Food for Thought: Peaches, Not Pipelines

Peaches, Not Pipelines

By Ben Clark, Clarkdale Fruit Farms

DSC_0053_1

 The Pipeline - The Landscape

The TGP Northeast Energy Direct is a high-pressure natural gas pipeline proposed by Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, to run from Pennsylvania through New York State into Massachusetts at Richmond, in the Berkshires, through to Dracut, north of Boston, where it could join with existing pipelines that connect to the Massachusetts and Canadian coasts. The pipeline is intended to carry natural gas from the Utica and Marcellus Shale.

 At the time of this writing, the company’s timeline calls for a pre-filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) in September 2014, with the pipeline to be operational by November 2018.

In addition to the main transmission line, the Northeast Energy Direct Project is proposed to include six components in Massachusetts (not shown on the map), identified by the company as follows: the North Adams Lateral, the Energy North Lateral (extending into New Hampshire), the Worcester Lateral, the Fitchburg Lateral, the Haverhill Loop, and the Lynnfield Lateral. There would also be at least one compressor station in Dracut, and likely one or more others along the main line

The proposed pipeline path runs through hundreds of private properties and public land, including land and waterways that are protected from development. Depending on the property, protections include restrictions under Massachusetts Article 97 (the Public Lands Protection Act): Agricultural Preservation Restrictions (APR), Farm Viability Covenants, or a combination of these protections. Wildlife conservation lands also fall along the proposed pipeline route.

 As a result, there is strong opposition to the Pipeline from the conservation community. Says Rich Hubbard, Executive Director of the Franklin Land Trust and President of the Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition, "Kinder Morgan has told us that they selected this route [through our state] for their pipeline because it is undeveloped. It is undeveloped because we have spent decades ensuring the land would be protected from development. Should we allow for these protections to be dissolved for this purpose, it will be the tip of the iceberg. The conservation land we have worked so hard to protect will instead become the path of least resistance for utility and infrastructure development."

Should the pipeline construction be approved, its construction is proposed to be paid for by a tariff on electricity customers through a charge on ratepayers’ electric bills.

 

Based on information from massPLAN.org (accessed August 1, 2014).

For additional information about the proposed pipeline and its potential impact on our region, please visit:

Massachusetts PipeLine Awareness Network

No Fracked Gas In Mass

Franklin Land Trust

Kinder Morgan Energy Partners

Since this essay was published in our Fall issue, there have updates to this story. From NoFrackedGasinMass.org:

Kinder Morgan applied for prefiling with FERC for the Northeast Energy Direct project on September 15.  Among the 24 files in their application are many new maps with much more information than they’ve been sharing up until now. Additional compressor stations are now confirmed to be slated for Canaan, NY, and in Conway and Townsend, MA. Meter stations are identified as well.  

For a set of maps showing the route through Franklin County as proposed by Kinder Morgan in their prefiling, visit this page.

Clarkdale was founded by my great-grandfather Webster Clark in 1915. I am the fourth generation to work the land and tend our orchards. The passing of my grandfather, Fred, prompted me to return to Clarkdale after living away for many years. My father Tom has farmed here for over 40 years, and he and I work alongside each other daily. My son Emerson is now 18 months old. He is a bundle of energy who loves tractors, ladders, apples, and all things farm-related.

If the Kinder Morgan Tennessee Gas Pipeline Energy Direct project goes through as planned, our orchards will be ripped apart, and our iconic hillside will be destroyed. The legacy of nearly a century of our family stewarding the land will be put in jeopardy. We grow food, and provide a healthy local supply of over 100 varieties of tree and vine fruit. Each year we donate hundreds of bushels of our crops to area food banks and shelters. We are able to do this because we are a thriving family farm well rooted in the community. We believe in giving back, especially to those less fortunate.

We did not ask for this pipeline. We did not ask for the hours of conversations, unbudgeted legal fees, and sleepless nights filled with anxiety. Our very way of life is being threatened, and we are at the mercy of a behemoth corporation and their drive for profits. We will not benefit from the gas, as we do not use it on the farm. Rather, we will be forced to pay for this pipeline through tariffs added to our electricity bill, as will every single ratepayer in the state. This is one of the most infuriating aspects of the project, and one that was agreed to by the governors of New England.

We have twice denied permission to survey our land, and have retained a lawyer to respond to Kinder Morgan’s threat of gaining access through the State. Our land is protected under an Agricultural Covenant with the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR). We have a deed restriction, signed by us and the Commissioner of MDAR, to ensure that the land will continue to be farmed and not exploited for other uses. If the Patrick administration does not recognize this commitment to preservation, then a dangerous precedent could be set for all conserved lands in the Commonwealth.

Our State Rep. Steve Kulik has been a wonderful ally, and is aggressively pursuing the land conservation issue, the enforcement of which falls under Article 97. He and many colleagues along the pipeline route are doing great work on affected landowners’ behalf. We are also fortunate to have hosted US Congressman Jim McGovern at the farm, and on a pipeline resistance march. Jim is the only Representative in the state who has come out vociferously against the Kinder Morgan proposal, and has been pushing for answers at the federal level.

We will continue fighting. Our way of life depends on it. PEACHES, NOT PIPELINES!

map

 

In Food For Thought we ask someone in our local community for a commentary on a topic that is meaningful to them. We welcome suggestions for contributors or topics. If you would like to suggest a topic or author, please contact our Editor at mary@ediblepioneervalley.com.