May 3, 2017

To the editor: Pipelines under pressure in Massachusetts

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Wikimedia Commons/Pax Ahimsa Gethen

The pipeline fight is no longer merely a social media phenomenon -- it's coming to a town near you.

From Standing Rock to the Hassanamesit Woods, pipeline opposition is getting louder. Charlotte Eckler explains why (and when) Grafton residents should make their voices heard.

Last year’s battle at Standing Rock to preserve the Sioux tribe’s water rights — and by extension our own — activated concern across the nation about pipeline construction.  Future rights to clean water, to self-determination of local property use, and even to state safeguards of land use are all under threat. The government’s protection of the profitable energy industry through the military use of rubber bullets, tear gas, water cannons and dogs to attack citizens, is alarming, to say the least.

Like a modern-day gold rush, the glut in natural gas means that energy companies are gearing up to export a resource that euphemistically is still called a “natural” and “clean” source – unless you are among the many whose water has been poisoned, whose home values have plummeted and whose jobs have moved on to the next fracking area, which repeats the same cycle.

Although Massachusetts has not seen the level of fracking that other states have (e.g. nearby Pennsylvania), our state is a target for “transmission pipelines” that operate under extremely high pressure.

As a result, many Massachusetts towns are proactively opposing the planned pipeline routes as soon as they become aware of them. Awareness can come about through an environmental group (such as 350 Mass), or a network of concerned citizens, sometimes inspired by an intimidating surveyor presumptuously (and illegally) declaring access rights. One way we can protect our environmental, health and safety interests is to petition our town select boards or councils to pass resolutions against these gas pipelines.

In my town of Grafton, the opposition to Spectra’s planned gas pipeline continues to grow. Many Grafton residents have led an awareness campaign about what fracked gas under high pressure means for health and safety.

On Monday, May 8, a resolution will be voted on at the special town meeting scheduled from 7 p.m. sharp to 7:30, in the Grafton High auditorium. This is a half hour before the 7:30 regular town meeting start time.

Today’s “natural” gas is loaded with carcinogens injected during the fracking process. Should Spectra construct an extremely high-pressure pipeline which might leak or explode (and there are numerous incidents of this across the country), Grafton assumes enormous risk while Texas-based Spectra benefits. The company admitted that their goal is to connect transmission pipelines all the way to Nova Scotia, which would be the site for export to Europe (the so-called Atlantic Bridge). While profits roll in for them, their planned route threatens schools, residences, wetlands and our prized Hassanamesit Woods.

Grafton’s emergency resources already have to monitor a volatile propane gas facility, which was flatly rejected by residents but allowed to proceed on the basis of federal (railroad) protections. Yet another source of leaks and explosions could overwhelm resources and necessitate the evacuation of up to 20,000 people.

Passing a resolution against the pipeline sends the message to Spectra: Don’t build here.

Further, Spectra aims to fund construction of the pipeline on the backs of the citizenry. In 2016, the commonwealth’s Supreme Judicial Court ruled a consumer tax for pipeline construction unconstitutional. However, if Spectra exploits a loophole to levy a “distribution fee” on Massachusetts energy consumers, we all pay, whether we use gas or not.

There are many other reasons to oppose the “West Boylston Lateral” segment of Spectra’s planned project.

If you are a resident of Grafton, exercise your right and vote YES on the resolution to say NO to pipeline construction!  Please take 30 minutes on Monday, May 8, to keep this high-risk hazard out of Grafton.


Charlotte Eckler

5 thoughts on “To the editor: Pipelines under pressure in Massachusetts

  1. What makes this pipeline any less safe then the pipeline that has run through my area of Sutton for fifty plus years with out any problems?

    • Dear Chet,
      Thank you for your question!
      Before I became involved in this issue, I asked myself exactly the same thing. Furthermore, my own father was a pipeline right-of-way agent in the 50s and again the 90s (post retirement) and he used to say that people usually granted the land use because of the prospect of cheaper gas. It’s why the existing pipeline infrastructure was developed to meet our needs and does meet them.
      But the proposed additional pipelines are for fracked gas, which is obtained by injecting shale rock with substances (including benzene, dimethyldisulfide, trimethyl benzene, diethyl benzene, tetraethyl benzene, carbon disulfide, naphthalenes, methyl pyridine, carbonyl sulfide, and toluene) that cause it to release this gas (hydraulic fracturing), making it unhealthy and even carcinogenic when it escapes into the atmosphere through leaks. In addition, the proposed pipelines are not the same as the smaller ones for natural gas; they are built very large (16-30 inches) to accommodate the high pressure necessary to keep the gas in a liquid form. When explosions happen (and they do!) electrical supply lines are also affected because the pipelines use the same land as the electric infrastructure. It’s like having a gigantic land mine in your town’s wetlands and conservation areas, and they have no qualms about going through residences and next to schools.
      Therefore, it’s important to take action before these things are networked enough to build.
      Good luck Chet!

  2. There are a great many benefits to natural gas. A “double walled” pipe provides an added safety
    measure as well as an alarm system to detect leakage and/or pressure drops. The alternative to pipe-lines are surface transport by rail or highway and these have been shown to be hazard prone with higher risk factors to a larger population. Done right with proper safety engineering natural gas pipelines offer huge savings and opportunities for many citizens.

    • Dear Stan,
      The point that my letter hopes to make is that the proposed new pipelines (in the case of Grafton, a 16-inch pipeline), are for transmission, meaning that the gas is not even for our consumption. A potential explosion would obliterate a surrounding area of around 1,000 feet in each direction. Spectra has proposed this route through schools and residences. They ask us to take on this risk so that they can export gas and make a lot of money.
      We already have an adequate supply of LNG. No one was begging them to come to Massachusetts and build, except maybe the governor who holds significant stock in Eversource, for example.
      Massachusetts’ green industry is the envy of the nation. That’s the future, not being a hand-maid to the major energy corporations (of Texas).
      Be well,

  3. New England pays an enormously higher price for natural gas than other areas because of inadequate distribution by pipeline. To get natural gas to us by rail or by truck is INSANE compared to a pipeline that, contrary to this propagandist, is FAR safer and far CLEANER than any other means. This is more important than any thing else presented as facts. I vote my wallet for a lower energy cost, common sense to get trucks off the road, and health for a much cleaner than nuclear/coal energy source here in Shrewsbury. —Just a non-aligned resident looking for realistic, well-balanced decisions for citizens

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