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Pipeline: Rep Kulik’s comments from the Boston DPU hearing May 26

Stephen Kulik:

I’m Representative Stephen Kulik, and I represent the First Franklin District in Western Massachusetts.  My district includes 2 communities that are served by Berkshire Gas Company and 6 communities where the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline would be located.   I have filed a joint petition with the Pipe Line Awareness Network for the Northeast to intervene in this proceeding.  We are represented by counsel, but I would like to say a few words on behalf of my constituents.  Many of them are following this proceeding closely but are unable to travel to Boston today. I do thank the DPU for scheduling a public hearing on this issue next month in Greenfield, so that people in Franklin County will be able to express their opinions on this proposed Agreement.

 

My constituents deserve answers about this proposed Agreement, and about Berkshire Gas’s overall business plans.

 

When I hear that Berkshire Gas says – right on its ratepayers’ bills – that its moratorium in my district will remain in place until Kinder Morgan’s pipeline is “permitted and built,” I see failure in the company’s planning process as the most charitable explanation for the situation my constituents are facing.  Many question whether the moratorium is really necessary.  So do I.

 

When Berkshire Gas implies that this pipeline is the only way to meet the company’s needs, I am reminded of the 1970s, when Boston was facing a water shortage crisis.  The state approved a plan to build a pipeline to divert millions of gallons of water a day from the Connecticut River into the Quabbin Reservoir to meet Boston’s needs.  When the Connecticut River Diversion was first proposed, it seemed like the only viable solution, but people from across western Massachusetts and Connecticut came together and asked questions.  They pushed for a study of alternatives.  Ultimately, thanks to leak repair, conservation, and demand management programs, the Connecticut River Diversion plan was abandoned, and today, the metropolitan Boston area uses less water than it did in the 1970s.  And the solution cost less money than the diversion project would have cost.

 

I like to believe that we are as innovative today as we were back then.  I believe that a rigorous examination of the alternatives can yield a better solution than the Kinder Morgan pipeline.  Older gas furnaces are only about 65% efficient; new ones are up to 98% efficient.  Shouldn’t we increase incentives for efficiency and conservation? Why not create jobs by replacing old furnaces with modern, efficient ones or non-gas alternatives before we consider building a new pipeline?  Shouldn’t we put hundreds of people to work insulating every residence, business, public building, and factory in Berkshire Gas territory before we consider importing millions more cubic feet per day of a potent greenhouse gas?  Why aren’t we creating jobs by fixing all the leaks in Berkshire Gas’s distribution system before anyone considers building a new pipeline?

 

People in the towns I represent also urge decision-makers here in Boston to consider how a new interstate pipeline changes rural communities.  Once a pipeline is in place, it becomes the logical corridor for more industrial infrastructure, more compressor stations, and more gas-fired power plants.

 

Western Massachusetts is blessed with some of the best farmland, abundant pristine drinking-water aquifers, wildlife, and outdoor recreation – some of the most precious natural resources of our Commonwealth. There is a real fear that, beyond the immediate destruction the Kinder Morgan pipeline would cause for affected landowners, the pipeline would forever alter the rural character of our communities and the quality of our lives.  I have spent many years in the legislature fighting to protect and preserve land in my district and throughout the Commonwealth.  Approving this Precedent Agreement would be a step towards unraveling the protections that are in place, with no guarantee of any local economic benefit.

 

Costs to ratepayers of this proposed Agreement should be compared to the alternatives.  All costs and all alternatives should be thoroughly evaluated.  Many people analyzing the proposed build out of gas infrastructure have concluded that the Kinder Morgan pipeline would ultimately cause gas bills to rise, not fall.  And costs on utility bills are not the only costs that would be borne in my district and across the Commonwealth if this Agreement is approved and this pipeline is built.  Therefore, I urge the DPU to very carefully and thoughtfully look at the big picture of our state’s energy policy and future, and to look upon this precedent agreement with all of its potential impacts in mind.  Thank you.