by RICHIE DAVIS, Greenfield Recorder Staff
May 03, 2017
SANDISFIELD — Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. said in a statement issued following Tuesday’s arrest of 18 protesters at the Otis State Forest site of its planned Connecticut Expansion Project that it has completed the installation and inspection of erosion protection devices on its right-of-way. It will soon begin full construction activities for the project, which it hopes to complete by Nov. 1.
The project, including a 2.3-mile path through the forest, “has received all required state and federal approvals to begin construction, including tree clearing,” said the statement. The Narragansett Indian Tribal Council Historic Preservation Office maintains that the process for adhering to the National Historic Presevation Act was not followed properly.
Eighteen protesters, including Ashfield Selectman Ron Coler, were arrested Tuesday morning at two nearby entrances to the forest after they blocked pipeline project access roads. They were protesting the government allowing the private company to build its pipeline through protected public lands.
TGP, whose contractors were attempting to begin preparatory work on its project, said in its statement that it “respects the rights of individuals to engage in peaceful and lawful protests. It is our desire that protest activity be peaceful and lawful and that work areas are not disturbed or damaged. We are working closely with local, state and federal law authorities to seek to ensure that protesters have a safe and secure opportunity to exercise their First Amendment rights, including providing a secure area for them to do so, while, at the same time, providing for the safety and security for the much-needed critical infrastructure project.”
The company added it “is continuing work on its right-of-way … and is diligently seeking to adhere to permit and other conditions associated with state and federal approvals, including approval to proceed with construction granted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Numerous issues relating to protection of the environment, the natural habitat, Native American sites/features, tribal consultation with federally recognized tribes, and a host of related matters have undergone extensive state and federal reviews during the course of the permitting process.”
Several protesters, members of the Sugar Shack Alliance of 17 affinity groups, crossed into land now closed to the public. Another group split off and blocked a second access road.
Coler, along with Steve Stoia of Northfield, Susan Triolo of Sunderland, Hattie Nestel of Athol, John Cohen of Northampton, Martin Urbel if Northampton, Ben Van Arnem of Easthampton, Rema Loeb of Plainfield and Vivienne Simon of Florence, were released without bail after being charged with trespass and disorderly conduct on Access Road 3.
Nine other arrests were made of protesters who blocked Access Road Number 2: Jim Perkins and Asaph Murfin of Leverett, Diane Sibley of Ashfield, Russell and Lydia Vernon-Jones of Amherst, Micky McKinley of Montague, Amy Tulley of Cummington, Joan Levy of Pelham, and Kevin Young of Northampton.