Pipeline Construction, And Protests, Continue In Sandisfield

Jul 17, 2017

Construction continues on a New York-to-Connecticut natural gas pipeline, running through Otis State Forest in Sandisfield, Massachusetts. Despite work being well underway, there are some who believe the project -- which has been the source of a legal and regulatory battle -- can still be halted. And a few still protest daily, on private land only yards from the construction site.

A small triangle of this property comes right up to the boundary with Otis State Forest, and gives a close look at what's going on. Next to existing buried pipelines, crews have cleared a long swath of trees and new large green pipe sits atop the soil, waiting to be buried.

There's not much work going on near this location during a recent visit. But much of the construction in this area has been under the watchful eye of one of the property's owners, Sue Baxter.

"There's absolutely no way that it's reasonable for them to put a pipe, or allow a pipe to be put on this property until they allow our due process of our complaint," Baxter said.

Baxter is talking about the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which had granted pipeline opponents a rehearing. That hasn't happened yet, since FERC doesn't have a quorum of members. Still, regulators gave the company Kinder Morgan the OK to begin anyway.

Baxter, and others who have joined her, have a front-row seat, maybe a few dozen feet from the pipeline. They sit in a portable shelter dubbed the "Henry David Thoreau Cabin." It's made up of a wooden deck without walls, and a post-and-beam frame holding up a corrugated metal roof.

"It's very symbolic, but it's also tremendously practical," Baxter said.

The "cabin" does provide some shelter from rain and the sun.

On this day, Steven Botkin of Pelham, Massachusetts, joins Baxter, two others, and a dog. Botkin said being here in this sort of demonstration, helps to bring attention to the construction project.

"The pipeline folks don't want this to be visible," Botkin said. "We can go along our daily lives and not see it because it's kind of tucked away back here in the corner. We have to know this is happening in our backyard, and we have to take a stand, because it's not OK."

There're a few remaining legal and regulatory challenges, but barring something unforeseen, it would take a lot at this point to scuttle the project. Still, Baxter said for the sake of the environment, it's worth trying to stop at any stage.

"Even just this 3.81-mile pipeline loop not being completed makes a difference," Baxter said.

And as long as work does continue, Baxter will be there, either in the cabin, or watching through binoculars, high atop her custom-made wooden lifeguard chair.