from west of Pittsfield into Franklin County, then into the full northern length of Middlesex County : map of the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline route through 27 Massachusetts communities.
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27 towns along Massachusetts’s northern border have been asked to host a new natural gas transmission pipeline proposed by Kinder Morgan partners, one of America’s biggest gas pipeline companies. Opinion is divided, passionate on the “no” side, less so on the “yes’ side.
My own view is that the proposed pipeline brings many benefits that may not, however, outweigh the downsides of building it. Not yet, anyway.
Opponents cite the environmental damage that could result from gas leaks and from the pipeline’s transporting of “fracked” gas. Opponents also point out that there is already a substantial amount of natural gas lost in existing pipeline leaks. It’s a good point, one raised by some of this year’s candidates for Governor and detailed in a Boston Globe headline story a few ,months ago.
So what is “fracked” about ? Answer : “Fracking” is a recently developed process by which gas is extracted from shale deposits. A website, what-is-fracking.com, has this to say about the process :
“Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the process of extracting natural gas from shale rock layers deep within the earth. Fracking makes it possible to produce natural gas extraction in shale plays that were once unreachable with conventional technologies. Recent advancements in drilling technology have led to new man-made hydraulic fractures in shale plays that were once not available for exploration. In fact, three dimensional imaging helps scientists determine the precise locations for drilling.
“Horizontal drilling (along with traditional vertical drilling) allows for the injection of highly pressurized fracking fluids into the shale area. This creates new channels within the rock from which natural gas is extracted at higher than traditional rates. This drilling process can take up to a month, while the drilling teams delve more than a mile into the Earth’s surface. After which, the well is cased with cement to ensure groundwater protection, and the shale is hydraulically fractured with water and other fracking fluids.”
Opposition to the use of “fracking” arouses those who consider earth;s natural environment fragile and damage to it irreparable or remedied only at great cost and over much time. These concerns probably have sound bases even if overstated. Yet our society needs natural gas energy — clean and much less costly than oil.
Setting aside the “fracking” opposition, there remain several objections to the proposed pipeline, which will transit the communities shown in the ,map posted at the top of this editorial. You should refer to it as you read further.
Firstly, Kinder Morgan at its website has this to say about its pipeline proposal :
The firm goes on to say that the proposed pipeline will decrease gas prices by making the supply of gas much larger even as demand for natural gas increases substantially.
I strongly support wise moves to help people, businesses, and cities switch their energy needs from oil or coal to natural gas. Deciding whether or not to give my okay to the proposed pipeline depends, however, on answers to the following questions ;
1.There already is a Kinder Morgan gas pipeline spanning the southern tier of our state — it’s right there on the map that I posted above, paralleling, more or less, Highway 20. Why cannot this already existing pipeline be expanded ?
2.Shouldn’t building anew pipeline wait until Kinder Morgan, other pipeline firms, and cities have repaired most of the many gas leaks already in the system ? Much gas is being lost, gas that is already being pipelined to us.
3.How can kinder Morgan secure easements from all the landowners whose properties its pipeline will traverse without the total price of these easements overwhelming potential price savings ?
4.Why has not even one of the 27 communities to be traversed by the pipeline supported it ? Surely public support for such a huge and intrusive project needs be there if the project is to succeed.
I am not saying that public support needs be overwhelming. I fully understand that today most people don’t want change; they like things as they are because they are used to what is and do not trust that which might become. Once upon a time, people did trust the might-become world. today a great many Americans no longer have that faith.
Kinder Morgan needs to address these questions. It needs to win public confidence ,most of all. Given that, the other questions become easier to resolve. I look forward to seeing Kinder Morgan people take the time, even years of time, to gain that trust. By doing so they will be importing more good stuff into Massachusetts than just natural gas. Trust is the basis of everything progressive.
Note : the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline is NOT the “northern Pass” pipeline that has drawn even more opposition. That pipeline brings Quebec Hydro-electric power into New Hampshire and through the full length of New Hampshire’s spine. Northern Pass has its own set of problems, some very different from those presented by the Kinder Morgan pipeline. Many of these are spelled out in articles at New England business Journal provided to me by activist Joel Woo.
—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere