Mass. environmental activists protest pipeline that would reduce New England energy costs

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DEERFIELD, Mass. – A group of environmental activists spent the Martin Luther King holiday protesting plans for a $5 billion New England pipeline that would help reduce energy costs throughout the region.

Over the weekend, nearly 80 Bay State residents marched from Northfield to Plainfield along the approximate 34-mile stretch of the proposed Northeast Energy Direct Project (NED) Pipeline, which would run through parts of western and southern Massachusetts, as well as parts of Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire.

In November, Tennessee Gas Pipeline, a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan, filed an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, seeking permission to construct a 415-mile, 30-inch pipeline to carry 1.3 billion cubic feet of fracked natural gas per day from Pennsylvania to the Northeast.

Map of the proposed pipeline. (

Map of the proposed pipeline. (

Supporters say the pipeline is needed to meet demand and bring down costs.

New England energy costs are among the highest in the nation. In recent years, New England states have dramatically increased their use of natural gas, which is cheaper and more environmentally friendly than oil or coal.  But the capacity to transmit gas to the region has not kept pace.

According to Marcy Reed, president of the National Grid of Massachusetts, 15 years ago, natural gas powered about 15 percent of New England’s electric energy.

“By 2014, that number had risen to nearly 50 percent,” she told EnergyBiz magazine.

Energy analysts project that the region will soon need an additional 1 billion to 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas to meet demands during peak usage periods.

But pipeline opponents claim that, even if the project helps bring down energy costs, those benefits are outweighed by the increase in carbon emissions caused by continued dependence on fossil fuels and by the potential impact on sensitive land and ecosystems around the project.

In West Hartford, Connecticut, the town council voted unanimously in October in favor of a resolution questioning the route of the pipeline. The Forest and Parks Association of Connecticut and Connecticut’s Department of Public Health oppose the project because of the potential impact to the ecosystem around the reservoir in West Hartford.

But pipeline supporters claim that most of that stretch of proposed pipeline through West Hartford follows an existing pipe route installed in the early 1950s.

Massachusetts Senate President Stanley D. Rosenberg (D-Amherst) and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey both oppose the project on the basis of environmental concerns and cost.

In December, Rosenberg wrote to the FERC that the Kinder Morgan project “flies in the face of the Commonwealth’s emission-reduction goals.”

Rosenberg wants FERC to consider Massachusetts’ clean energy goals in determining whether to grant the petition.  Those goals include greenhouse gas targets set by the 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act, increasing renewable energy generation and taking the lead in energy efficiency and demand-side management.

FERC is in the process of reviewing Kinder Morgan’s petition and will determine by the end of the year whether to grant the project a certificate of public convenience and necessity. This would grant the company the right to take public and private property by eminent domain in order to build the pipeline.

The three-day “Martin Luther King Walk to Stop the NED Pipeline” was led by Sister Clare Carter, a Buddhist nun from the New England Peace Pagoda in Leverett.

“People are so worried about what is happening locally and globally,” Sister Clare told the Greenfield Recorder.

“This walk is part of stopping this war on the earth. It is so moving. People are coming together.”