Gas pipeline opponents keep the pressure on

By Chris Maza
Longmeadow News

LONGMEADOW – Gas pipeline opponents are maintaining a full-court press in their efforts to prevent a gas metering station.

Michele Marantz, chair of the Longmeadow Pipeline Awareness Group, appeared before the Select Board on Aug. 5 to press them for their stance on the upcoming Special Town Meeting vote regarding the proposed project on Longmeadow Country Club property.

The Longmeadow Pipeline Awareness Group submitted a petition for a Special Town Meeting to discuss and vote on their proposed bylaw change that would prevent industrial facilities like the metering station from being built in residential zones.

During the resident comment portion of the meeting, Marantz asked board members to state their personal stances on the issue and how they intended to vote at.

“In conversations with town residents about this issue, we’ve been asked for the Select Board’s position on the article and tonight I am turning to you for an answer that I can share with residents,” she said. “I know it is standing policy to not render a board decision on such a vote, so I’m not here tonight to ask you to do that, but as you are the town’s elected officials, it’s only fair that we know where you intend to lead the community.”

Acknowledging counsel hired to guide the town in this issue has advised against making public statements, she also asked for a timeline as to when selectmen would be able to comment publicly.

She went on to ask if the Select Board planned to submit a statement to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in support of comments submitted by the Planning Board and if the comments would mirror the Planning Board’s. She went on to ask if the board would seek a declaration from FERC that would identify the Longmeadow metering station as part of the Agawam 261 upgrade project. That declaration, she said, would require a thorough environmental review as well as an analysis of alternatives.

She further requested that the board “call upon those members of the Longmeadow Pipeline Awareness Group who are registered FERC interveners to support your written submissions” and said the group would support any statements of concern.

Marantz also criticized the board for not taking action on a non-binding referendum vote supporting the use of the town’s right of first refusal to purchase the land proposed for the metering station. Select Board Chair Marie Angelides previously stated the board opted not to purchase the land for $2.7 million because such an action did not guarantee that the station would not be built.

“I’m going to end by reminding the Select Board that the June 11 election saw 68% of the voters endorsing a Select Board effort to stop the construction of a Longmeadow meter station and high-pressure pipeline even at the potential cost of $2.7 million,” she said. “This should be evidence enough that the voters want you to work energetically to block a project that threatens the health, safety, wellbeing and property values of our town.”

She went on to say residents “expect our elected leaders to be our voices and act upon our concerns. In that regard, our final question tonight is: ‘Should we, can we expect that of you?”

The Special Town Meeting will take place Aug. 20 at 7 p.m. at Longmeadow High School. A public hearing regarding the bylaw change will take place Aug. 15 at the police station’s Community Room at 7 p.m.