but the authority (Eversource) has taken in making decisions for the community and not coming to the community to address some of the concerns we have,” Perez said.

An Eversource spokesperson, in a written statement, said the company is “disappointed in the outcome” of the Springfield City Council’s vote. Eversource will continue the years-long effort to make its case for the project with state regulators, the spokesperson said.

Energy companies, including National Grid, which along with Eversource are the two largest gas utilities in Massachusetts, have recently promoted plans to use their existing pipeline infrastructure to deliver hydrogen and “renewable” natural gas that is sourced from landfills and animal waste.

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.