Massachusetts – On June 20, eighteen members of the Sugar Shack Alliance who were arrested for civil disobedience at Otis State Forest in Sandisfield, MA, will be having their day in court. At the activists first arraignment for the criminal charges brought against them for blocking tree cutting in Otis State Forest, the state put in a motion to have the criminal charges of disorderly conduct and trespass converted into civil charges. Charges stemmed from protesters blocking the gas pipeline workers’ access to a pipeline work site. The hearing on that motion will take place in front of Judge Vrabel on June 20 at 9:00 a.m. at the Southern Berkshire District Court in Great Barrington.
There will be a press conference on the steps of the courthouse following the hearing, at which Sugar Shack members will discuss the court proceeding and next steps for stopping the construction of the pipeline.
Those being tried at the hearing were arrested protesting a the $93 Kinder Morgan Connecticut Expansion Project, a pipeline extension planned for the Massachusetts state forest to store fracked gas that will be used in CT. The Sugar Shack Alliance objects to the legality and morality of this project for a host of reasons.
“We were going to plead ‘not guilty’ to the criminal charges, and we will be pleading not guilty to the civil charges as well,” said Vivienne Simon, one of the arrestees.
“We are protesting the illegal manner in which Kinder Morgan got a permit to proceed while a hearing was still pending for Sandisfield residents to present evidence that the need for this pipeline was no longer warranted. It’s an outrage that this has been allowed to happen. It is equally immoral for anyone to be doing anything to extend the use of fossil fuels use when the whole world agrees that we need to cut back on carbon emissions immediately.”
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved Kinder Morgan to clear-cut trees for the $93 million natural gas pipeline expansion. The Massachusetts Loop will run a 36-inch diameter pipe for nearly four miles through the Otis State Forest in MA, which is protected under MA Article 97 of the state constitution. Already a swath of trees 75 feet wide and 4 miles long was cut during nesting season, at a time when songbird populations are dropping precipitously
“This is public land, bought and paid for by Massachusetts tax dollars and donations, protected by our constitution. We are not going to stand by and allow this corporation to simply step on our rights and our public land,” said another arrestee, Elizabeth Caretti-Ramírez. “This fight is far from over.”