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Springfield City Council presents resolution against Eversource pipeline project (The Reminder)

Photo by Don Treeger/The Republican

Read the original Reminder Article by Matt Conway here.

SPRINGFIELD – City Council President Jesse Lederman issued a resolution against Eversource’s proposed Western Massachusetts Gas Reliability Project during the council’s July 25 meeting.

The project, which continues to garner divisive responses after its 2021 unveiling, proposes to add a new point of delivery system in Longmeadow. Eversource would also install a 5.3-mile underground steel main line between the new Longmeadow location and the gas line’s existing regulator station on Bliss Street in Springfield, as well as upgrades to the existing gas line connected to an Agawam regulator station.

The council originally intended to introduce the legislation during their July 15 meeting before issuing a delay to gather more councilor responses. Lederman issued initial concern about the reliability project in November 2021 when he called for an independent cost-benefit analysis to be performed by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU).

At that time, Lederman cited concerns with the project’s necessity and the increased reliance on gas over renewable energy resources.

“For individuals who are in a position to move off natural gas, it will be in people’s best interest to transition to renewable energy … If we know that the benefit is not really there, then I think you’re going to have a strong case for the DPU to push back on this proposal,” said Lederman in a November 2021 interview with Reminder Publishing.

The council’s resolution denouncing the project follows a letter of opposition issued by state Sens. Eric Lesser and Adam Gomez and state Reps. Carlos Gonzalez, Bud Williams, Orlando Ramos and Jacob Oliveria on July 11 against the pipeline. The legislators highlighted similar concerns as Lederman while also noting the potential danger of a pipeline leak.

“Pipelines leak and gas leaks have the potential to cause devastating fires and explosions. Springfield already knows how dangerous gas can be after the 2012 explosion that injured 18 people and damaged 42 buildings. Moreover, families in the Merrimack Valley are still trying to recover from the deadly gas explosions and fires that occurred in 2018,” said the legislators in their letter.

During the council’s discussion on the resolution, Ward 8 City Councilor Zaida Govan expressed her hopes that the resolution will help keep the state on course for their renewable energy goals. Gov. Charlie Baker signed the Act Creating A Next-Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy in March 2021, which set benchmarks of decreasing emissions by at least 50 percent by 2030 before aiming to achieve zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

“This resolution is hopefully going to help put Springfield and the rest of Western Mass. on course … We need to start doing things to reach that goal and not put in new pipelines,” said Govan.

Ward 1 City Councilor Maria Perez expressed her concerns about the reliability project after meeting with local organizations against the pipeline. She took issue with Eversource making a decision for the community without their consideration.

“I think that the issue with the pipeline is not only the pipes, it’s the authority they have taken in making decisions for the community and not coming to the community and explain[ing] some of the concerns they have,” said Perez.

Perez, Govan, Ward 2 City Councilor Michael Fenton, Ward 3 City Councilor Melvin Edwards, Ward 4 City Councilor Malo Brown, Ward 7 City Councilor Timothy Allen, City Councilor At-Large Justin Hurst, City Councilor At-Large Tracye Whitfield and City Councilor At-Large Kateri Walsh each backed Lederman’s resolution.

The council then approved the resolution in a unanimous vote.

Lederman’s Perspective

In the aftermath of the meeting, Reminder Publishing spoke to Lederman about his resolution. Since issuing the request for an independent cost-benefit analysis, the councilor said there has yet to be a response from the DPU. According to Lederman, Eversource is viewing the DPU’s normal review process as an independent cost-benefit analysis.

Among reasons for submitting the resolution, Lederman cited the project’s redundancy, its $65 million cost and its incompatibility with the state’s goals of transitioning away from natural gas.

“We want the DPU, the Massachusetts Legislature and Eversource to turn their attention and their investment towards moving forward with the development of clean energy technology,” said Lederman.

The council president cited “real concern” about the potential of low-income ratepayers struggling to make a transition to clean energy sources if there is added reliance upon gas infrastructure projects.

“The state should be prioritizing cities like Springfield and families that have a lower income in this work. These are the families that have been impacted the most by rising costs. They are also the communities that have been impacted by the historic levels of pollution related to this generation of electricity … This is where our focus should be,” said Lederman.

Despite opposing the proposed reliability project, Lederman stressed that Springfield remains a leader in ensuring necessary safety repairs for existing natural gas infrastructures. However, he expressed concern with the reliability project’s attempts to unnecessarily expand the gas pipeline.

“We are going to continue to be a leader on investments in safety of the infrastructure, but what we are concerned with are attempts to expand the infrastructure unnecessarily,” said Lederman.

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