Above: DON’T FRACK MOTHER EARTH—Judy Miller of Athol and Carla and Phil Rabinowitz of Royalston oppose the proposed Kinder-Morgan pipeline during Wednesday’s rally.
BOSTON—Capping their three-week trans-Massachusetts rolling march at state government’s doorstep Wednesday, some 500 natural gas pipeline opponents rallied for several hours on Boston Common in glorious summer sunshine. Individuals took time out from the rally to lobby their state legislators to oppose the pipeline. Some carried anti-pipeline petitions with 12,000 signatures to the office of Governor Deval Patrick.
Buses brought demonstrators of all ages, mostly from towns along the proposed route of the Kinder-Morgan/Tennessee Natural Gas pipeline. The proposal, which follows a call by New England governors for more use of natural gas to generate electricity, threatens eminent domain land-taking if land owners along the route fail to comply with the plan as developed by Texas-based Kinder-Morgan. The company seems prepared to bypass state and local concerns and will soon formally petition the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to approve pipeline construction.
In open and closed meetings across the state and New England with towns and governmental officials since early in the year, representatives of Kinder-Morgan have outlined a sugar-coated plan that glosses over effects on pristine, rural and milltown central Massachusetts communities that line the proposed route.
Wednesday’s anti-pipeline rally featured speakers including Shanna Cleveland of the Conservation Law Foundation, Jim Cutler of MassPLAN, Rosemary Wessel of MassPLAN and NoFrackedGasinMass, Ben Clark of Deerfield’s Clarkdale Fruit Farms, Jane Winn of Berkshire Action, Leigh Youngblood of Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust, and state representatives Denise Andrews, Sheila Harrington, and Stephen Kulick, all of whom denounced the proposed pipeline, its potential land endangerment, and anticipated tariff on ratepayers to offset an estimated four-billion dollar price tag.
The Fracked Gas Explosion Jazz Band, with improvising instrumentalists from Winchendon and environs, entertained the crowd before speakers took the podium.
Colorful signs festooned the Common, and passersby stopped to take in the rally’s message. Delegations from Boston’s neighborhoods of Brookline, Jamaica Plain, Hyde Park, and Dorchester hoisted banners decrying the pipeline.
Organizer Mary King of Orange emceed. Representative Andrews, the first state official emphatically to denounce the proposed pipeline, stressed the importance of policy, people and promises with a special emphasis on the power of people to enact change. “We’re looking at an 18-month to two-year process,” Andrews said, “and it’s all a matter of will. We can change the outcome if we have the will.”
Other speakers addressed the enormity of burden the proposed pipeline will impose in its wake. Clark, whose orchards may suffer the loss of some 600 fruit trees if the pipeline plan succeeds, urged listeners and landowners to persevere in opposing the pipeline.
Bostonians attending the rally voiced concern both about the pipeline and the negative effects of fracking the gas that the pipeline would carry. “This really isn’t a governmental problem,” said Lee Grantham of Dorchester. “This is a people problem, and we the people have to take control of this pipeline situation and make sure it doesn’t happen. We have to believe in ourselves and pay attention so that our environment is protected.”
At the end of the rally, walkers presented a ceremonial pipeline to organizer Russ Schott of Pepperell. King estimated the vast number of steps taken by statewide walkers in the many millions.
NoFrackedGasInMass.org and MassPlan.org organized the rally. Sponsors urged participants to stay tuned for intensified efforts opposing the pipeline, including a choreographed lobbying campaign. Andrews announced a statewide meeting at 7 pm Tuesday, August 12 in Athol Town Hall with experienced State-House lobbyists who will cue opponents on effective techniques.