An Open Letter to Kinder Morgan, Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co – Sam Richardson

Richardson/My Turn: Unpersuasive on pipeline

By Sam Richardson

Appeared in the Recorder

Sunday, November 29, 2015

(Published in print: Monday, November 30, 2015)


An open letter to Kinder Morgan, Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co.:


For the third time I have received a request to grant permission to survey our property. The deed for our land which is impacted by your proposed Northeast Energy Direct Pipeline, references a conservation restriction.


It was our intention, when we made an agreement with the Mount Grace Conservation Land Trust and the Town of Northfield, to grant public access to the spectacular views and trails. The property includes part of the New England National Scenic Trail, protected by an act of Congress. The conservation restriction restricts activities to those directly related to recreation and conservation.


The purpose of your request to survey our land is for taking it by eminent domain, so that you can build a pipeline to export natural gas. That activity is not directly related to either recreation or conservation, and therefore is not permitted on our property.


You state that “Tennessee reserves all rights to seek an order from the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities to access your property for surveys.” Will the courts decide that the DPU can violate conservation land trust agreements?


There are some who accept your dubious claim that building the pipeline will lower their energy costs, but none of the people who favor the pipeline, that I have talked to, approve of Kinder Morgan taking a piece of THEIR property by eminent domain. Taking private property by eminent domain “for the common good,” such as building highways, fire stations, or schools, can be justified, but increasing corporate profits by exporting natural gas is not “for the common good.”


I am against your proposal to take a 150-foot-wide swath along our boundary with the power line, and that makes me a part of “The Opposition.” It seems to me that The Opposition has you exactly where we want you. Let me explain.


This is really all about “winning the hearts and minds” of the local people. Some have said this is all about the power of a wealthy corporation. A Kinder Morgan spokesman said it was just about solving an engineering problem. The reality is — and a study of history concurs — the proposed pipeline cannot and will not be built unless Kinder Morgan can “win the hearts and minds of the local people.”


Thanks to several actions on your part, you have already lost the support of almost all of the residents of all the affected towns. It is doubtful that you will be able to change that.


Civil disobedience training sessions in the area have been ongoing for at least a month. First, you told the Northfield Select Board that $3 million in property taxes would be forthcoming. You neglected to respond to requests for details.


When some residents visited towns where you have pipelines, they found that similar promises had been made, but property taxes turned out to be less than anticipated, and you sought an abatement after the pipeline was built.


Then you claimed that the pipeline would bring jobs, jobs, jobs. When the survey teams arrived with strange accents and vehicles with Texas license plates, that claim became a joke.


The third mistake was the moratorium by Berkshire Gas “until the pipeline is built.” How hard is it to see through that?


Then you donated money to a legislator in the eastern part of the state who introduced a bill to make an exception to taking land in a state forest in the western part of the state. A newspaper in Salem reported that story, and the legislator didn’t even show up for the hearing at the Statehouse — for his own bill.


Reflecting the will of their constituents, legislators at both the state and national level have joined The Opposition.


At an open house at the Northfield Elementary School a few weeks ago, Kinder Morgan paid for attendees to be “wanded” and patted down. K-M’s claim of a possible threat by “eco-terrorists” is difficult to take seriously.


At a public hearing in Winchester, N.H., sponsored by Kinder-Morgan, two company representatives tried to put their best spin on the proposed pipeline. After two hours of questions and comments — almost all against the pipeline — one of the selectmen finally asked the Kinder Morgan reps whether Kinder Morgan would ever recognize that just about everyone in the area is against the pipeline. I thought that the Kinder Morgan reps — New Hampshire native sons — were visibly shaken.


I am not aware of wide spread support for the pipeline in the media.

The daily stories in The Recorder have been fair and balanced, but a convincing case for the pipeline has not been made.


FERC said that its approval will depend upon proof that the pipeline is needed. The Massachusetts attorney general just released the results of a study concluding that the pipeline is not needed.


The Opposition has you exactly where we want you. You have failed to win the hearts and minds of the local people, the media, and the legislators. I do not expect you will do in any better with FERC, but if you do get approval, you will lose in the courts.


You should do your shareholders a favor — just go away.

Sam Richardson is a Northfield resident.