Safety Officials Keeping Eye On Potential Pipeline Protests

By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff

The approval of a natural gas pipeline in Otis State Forest has prompted protests, like this one Wednesday during an announcement by Energy and Environmental Affair Secretary Matthew Beaton in Shelburne Falls.

LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — Public safety officials are preparing for the worst-case scenario when it comes to protests surrounding the Tennessee Gas Pipeline expansion

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission recently granted Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. approval to move ahead with a natural gas pipeline expansion through Otis State Forest. The ruling was issued last week approving the Connecticut expansion, which includes tree cutting and installation of the pipeline through four miles of pipeline through the Otis State Forest.
The project has been one of heated political debate and protests and nationally similar projects have faced massive outrage — most notably the Dakota Access Pipeline protests in North Dakota. There have been incidents of mass arrests and possible sabotage attempts in some of those protests.
Locally, authorities are not quite sure what to expect here when construction starts.
“Otis has been identified by some of the protest groups as one of the four key places in the country. We don’t know what that means on the outset but I just want us to be aware of that should something ramp up,” Lt. Col. Thomas Grady, who sits on the Western Mass Homeland Security Council told local officials Wednesday morning.
“I don’t think anybody should be scared. I just want you to be aware.”
Grady says there are indications that protest groups could bring large numbers of protesters from outside of the area to the site. For that reason, security officials have been meeting to plan out any needed responses to the site.
“There is a lot of planning throughout all four counties in Western Mass. for joint support should we need it. The hope is they will be peaceful protesters,” Grady said.
Grady raised briefed the Central Berkshire Regional Emergency Planning Committee on the situation Wednesday and some of those on the committee could be called on for mutual aid. The committee consists of fire, ambulance, and police officials from the central area but should the Southern Berkshire Regional Emergency Planning Committee need assistance, many of central Berkshire officials could be called on to provide it.
That heads up was delivered at nearly the identical time when U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey released a statement calling for FERC to revoke the pipeline’s authorization.

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