December 31, 2016
$1.2 Million settlement clears hurtle for Tennessee Gas' Sandisfield pipeline 

by Clarance Fanto, Berkshire Eagle
December 29, 2016

A legal settlement has removed one of the remaining obstacles blocking an expanded natural gas pipeline through Otis State Forest in Sandisfield.

Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co., a subsidiary of the energy giant Kinder Morgan, has agreed to pay $640,000 to settle its lawsuit against the state for an easement through the state forest as part of its $87 million Connecticut Expansion Project.

But the agreement also requires Tennessee Gas to pay a similar amount for environmental monitors and remedies.

That brings the total value of the settlement to more than $1.2 million, according to a joint announcement on Thursday by Attorney General Maura Healey and Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton.

Tennessee Gas had taken the site, including 400-year-old woodlands, by eminent domain. The settlement also includes recreational upgrades and replacement land for state conservation.

"This settlement sets a very high bar for the value of conservation land taken by eminent domain in Massachusetts," said Healey in a prepared statement. "We are pleased that this settlement requires Tennessee Gas to provide important mitigation relief during the construction of the project and assure no net loss of critical conservation land in the area," Healey commented.

"While we like to think of the attorney general as 'the people's lawyer,' her office made clear to us early on that they considered DCR to be their client in this case," said Kathryn R. Eiseman, director of the Massachusetts Pipeline Awareness Network.

"DCR's marching orders from [Gov.] Charlie Baker seem to be that his energy combo platter is more important than our constitution and the natural treasures of our Commonwealth," she added.

Eiseman, who's also president of the Pipe Line Awareness Network for the Northeast, noted that the group's appeal of the state Department of Environmental Protection's water quality permit for the project is slated for a hearing on Jan. 10 at the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston. Another hearing on the appeal is set for Jan. 18 at the DEP. No construction can begin until the appeals are resolved, she said.

Also, the Army Corps of Engineers has yet to issue a permit under the U.S. Clean Water Act, and federal regulators have raised concerns involving historical preservation of ancient stone monuments and potential issues involving the Stockbridge-Munsee Community Band of Mohican Indians, who may not have been sufficiently included in other tribal consultations.

» Read the details of the settlement - joint motion

Hilltown activists plan fun fundraiser for PLAN-NE's legal battle over CT Expansion

Now, more than ever, the work of PLAN-NE is crucial in the fight against the CT Expansion. “10 citizens”, including members of PLAN-NE, No Fracked Gas in Mass and landowners in Sandisfield, who filed together with the Berkshire Environmental Action Team appealed the MassDEP 401 Water Quality Certification for the Connecticut Expansion Project. Our appeal requests an adjudicatory hearing to challenge the DEP’s determination “that there is reasonable assurance this ‘natural gas pipeline expansion project’ will be undertaken in a manner which will not violate applicable Massachusetts Surface Water Quality Standards (Regulations at 314 CMR 4.00) and other applicable requirements of state law.

As PLAN-NE Director, Katy Eiseman stated in response to news of the settlement:

"Our appeals of the 401 water quality are unchanged by this settlement, except that now they are the only legal proceedings standing between Otis State Forest and the chainsaws."

To help raise funds for the fight, Hilltown activists have organized a fun fundraiser, featuring local musicians, caller Sadie Stull and catering from renowned local caterers Alice's Kitchen for January 14 at the West Cummington Church Parish House, 27 West Main St., West Cummigton. Even if you can't attend, you can donate online.


Spectra (Algonquin) requests more time to “solidify the commercial foundation” for Access Northeast
in it’s project weekly update

December 16, 2016

“Algonquin believes it is prudent to take additional time to solidify the commercial foundation for critically needed infrastructure and to complete its analysis of the Access Northeast facilities. As such, Algonquin expects limited activity on the FERC docket while this evaluation is ongoing. Algonquin will re-engage with FERC Staff, agencies and other interested stakeholders through pre-filing activities during the first half of 2017. Algonquin anticipates filing draft Resource Reports by mid-2017 followed by the FERC Application in late 2017. Algonquin appreciates the diligent work that has been accomplished to date on the project through the FERC pre-filing process by the FERC Staff, agencies and other interested stakeholders. Algonquin will resume providing updates in the monthly progress reports in 2017 as the Project advances.”

» Read the full weekly update filed with FERC

PLAN-NE comments on the lack of customers
on the Access Northeast FERC Docket

December 21, 2016

“For the foregoing reasons, and for the sake of the thousands of people in scores of communities who have had this Project looming over them for over a year, we respectfully request that the Commission close this Docket No. PF16-1. We further request that the Commission deny any further request by Algonquin to open a new docket relating to proposed expansion of its system unless and until, at a minimum, (1) the company has state approval of sufficient capacity contracts to render the proposed new infrastructure commercially viable and (2) any and all affiliate transactions have been thoroughly examined to prevent improper self-dealing.”

» Read full statement


Updates from Standing Rock
Though some Water Protectors remain and continue to pray and vigil at Turtle Island, in light of current conditions Oceti Sakowin Camp asks that anyone thinking of coming to camp carefully consider their own skills and the needs of the community.

“We do need help, skilled help, dedicated help.
Oceti Sakowin Camp needs community members prepared for arctic conditions. We need people with the fortitude to dedicate a significant portion of each day to the survival of the community. Please bring all-wheel-drive or 4-wheel-drive vehicles.
Areas we need help most are the in the kitchens, compostable toilet maintenance—an essential foundation to healthy communities, and people able to transport donations to camp from surrounding communities. Some administrative help would be great.
First, if you are considering coming to camp, ask yourself:
1. Have you ever done hard labor of any sort in -30 degree weather?
2. Do you know how to put chains on tires?
3. Do you see your time in Oceti mostly spent in a small dwelling with people you know? ~ or In community meetings, and actively contributing your time to work on a volunteer basis?"

Continued push for DAPL divestment!

Among the ways to fight DAPL that can be done from just about anywhere is the push for banks funding to project to divest. Along with switching personal funds from banks that support the DAPL pipeline to local banks, protestors continue to pressure the banks themselves to divest from the project.

Some recent local vigils and protests:

» Check our Ways to Help and our Dakota Access News pages for regular updates.

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We're here, fighting the CT Expansion pipeline and aiding other communities fighting AIM, Access Northeast and others, keeping an eye out for possible resurrection of NED or another restructured project. We'll also still be working with PLAN-NE, Mass Power Forward and other organizations to help ensure bold steps away from fossil fuel dependency continue and grow!

No Fracked Gas in Mass is a program of Berkshire Environmental Action Team. Donations made through our direct online Donation button or mailed in check are tax deductible.