The Bay State wants to see this pipeline burst

In Washington, when it comes to knock-down, drag-out fights over environmental costs and energy demands, the Keystone XL Pipeline controversy has sucked most of the air out of the proverbial room.

That’s about to change. Berkshire County officials and state lawmakers have launched a full-court press to get US Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey and US Rep. Richard Neal working to oppose a natural gas pipeline to convey fracked natural gas from upstate New York through the Berkshires and onto a transmission point in Dracut.

 

State Sen. Benjamin Downing, a Pittsfield Democrat, told The Berkshire Eagle that opposition to the natural gas pipeline is “near unanimous.” Lenox and Dalton town officials have been especially vociferous members of the anti-pipeline camp. Richmond residents complain that their town already has five pipelines running through the community.

To galvanize towns along the route, pipeline opponents have organized a “rolling march” to Beacon Hill, an undertaking that elicited a noncommittal response from Gov. Deval Patrick.

Bay State environmentalists have long opposed the roughly 250-mile proposed upgrade to the northeastern section of the Tennessee Gas Pipeline. The Conservation Law Foundation argues that any number of other options, including liquefied natural gas, energy efficiency, and smaller transmission projects already in the works can meet the region’s needs.

In May, the Valley Advocate reported that MassAudubon has not allowed Kinder Morgan, the energy company that wants to build the pipeline, to survey its properties, West Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary in Plainfield, Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Lenox, or the Cheshire Pond Wildlife Sanctuary in Ashburnham.

State officials can throw a wrench in the works. Projects that that have significant impacts on state lands must get the nod from Beacon Hill.

However, the problem for pipeline opponents is that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has a different set of priorities that can trump state law, namely acting in the public interest. Which boils down to this: Keeping people warm in the winter.

New England is in a bind when it comes to natural gas supplies. The New York Times recently reported that winter heating demands mean that the region needs additional capacity badly. Currently, when winter demand shoots up, the region taps into its oil reserves.

Studies by independent researchers and industry groups have concluded that New England needs to double its natural gas infrastructure to meet these demands. Another key argument, put forward by Kinder Morgan, is that expanded supplies would lower the price of natural gas in New England.

Given these realities, state lawmakers are pragmatic about their options. “At the end of the day, if no matter what we do, FERC can step in and say, ‘Thanks for showing up, but we’re making the decision for you,’ that’s what we want to know,” state Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli, a Lenox Democrat, told the Eagle. “That’s where the federal delegation has to step up to the plate, and I think it’s time to get them engaged in this to get some answers.”

GABRIELLE GURLEY

 

BEACON HILL

In a startling turn, the judge in the federal corruption trial of top state Probation Department officials is allowing prosecutors to allege that House Speaker Robert DeLeo is an unindicted coconspirator in the scheme. DeLeo, who has not been charged with any crimes, calls the move a “desperate legal strategy.” The Herald  previews jury instructions in the trial.

More complaints are surfacing about lack of transparency and consistency in the state’s medical marijuana licensing process.

The Legislature will take up a bill that would create 25-foot “dispersal zones” around abortion clinics, after the Supreme Court struck down the state’s 35-foot clinic buffer zone.

In an effort to avoid cost increases brought on by recent federal legislation, the state legislature passed a bill that would peg homeowners’ required flood insurance purchases to the balance of their mortgage.

The state Senate will debate a bill that would bar employers from requiring job applicants to disclose their passwords to personal social media accounts.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

More than a year after the Globe exposed widespread corruption and lax oversight of Boston’s taxi industry, little progress has been made on city vows of reform.

CASINOS

The deal between Boston and Mohegan Sun, touted as the state’s richest, could get significantly less lucrative if Boston can’t strike a similar deal with Steve Wynn.

A fourth Atlantic City casino is slated for closure. The Wall Street Journal had previously reported that the northeastern casino market was saturated, while Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania are all making big pushes to expand casino gambling.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

It would be the ultimate rumble on Lake Michigan: Chicago teachers union president Karen Lewis is mulling a challenge to the city’s combative mayor, Rahm Emanuel.

ELECTIONS

Prosecutors are looking into allegations that a Democratic challenger to US Rep. Katherine Clark submitted fraudulent nominating signatures in Revere.

Six gubernatorial candidates will discuss their visions for arts and culture at a public forum at Hanover Theatre of the Performing Arts in Worcester tonight.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Lexington biotech company Shire acknowledged it is in talks with possible takeover suitor, AbbVie, Inc.

EDUCATION

Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll tells Greater Boston why she cut the city’s ties with Gordon College over its effort to seek a “religious exemption” from federal policy banning discrimination in contracting based on sexual orientation.

A survey finds that New Bedford residents don’t think too much of their public schools.

Meet the Author

Gabrielle Gurley

Senior Associate Editor, CommonWealth

About Gabrielle Gurley

Gabrielle covers several beats, including mass transit, municipal government, child welfare, and energy and the environment. Her recent articles have explored municipal hiring practices in Pittsfield, public defender pay, and medical marijuana, and she has won several national journalism awards for her work. Prior to coming to CommonWealth in 2005, Gabrielle wrote for the State House News Service, The Boston Globe, and other publications. She launched her media career in broadcast journalism with C-SPAN in Washington, DC. The Philadelphia native holds degrees from Boston College and Georgetown University.

About Gabrielle Gurley

Gabrielle covers several beats, including mass transit, municipal government, child welfare, and energy and the environment. Her recent articles have explored municipal hiring practices in Pittsfield, public defender pay, and medical marijuana, and she has won several national journalism awards for her work. Prior to coming to CommonWealth in 2005, Gabrielle wrote for the State House News Service, The Boston Globe, and other publications. She launched her media career in broadcast journalism with C-SPAN in Washington, DC. The Philadelphia native holds degrees from Boston College and Georgetown University.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Here we go again: Capitol Hill Republicans go after Cape Wind.