Massachusetts Activists Mark MLK Holiday with 3-Day Walk Against Planned NED Fracked Gas Pipeline

Posted Jan. 20, 2016

MP3 Interview with Hattie Nestel, organizer of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday Walk to Stop the NED Pipeline, conducted by Melinda Tuhus

pipeline

When it comes to opposition to proposed fracked gas pipelines across the country, one of the best organized grassroots movements is based in the hill towns of rural northwest Massachusetts. For over a year, property owners, local officials, the president of the state senate, and major environmental groups have all intervened in the permitting process for a pipeline with the process of FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Opponents maintain that the Tennessee Pipe Line Company's Northeast Energy Direct pipeline isn't needed nor wanted to bring fracked gas from Pennsylvania through New York, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, which they say will be exported to Eastern Canada. In November, Kinder Morgan, Tennessee pipeline's parent company filed information with FERC indicating the company may want to use a substantial percentage of the gas to feed a massive gas-powered electric power plant that could be built somewhere along the pipeline's proposed route. More than 1,700 intervenors have filed their opposition to the pipeline with FERC, which may be the largest number for any proposed pipeline.

Hattie Nestel, who is 77 years old and an opponent of the pipeline, was struck with the idea of organizing a three-day walk over the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend from the site of a proposed gas compressor station in the town of Northfield to the site of a planned pipe storage facility 34 miles away, in Plainfield. In less than a month – with no formal meetings or budget, and despite naysayers who doubted anyone would march for three days in mid-January's frigid temperatures – more than 100 people marched at least part of each day, from babies in strollers to octogenarians.

Between The Lines' Melinda Tuhus participated in the walk to learn firsthand from the mostly local residents about their concerns, and spoke with Hattie Nestel at the end of the second day of the walk. Here, Nestel explains why she took on the project and what defeating the pipeline will mean for residents and the environment of the area she calls home.

HATTIE NESTEL: It's relevant because if you really read and study Martin Luther King's life and his thinking and his commitments, he didn't always do what was popular; he didn't always do what people thought he should do; he did what some inner light guided him to do. He followed his inner light, and I just put this out to people, because my inner light said we should take this three-day walk to commemorate him and to fight the pipeline, and put the word out there about the pipeline. So, hundreds of people have been involved in this walk so far the first two days. Hundreds of people have walked, they've supported the walk, they've cooked for the walk. They're putting us up at night. Every need is met. It's just a beautiful explosion of people coming together - young children, young mothers, older people, whatever, to do this work to stop the pipeline. And I'm sure Martin Luther King's vision would have included the destruction of the earth as a real human rights violation and a lack of democracy, and those were things that were important to him.

BETWEEN THE LINES: So, this pipeline, just say a little bit about it. It's the Kinder Morgan pipeline. Just trace the path from where it enters Massachusetts and where it leaves and what people are doing to oppose it – and why.

HATTIE NESTEL: First of all, it comes up from the fracked fields of Pennsylvania, the Marcellus shale. The fracking process is very devastating to people, so that's part of the problem. It's devastating to the workers; they're inhaling all sorts of carcinogens and methane that's very bad for the environment. Wells have been destroyed; people are getting really sick in Pennsylvania, which is where I'm originally from. And then it goes up through New York by pipe, and they want to come through Massachusetts with a pipeload of this fracked gas. So, on many different levels, we don't want this fracked gas. We have all kinds of laws and constitutional amendments that say that protected land - conserved land - should be protected; it should not be destroyed. And this company is just in it for the profit. We'd have to pay for it, for the litigation, whatever was going on. Our housing values would be destroyed. But the worst thing is that species habitats would be destroyed; our waterways would be destroyed. Our forests would be cut down. We would no longer be the same pristine area we were if the pipeline were to come through.

And it's supposed to come through Hancock, go as far east as eight or ten towns and heading up into New Hampshire for something like nine towns through New Hampshire and back down to Dracut, Massachusetts, and go up for export to the Maritimes (Canada). So this wouldn't even be gas that we'd be needing or using, and it would push our prices up and take away our green energy jobs, and our Global Warming Solutions Act requires that we move forward with green energy and not with fossil fuels, so we really need to stop this pipeline; it's very clear.

BETWEEN THE LINES: So, you were walking the path of the pipeline. I know there were some issues with weather making it difficult to start at the starting point you had hoped, which is the proposed compressor station in Northfield. But the rest of the time, we've been following the path of the proposed pipeline. It's very rural. You were talking about conserved land. Apparently, the pipeline path goes right over, or right through, a lot of land that's in conservation, and that's illegal, right?

HATTIE NESTEL: Something like a thousand parcels would be impacted, and there's construction yards; there's the pipeline itself, which would have an easement of a 100 feet on either side of where they want to put the pipe in, and they would destroy everything. They would chemical it to kill the weeds; they'd cut down trees; all kinds of things. So we really want to stop the pipeline to avoid that kind of destruction. We value our lands, we value our quiet rural life. The compressor station would be very noisy, it would be lit up 24/7. If there was a fire there, there's nobody even there tending it. The medical people, the firefighters ... first of all, you can't put out a gas fire, you have to wait for it to die out. But they're not even prepared for that kind of fire, or an emergency. People are really very distraught over the idea that someone could have an easement through their property, very close to their house, their fields, their organic farms, their cow pastures, whatever. We also have a lot of legislators that are really with us. They live in these rural areas, several of them, and they listen to their constituents' concerns, and they're in there trying to stop it also. It's a very fraught process for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. They have every right to just go right ahead and permit this application without a lot of information and a lot of specific information. They have a lot of outdated information; they submitted it with 30-year-old maps which don't apply to our communities anymore.

People are really upset about this, so there's a lot of activism in Massachusetts to stop this pipeline, and we might do it, we just might do it.

For more information on the pipeline protest, visit hattienestel.com; nofrackedgasinmass.org; Stop the Pipeline Interviews by Hattie Nestel at nofrackedgasinmass.org/stop-the-pipeline-interviews-by-hattie-nestel.

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