Energy company Kinder Morgan plans to start cutting down trees in Western Massachusetts this week prepare for the controversial Connecticut Expansion Project. U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey are calling on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to revoke its authorization for the pipeline.
In March 2016, FERC issued Kinder Morgan a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity for the company’s 13-mile, $93 million proposed pipeline expansion project, which runs through Otis State Forest.
Kinder Morgan says the project would meet increased demand in the Northeast for transportation capacity for natural gas.
The project will upgrade an existing system within New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut. It would loop in Albany County in New York, Berkshire and Hampden Counties in Massachusetts, and Hartford County, Connecticut.
Katie Eiseman, director of the Massachusetts PipeLine Awareness Network, says there are a lot of moving parts to the pipeline.
“A not a lot of faith in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and there really has been failings at every level of government.”
In a letter to FERC, U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey called on the agency to revoke its approval earlier this month for Kinder Morgan to start cutting and construction. They say the agency lacked a quorum to authorize Kinder Morgan.
The Democrats also asked for a rehearing for the project’s original certificate. The Senators and environmentalists, residents and local elected leaders, are challenging whether FERC’s findings meet the region’s energy needs and account for the pipeline’s environmental impact.
A rehearing was approved by FERC last year, but never scheduled.
Eiseman says Connecticut, where the gas will be delivered, has not converted from oil to gas as predicted when the original certificate was approved.
“So there is not even a fundamental need for the project, as it was certified by FERC,” Eiseman says.
Reached Monday morning, FERC said it would not comment on the letters from the senators, and had no additional comment.
Jane Winn, from the Berkshire Environmental Action Team, says Kinder Morgan cutting down trees in the state forest will be significant.
“And the part we are most concerned about is going through a very permanently protected conservation land in Otis State Forest. Unfortunately the Natural Gas Act was found to trump our state constructional protection of this land. So they would be cutting down all of the trees,” Winn says.
BEAT and the Massachusetts PipeLine Awareness Network say they have nearly exhausted every appeal in delaying and preventing the pipeline project.
“They will be creating a new path alongside where their current pipeline is but cutting another 25 to 100 feet to lay this new pipeline, and that will be – has the potential to cause erosion that could flow downhill to the old growth forest and the pristine Clam River.” Winn says.
The Town of Sandisfield’s Conservation Commission, which has some oversight in Otis State Forest, decided at an emergency meeting last week that Kinder Morgan has to wait until after Thursday to start any kind of work, according to the Order of Conditions agreement.
Kinder Morgan wanted to speed up the process and address other articles in the agreement that were of community concern, but the Commission said it could only discuss what was on the agenda.
Items included the project’s environmental impact.
“They will also be withdrawing about a million gallons of water out of Spectacle Pond, which has endangered species, and then using that water to test the pipeline, make sure that it has no leaks and then releasing that water. We are extremely about concerned about the way that water gets released, and whether there will be any toxins from the coding from the inside of the pipeline. And really no one is going to test for toxins there,” Winn says.
Kinder Morgan Spokesperson Richard Wheatley says the company is not commenting on the Senators’ recent letter to FERC.
Wheatley says Kinder Morgan’s subsidiary, Tennessee Gas, has begun preparing to construct the project because the permit and other conditions have been met.
The company has installed erosion control devices to protect water bodies and streams in Otis State Forest, and will begin laying pipe later this month.
Kinder Morgan expects service to begin in November.