Deerfield fruit farm owner Tom Clark decries Tennessee Gas pipeline project

The Daily Hampshire Gazette. July 11, 2014. By Richie Davis.

DEERFIELD — Clarkdale Fruit Farm, usually associated with acres of apples, peaches and cherries, became a focus Friday of growing opposition to the proposed Tennessee Gas Pipeline, as dozens of anti-pipeline protesters gathered at one stop of a statewide “rolling walk” along the pipeline route.

Farmer Tom Clark led about 25 people uphill into the orchards, where peaches are about a week from ripening, showing a 100-foot swath of peach trees that he says will be ruined by the path of the pipeline — marked by red mylar balloons — as it comes over the hill from Shelburne and heads east, under railroad tracks, Interstate 91 and the Deerfield and Connecticut rivers toward Montague at the East Deerfield Rail Yard trestle.

“If the construction company comes through, they’ll dig a deep ditch and tear all of this up,” he said, pointing to part of the 250-acre farm that’s been in his family for nearly 100 years.

Also arriving eastward from Shelburne were about eight walkers along Old Albany Road, who turned up Friday afternoon as part of a nearly week-old relay walk that will culminate in Dracut, north of Lowell, later this month. A July 30 rally is scheduled for Boston Common at 11 a.m.

They were greeted by musical entertainment and speakers with messages of growing resistance to plans for a pipeline for which TGP has begun surveying, with plans to file a preliminary environmental application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in September. That resistance, also described in a New York Times article Friday, was highlighted in a written statement from Bill and Camille Cosby of Shelburne, whose property is near the proposed route.

Among the other speakers Friday was Rep. Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington, who said he is part of a 19-member legislative delegation that plans to meet Tuesday with new Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Maeve Vallely Bartlett and Department of Public Utilities Chair Ann Berwick to explain why the administration sees the need for this pipeline.

“That’s where we should begin the conversation,” he said. “Is it necessary for Massachusetts? I’ve concluded that it’s not. I’m convinced that we can satisfy our energy needs for the future through conservation and more renewables, a smarter energy policy. Increasing the use of carbon fuels is not going to benefit us in the long term.”

Kulik said, “The vast majority of the gas is going elsewhere, and yet we will bear the burden of the environmental impact, the public safety concerns, and just the quality of life issue. Public awareness on this issue across the state is not where it is here. This march is a great way to bring attention to it. There are things that we can do to strongly oppose it, slow it down, challenge the economic viability of it, but ultimately, (TGP) and FERC hold the cards on it. So it’s important that we be so well organized that FERC will pay attention to us.” He said legislators are frustrated with the process because “so much of the control and destiny of this project lies with the federal government and not the state, even though going through conservation land in the state would require a two-thirds legislative vote. “We will absolutely fight any attempt in the legislature to release any public lands,” even though TGP may seek federal preemption.

“I think that will lead to a major court battle,” Kulik said. “We have something very unique in Massachusetts, which is constitutional protection for lands set aside for conservation …”

The walk, which began Sunday in Richmond on the New York state border and entered Ashfield Thursday, is scheduled to begin again Saturday at Clarkdale and proceed down Wisdom Way to the Greenfield Town Common, with the participation of U.S. Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass.

McGovern said Friday he is “very much against this pipeline. The current proposal ought to be brought to a halt, and I’m joining the march to support people raising their voices and to make it clear I agree with them.”

The Worcester Democrat, so far, the only federal legislator who has taken a position on the project, said he objects to a route that would go through people’s farms as well as conservation land, “some of our most precious land that we have in Massachusetts.”

He added, “The process is overly secretive and vague. … We’re being told we need this pipeline because it’s important to Massachusetts, yet we have no guarantee the price of energy is going to go down, but we know that Massachusetts ratepayers are going to pay for construction of this. People ought to know what they’re paying for.” He noted that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will decide whether to approve the pipeline, but said the state’s role is unclear.

McGovern also wrote on Friday to Bartlett, “Massachusetts is known as a national leader for its successful efforts to avoid, minimize and mitigate damage to the environment, and for its adoption of energy efficiency measures and support for renewable energy technologies.”

“Should this project move forward as proposed, corporations in other states will look to Massachusetts as a road map on how to avoid the very regulations that states have put in place to protect their natural resources,” he wrote.

The walk is scheduled to resume at Clarkdale today at 9 a.m. with a route following Wisdom Way to the Greenfield Common at around 11 a.m., continuing along Deerfield Street to the Cheapside Bridge.

Sunday’s walk will begin at 10 a.m. on the Deerfield/ Montague bike path bridge, along Greenfield Road to Hatchery Road, crossing the Montague Plains to Lake Pleasant Road, and then crossing Route 63 to end at the Millers Falls bridge. Erving walkers will continue under the French King Bridge and along the Connecticut River to the Riverview Picnic Area in Northfield.

In Northfield, walkers Monday will depart from the picnic area, cross Route 63, then follow Four Mile Brook Road to South Mountain Road, along Gulf Road and proceed to Laurel Lake.

The stretch through Warwick and Orange will begin Tuesday at 9 a.m. at Quarry and Wendell roads in Warwick, proceeding on Wendell and Hockanum roads to Route 78, ending at the Orange line by noon. An Orange group will proceed to a rally at Memorial Park at 2 p.m., then to the Hannaford parking lot to hand the baton to Athol walkers at 5 p.m.