Lenox Formally Joins Pipeline Advocacy Group
|The Selectmen, led by new Chairman Ed Lane, voted to join the Northeast Energy Solutions pipeline coalition.|
LENOX, Mass. — The Board of Selectmen, led by newly-elected Chairman Ed Lane, has made a strategic move for the town in regard to the fight against the proposed gas pipeline by aligning with Northeast Energy Solutions, thus giving the nonprofit a voice at pipeline hearings.
NEES is a coalition of energy and environmental organizations that provides analysis, education and advocacy for energy infrastructure.
"Back when the Northeast Energy Solutions' legal group asked us to join for a fee, [we declined. However], we did offer them at that time that they could, if they chose, use our name as a member — but we weren't going to be able to pony up the money," Selectman Channing Gibson said at Wednesday's meeting. "At the time, they chose not to do that. Well, things have changed."
The state Department of Public Utilities in the past has not been willing to allow groups that are not aligned with municipalities to have "intervenor status" during legal hearings. When NEES heard of this obstacle, it petitioned Lenox again to join — this time, for no fee.
Having Lenox as a member of their group gives NEES a voice during hearings — a chance to intervene during proceedings. This is particularly important because "Berkshire Gas has filed with DPU to have its relationship with the pipeline approved," said Gibson.
"In other words, the amount of gas it's going to take from the pipeline.
"There are many groups, including NEES, that are going to go to that hearing in order to challenge some of the evidence that's being presented in order to study it and see if in fact this is feasible, legal — if it is, in particular, living up to Berkshire Gas' requirements to serve the public interest."
Berkshire Gas is the only natural gas provider for all of Lenox's residents who choose that form of fuel so its actions would have a direct impact on Lenox citizens as well.
The board, in joining NEES, is also giving the people of Lenox a proxy voice in hearings between DPU and Berkshire Gas — now and in the future.
"We should know what's going on and be informed [about] whether they are making appropriate decisions or not," said Gibson. "We can be as involved as we want to be — we certainly will be in the information stream — and perhaps there's something there for us to be concerned about, perhaps we'll find out there isn't."
Either way, Lenox will no longer be a passive spectator during the Tennessee Gas Pipeline discussions. The proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline will cut through the northern part of the state; Lenox had been in the path of the pipeline but it has so far been rerouted after the fierce opposition.
The board voted unanimously to approve joining the NEES group seeing no downside for the town by doing so.
In other business:
• The board also approved the library's purchase of three sets of five-foot, semi-circular, movable picnic tables to be used in this summer's Roche Reading Park beautification project.
• Concerts in the Park was given permission to use Lilac Park every Wednesday evening from June 17 to Sept. 2 and the board approved its budget request for $1,500, to be earmarked for updated sound equipment and lighting for the performance area.
• The Rhubarb Festival "was a huge success," according to director Susanne Pelton, who thanked the board for its support and seed money.
"There were approximately 750 visitors," she told the Selectmen. "We had fabulous weather ... we ran out of pies, we ran out of juice and soda, we ran out of rhubarb chili, and so we closed at 1, which was very sad. But the restaurants are already thinking of different kinds of rhubarb dishes they'd like to make for the next festival."
• Town Manager Christopher Ketchen recommended Steven Murray for the position of part-time relief firefighter/emergency medical technician. Fire Chief Daniel Clifford gave a glowing report on Murray's qualifications, and the Selectmen unanimously voted to ratify his position.
"We have 15 part-time relief firefighters/EMTs," said Clifford. "And just to cover the weekend slots takes 10."
He is anticipating that there will be more names put before the board in the future.
Murray thanked the Board for its approval, and said he "really enjoyed working with Chief Clifford" and the town, specifically in Lenox Dale.
"It's been a really exciting time for me – a life-changing experience, actually - being a part of the brotherhood of the fire department. I look forward to continuing to serve with them [and] help protect the property and citizens of our town."
Tags: gas pipeline,