Gas pipeline foes file to halt start of construction

By RICHIE DAVIS, Greenfield Recorder
April 25, 2017

Opponents of a proposed gas pipeline loop expansion through southwestern Berkshire County have filed to halt an April 12 federal Notice to Proceed with Tree Clearing and Construction and have formally requested a rehearing for the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. project through Otis State Forest.

The Massachusetts Pipeline Awareness Network contends the notice was improperly issued by the chief of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s gas division following the Feb. 3 resignation of Commission Chair Norman Bay, which resulted in lack of a quorum at FERC, and that “contested matters” should not have allowed the action to be delegated.

Among those contested actions cited by MassPLAN Director Kathryn Eiseman in her filing Monday are FERC’s failure to provide for public involvement in resolution of “dozens of multiple ceremonial stone landscape features” identified by the Narragansett Indian Tribe’s Historic Preservation Office that would be threatened along the project route in Sandisfield.

On April 18, U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey wrote to FERC’s Acting Chair Cheryl LaFleur, requesting revocation of the notice to proceed until FERC “has a reconstituted quorum and can act on pending requests for rehearing regarding this pipeline … A rehearing should be heard, thereby granting a conclusion to the regulatory process, before any irreversible action, including tree clearing in Otis State Forest, is taken.”

MassPLAN also argues FERC should have re-evaluated the project based on “new data” showing that forecasts for customers’ demand are lower than originally projected, and that a supplemental environmental analysis should be prepared by the commission, with an alternative Connecticut Loop that was part of the now-defunct Northeast Energy Direct project but was not considered in the environmental assessment, according to MassPLAN.

TGP spokesman Richard N. Wheatley had no comment on the filings.