Local Farmers Filing to be Intervenors on Pipeline

The Recorder, December 16th, 2015, by Richie Davis

The Hawks Farm, with its seventh generation now working the land to produce beef and pork as well as other products, is among the historic and environmentally sensitive properties to be crossed by Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co.’s proposed Northeast Energy Direct project. Its owners are among three farmers who are filing to intervene in a case now before federal regulators.

“Historically, this area was known as ‘Wisdom’ and ‘The Old World,’ and has been described as God’s Country,” says the Dec. 10 filing by John Herron, JoAnn Herron, Christopher Totman, Susannah Herron, Emmalee Herron and John Herron Jr. to protect the farm, first cleared in 1783. “Places like these are extremely rare and deserve to be preserved for their intrinsic value, history, beauty and productivity. This land grows food. It sustains a healthy ecosystem. It brings peace to those who live here and who pass through. The deep family roots, hard work and legacy deserve to be protected. The waterfalls, pastures, fields, forests, brooks, freshwater springs, historic homes and barns deserve to be protected.”

Totman says the impact would “disrupt our obligation to do the best that we can for these old farm properties. It really hurts, and to think that we really have essentially no say in the matter is beyond comprehension. They don’t tell (us) anything.”

An exit hole for the proposed pipeline’s three-quarter-mile-long horizontal directional drilling beneath the Deerfield River, Pan Am Railway, Bardwells Ferry Road and the property of entertainer Bill Cosby would be on the Wholey Farm one of Totman’s neighbors.

Chris Totman and his wife, Susannah Herron, feel a connection to the land just across the hill where Totman’s own family has deep roots, and traces its origins back to a French and Indian War land grant. It would be crossed by the $5.2 billion project, with the pasture land being impacted by planned construction sites and condemnation proceedings, according to the filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Neighbor James Wholey, whose farm would be crossed by the pipeline and be used as a staging area for horizontal drilling, says he’ll lose part of the grove of sugar maples he taps and have his hay fields bulldozed with a cable laid across the field to direct the drilling.

“‘You’ll only be haying one day,’ they told me,” says Wholey, “Well, I got to the point where I said, ‘No way!’”

But Wholey, who along with his neighbors refused TGP permission to survey his property, takes a practical view as he became one of dozens of individuals who have petitioned to FERC to have legal intervener status.

“I don’t particularly want the pipeline, but if they come through, I want to get the best deal out of them.”

Clarkdale Intervenes

Across a couple of ridges, in this part of Franklin County where Conway, Shelburne, Deerfield and even Greenfield come together, 100-year-old Clarkdale Fruit Farm and its owners have also filed to intervene “to give us a seat at the table,” in the words of co-owner Ben Clark.

Although the path of the 412-mile-long pipeline has moved off much of the Deerfield fruit farm, Clark said its work space still “glances” a northwest corner woodlot, and the farm is just one-quarter mile north of the horizontal drilling down under a second Deerfield River crossing off Upper Road. That 3,600-foot drill beneath two river channels would also cut beneath Upper Road, the East Deerfield rail yard and Interstate 91, and “we’re very concerned about impact to our water supply,” Clark said, not only for drinking but also for irrigation and cider production.

The 180-acre farm is subject to an agricultural covenant from the state Department of Agricultural Resources that specifically prohibits any activity detrimental to agricultural use, water supply or forestry management.”

Along with the three farms, all of which are represented by Greenfield lawyer Mark Bluver, and other prospective individual intervenors before a Jan. 6 deadline, other interventions recently filed have included those of the towns of Shelburne, Northfield and Gill — not on the designated route, but raising concerns over “light pollution, noise pollution, air pollution, water and soil pollution, higher energy costs, and emergency response to accidents and disasters.”

Bluver acknowledged that “For most people, it would be (financially prohibitive) to get deeply involved in the proceedings for filing an appeal if FERC issues a Certificate of Convenience of Convenience and Public Necessity. But if they don’t file a motion, they don’t have that option. If you’re not doing it, you’re out of the game.”