Mass Audubon’s Advocacy department got to experience one of Massachusetts’ most beautiful – and threatened – natural places earlier this spring when Bob Wilber, Mass Audubon’s Director of Land Conservation, led a tour of Otis State Forest in Sandisfield.
In just one afternoon, we hiked through (400-year-old!) old growth forest, historic mill sites, and rare plant and animal habitat, ate our lunch on the shores of one of the most pristine and intact lakes in the state, and summited nearby Mount Baldy, recently conserved by Mass Audubon. Mass Audubon assisted the Department of Conservation and Recreation in acquiring much of the land within the Otis State Forest, which provided the link to connect more than 8,500 acres of open space.
Kinder Morgan has proposed to run their Connecticut Expansion natural gas pipeline through the area. Mass Audubon submitted a friend of the court brief supporting the Massachusetts Attorney General (AG) in protecting the forest but the court denied her actions. We have encouraged the AG to appeal the decision. Seeing this special place in person renewed our sense of purpose and deepened our commitment to fighting proposed new pipeline projects in Massachusetts. Learn more about that work and the details on the major proposed projects.
Update: As of December 2016, AG Healey successfully negotiated for compensation to the state for conservation land taken by eminent domain during the construction of the Connecticut Expansion Project. The company will pay $640,000 to the state, and identify and acquire additional conservation land “that provides ecological functions equivalent to the land impacted by the pipeline” such as the nearly two miles of pipeline through pristine Otis State Forest.
You’ve probably heard about at least one of the new natural gas pipelines proposed to cut across Massachusetts. Increased natural gas capacity is often touted as a “clean” way to meet Massachusetts’ growing energy needs. But according to the Attorney General’s office, Massachusetts can meet its energy needs and lower costs without building new pipelines, through strategies like increasing energy efficiency and reducing consumption during peak demand times.
Example of pipeline construction. Photo by Rosemary Oakeshott
Mass Audubon agrees that additional natural gas pipeline capacity is not the best option for meeting our long-term energy needs. We oppose a number of proposed pipelines that would have major environmental impacts on public and private conservation lands and wildlife habitat, including some of our own sanctuaries.
We are also concerned about some of these projects’ compliance with state and federal environmental standards. In some cases, even properties that have been designated for “permanent” protection under Article 97 of the State Constitution are at risk.
Otis State Forest
We have been participating in the public review process for three proposed projects to voice our concerns and encourage alternatives to be considered:
- The Kinder Morgan/Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. Northeast Energy Direct project would have cut through our West Mountain wildlife sanctuary in Plainfield. After suspending work on the project last month, Kinder Morgan has now withdrawn its application, effectively killing the project. The company cited inadequate commitments from prospective customers as the reason for the withdrawal. Although this is good news, other projects around the state are still moving forward.
- The Kinder Morgan/Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. Connecticut Expansion project would involve a four-mile expansion of existing pipelines in southwestern Massachusetts. This pipeline would cross lands that Mass Audubon assisted the Department of Conservation and Recreation in protecting at Otis State Forest in Sandisfield (learn more on that here). We supported the Attorney General’s defense against the project in court. Update: While the project is still moving forward, AG Healey successfully negotiated for compensation to the state for conservation land taken by eminent domain during its construction. The company will pay $640,000 to the state, and identify and acquire additional conservation land “that provides ecological functions equivalent to the land impacted by the pipeline” such as the nearly two miles of pipeline through pristine Otis State Forest.
- Spectra Energy/Algonquin Gas Transmission is partnering with Eversource and National Grid on the Access Northeast project, which would expand 125 miles of Algonquin’s existing pipeline system. It includes 26 miles of proposed new pipeline in Norfolk County including construction through Mass Audubon’s 100-year-old Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary in Sharon.
Learn more about our work in opposition to these projects at: www.massaudubon.org/pipeline