Dear Friends of FLT,
The proposed Tennessee Gas Pipeline which, if approved, will cut a swath across western and northern Massachusetts - from the New York-Massachusetts state line to Dracut in Middlesex County - is garnering a lot of public attention, and rightly so. The pipeline has the potential of reeking havoc on our beautiful rural landscapes and significantly impacting critical natural resources. Of particular concern is the fact that the current proposed route would cut through numerous public and private conservation lands.
The Franklin Land Trust has focused our energy and resources on working with a broad coalition of partners across the state on behind-the-scene efforts to encourage state policy makers and our state and federal legislators to oppose the pipeline. While our efforts may not appear on the front page of the newspaper, we believe they will be the most effective way of stopping the pipeline.
FLT's lack of public pronouncements against the pipeline in no way suggest a lack of concern. In fact, FLT is extremely concerned about the pipeline and its potential impact on our conserved lands and critical natural resources. While there is certainly a place for public pronouncements of opposition as we fight this important battle - and we applaud the growing number of towns along the proposed pipeline route that have stood-up and passed resolutions opposing the pipeline - the general consensus seems to be that this is going to come down to a battle at the federal level to discourage the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) from granting Kinder-Morgan, Tennessee Gas's parent company, a license for the pipeline.
The unfortunate reality is that if Tennessee Gas receives approval from FERC to proceed with the pipeline, there will be nothing that the state and conservation community can do to stop it. Along with FERC approval will come eminent domain authority which will empower Tennessee Gas to run the pipeline through any publicly or privately owned property of its choosing, conserved or not. I, therefore, believe that we all need to focus our energy and resources on putting pressure on our state and federal policy makers and legislators to, ideally, prevent a FERC filing in the first place, and to make it extremely politically uncomfortable for FERC should a filing ultimately happen. We should demand, and ask our legislators to demand, that Tennessee Gas be required to:
- undertake a full MA Environmental Policy Act Environmental Review before a filing in order to prove that there is a public interest need being met by the pipeline, consider alternatives to addressing that need if, in fact, it can be proven that one exists, and consider the direct and indirect environmental impacts of a pipeline.
- commit to respecting Article 97 of the MA Constitution by committing to avoid at all costs locating the pipeline on conservation land, whether publicly or privately owned.
You should know that we are not fighting this fight alone. The MA Land Trust Coalition (MLTC), of which I am honored to be President, and which Franklin Land Trust is a very active member, has taken up the cause and is working with its members to raise concern about the pipeline with our state and federal legislators and policy makers and is organizing to fight the FERC battle. Towards that end, the MLTC Board, on behalf of all of its members:
- sent a letter back in February to Governor Patrick expressing our concerns about the pipeline, and asking him to defend his incredible legacy of over 100,000 acres of land conserved during his administration by defending conservation lands against the pipeline. That letter was copied to MA Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA) Secretary Richard Sullivan.
- met with MA Representative Anne Gobi, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Natural Resources and Agriculture, to voice its opposition to the pipeline, especially as it pertains to its potential impact on conservation lands. Representative Gobi assured us that she shares our concern about the pipeline and pledged to do what she can to pressure Governor Patrick's administration to defend our conservation lands and critical natural resources.
- is considering assisting in the hiring of an attorney with experience dealing with FERC matters. MLTC is a relatively young nonprofit organization with limited financial resources, so it would be looking to its member organizations and other pipeline opponents for help in funding this attorney.
- has expressed its concerns about the pipeline in no uncertain terms to EOEEA. As a result, EOEEA is in the process of organizing a meeting between the land trust community and Kinder-Morgan to learn more about plans for the pipeline and to voice our strong objection to any route that would impact public or private Article 97 conservation land.
- I recently visited Washington, D.C. at the request of the Land Trust Alliance to meet with members of our Congressional delegation concerning legislation that is important to our land conservation work. At every one of those meetings, I mentioned the pipeline and encouraged our Senators and Representatives to encourage FERC to deny a license.
Finally, while I am deeply concerned about this particular pipeline proposal, I am even more concerned about the fact that, if approved, this could represent the "camel's nose under the tent." At some point in time in the future, the only open, undeveloped land in Massachusetts will be public and private conservation land. Allowing Tennessee Gas to build a pipeline across Article 97 conservation land would represent a terrible precedent whereby every time there is a need in the future for a pipeline, power line, or other "public improvement", proponents will pursue the "path of least resistance" - our conservation land. That is why this fight is so important. Please contact your state and federal legislators!!
More information: www.MassPlan.org
Richard K. Hubbard,