Springfield City Council opposes Eversource pipeline, advocates say it is a necessary project
Opponents and proponents of a proposed natural gas pipeline extending from Longmeadow to Springfield gathered on the steps of Springfield City Hall Thursday.
The Western Massachusetts Natural Gas Reliability Project proposed by Eversource will cost an estimated $64 million and serve about 58,000 customers in Agawam, Chicopee, East Longmeadow, Longmeadow, Southwick, Springfield and West Springfield.
"Eversource should be thinking about solar energy, wind energy and training people for those kinds of jobs," said Springfield City Councilor Zaida Govan, who joined eight additional councilors asking Eversource to reconsider the pipeline.
The Springfield City Council voted Monday 9-0 on a resolution opposing the project. Councilors Tim Allen, Kateri Walsh and Sean Curran were not present for the vote.
"If the current pipeline...is not reliable, why not fix it rather than building a massive new one?" asked City Councilor Maria Perez.
Several councilors cited Eversource officials during a public hearing calling the pipeline redundant.
Priscilla Ress, a spokesperson for Eversource, said the project is not redundant, but secondary.
"This is a single source pipeline built in the 1950s. The standards in engineering are different now and certainly the demands have increased," she said.
Ress said the company considers the project a top priority in order to ensure quality service for customers.
"We are obligated to safely and reliably deliver power to customers," she said.
Colton Andrews is the president of the Pioneer Valley Building Trades Council. He said many people who oppose the project are talking about the future without ensuring a plan for the present.
"We have no fail safe or backup. It's all good in theory and natural gas should be the bridge to a clean, renewable energy for the future, but currently the way it's constructed we can't rely on infrastructure that's 70-years-old," he said. "If this (pipeline) breaks down in the middle of winter what is the backup? It's not wind or solar, those are not being built up at a fast enough pace to offset the usage needs."
Michael Langone is a Springfield resident and manager of the Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 104 based in Holyoke.
"What concerns me is every time you ask all these activists what the plan is, there is nothing. How are you going to do it?" he said. "Nobody has an alternative plan."
Ress said there is no set date for when the project will begin since it must be approved by the Energy Facilities Siting Board, an independent state board that reviews proposed large energy facilities including power plants, electric transmission lines, intra-state natural gas pipelines, and natural gas storage tanks.
The Longmeadow Select Board has also said it is against the pipeline. The public officials are joined by several state senators and representatives as well as climate change activists including the Springfield Climate Justice Coalition.