Proposed Fracked Gas Pipeline to Go Through Bellingham
Spectra Energy is seeking approval to build a high-pressure fracked-gas pipeline cutting a 75-100-foot swath from Bellingham through Medway, Franklin, Norfolk, Millis, Sharon and up through Canton on what is known as the Q1 loop. This is part of a proposed project to bring a fracked-gas pipeline through the Northeast to sell gas overseas.
On April 7, representatives from the organization No Sharon Pipeline spoke to hundreds of people at a public meeting at Sharon High School to give them information on the proposed pipeline and what they can do to fight its approval.
Fracking is the process of using water pressure to force natural gas from deep within the ground. This process generally occurs in rural areas in states such as Pennsylvania, Virginia, Tennessee, and Texas. The gas released runs through a high-pressure pipeline over several hundred miles until it reaches its final destination.
According to Paul Lauenstein of Sharon, the Spectra pipeline would consist of a 30-inch-wide high-pressure pipe (roughly the width of a hula hoop); a 75-100-foot swath would have to be cleared to accommodate the pipe. He noted that this pipeline would pass directly adjacent to homes, businesses, places of worship, and schools.
Lauenstein said that there is “nothing clean about natural gas” and that it releases more methane into the air than burning coal. He reported that in existing pipelines there are over 20,000 methane leaks in Massachusetts alone and that explosions in high-pressure fracked pipelines have historically caused “catastrophic damage.”
Spectra Energy, according to Lauenstein, has a long history of accidents, worker safety violations, and whistle-blower suppression.
Assistant Attorney General Christophe Courchesne explained that in order to pay for the pipeline construction the proposal would include a never-before additional surcharge to all electricity customers in New England regardless of whether or not they are a gas customer. The argument is that electric companies power their generation plants using natural gas and that therefore the pipeline should be funded not just by natural gas users but by all New England residents by a mandatory surcharge on their electric bills. The utility companies serving Bellingham, National Grid and Eversource, would directly charge all their customers, both residential and commercial.
Courchesne noted that the energy companies are proposing this pipeline to safeguard that there would be enough power in the event of another extreme winter such as that of 2014-15. He noted that a highly acclaimed international consulting firm, The Analysis Group, has conducted a study stating that existing pipelines and infrastructure are sufficient to handle increased usage. The website for the study is www.tinyurl.com/agostudy.
Jessica Porter, a direct abutter to the West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline currently under construction, which runs through her town of Dedham, spoke about the disruption for homeowners and businesses, promises to residents and local boards made and broken and the taking of conservation and farmland for the project.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s office is currently waging a dispute with the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee (FERC) regarding land taking for a project in western Massachusetts for a pipeline project in the Otis State Forest. There, according to Porter, a fracked-gas pipeline would take conservation land, impact drinking water, and violate deed restrictions on the use of the land since the state was deeded the land from the National Audubon Society to remain as open space and a nature preserve for perpetuity.
Porter claimed that “FERC has nothing to do with democracy, holding closed meetings with no transparency and overriding laws and regulations set by state and local government.” She noted that, in Dedham, the company installing the West Roxbury pipeline routinely ignores rules set by local authorities regarding noise levels, hours of operation, etc.
According to Porter the burden is currently placed on opponents of the pipeline to prove that it is an unnecessary, dangerous, and costly project. No Sharon Pipeline recommends four courses of action for citizens to fight against the pipeline’s approval: (1) the group recommends writing a letter to Governor Baker’s office stating that electric consumers do not wish to pay for the pipeline; (2) the group recommends that people contact the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (MA DPU) by May 11 to again dispute the added surcharge on electric bills to pay for the pipeline (docket 15-181); (3) they ask that opponents of the pipeline send comments to FERC stating that the Access Northeast Pipeline Project (docket # 16-1) is not in the public’s best interest, is unnecessary, is costly, and will aggravate climate change; and (4) the group encourages each town along the line to start its own group to get the word out to stop the pipeline project. All the steps, websites and addresses are located at www.nosharongaspipeline.org.
Not one representative from the energy companies was present at the April 7 meeting at Sharon High School.
Hmmm…Perhaps it is time to revive the Concerned Citizens of Bellingham? (For more information on drilling & fracking, check out the documentary on cable now, Dear President Obama. Learn some very interesting facts about Spectra Energy at https://stopspectra.org/
And last, check out http://www.momscleanairforce.org/pipelines-methane-leaks/ which talks about the organization Burrillville (RI) Against Spectra Expansion (BASE).