Forming human barricade, 10 pipeline protesters arrested in Otis State Forest

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By Thursday, Aug 10 News  5 Comments
Ben Hillman
Two roadblocks were set up around a mile apart on either side of Spectacle Pond on Cold Spring Road.

Sandisfield — In an early morning action carried out Wednesday, Aug. 9., at the site of the Kinder Morgan/Tennessee Gas Connecticut Expansion Pipeline Project, 21 members of the protest group Sugar Shack Alliance successfully blocked construction traffic for almost three hours in two directions on Cold Spring Road.

Traffic backed up at Roadblock 2. Photo: Ben Hillman

Traffic backed up at Roadblock 2. Photo: Ben Hillman

The action hindered access to work zones for employees, and, for a short time, it disrupted ongoing pipeline construction. The day’s action — undertaken, Sugar Shack members said, “in the interest of public safety” — resulted in the arrest of 10 activists.

These most recent arrests follow 40 others made in four separate incidents on May 2, with six more arrested May 6, eight on June 24, and 22 on July 29.

In a written statement, Sugar Shack members say they have a “major safety concern” because of the apparent lack of an evacuation plan in the event of a potentially catastrophic accident.

A blasting accident during construction of a second pipeline in 1981 ruptured the old pipeline, causing gas to be released and prompting the evacuation of northern portions of Sandisfield. With the construction of this new pipeline, Sugar Shack says Kinder Morgan was also blasting in close proximity to two existing live gas pipelines.

“This cavalier attitude on the part of Kinder Morgan — and their discernible lack of concern over unforeseen consequences suffered by local residents, pipeline workers, as well as the general public in the event of a potentially deadly accident — greatly encouraged this action,” Sugar Shack spokesperson Susan Triolo said.

Another beautiful morning at Lower Spectacle Pond. Photo: Ben Hillman

Another beautiful morning at Lower Spectacle Pond. Photo: Ben Hillman

In addition, the group says it is “alarmed that once construction is complete, Kinder Morgan will be removing over half a million gallons of water from Lower Spectacle Pond to test their pipes.”

There is currently no available information as to what toxins may be contained in those pipes during construction. The water, warmed during the test process, along with any number of unknown residues, will be discharged down a steep slope of the easement into Spectacle Pond Brook then travel into the Clam River, a designated coldwater fishery.

Sugar Shack Alliance says it remains deeply rooted in the principles of non-violent civil disobedience. By its own admission, Sugar Shack seeks to disrupt any and all expansion of the fossil fuel industry.

The women of Roadblock 2. Photo: Ben Hillman

The women of Roadblock 2. Photo: Ben Hillman

State Police spokesman David Procopio told The Edge that at 6:47 a.m. Wednesday Troop B of the Massachusetts State Police was notified by private security officers working at the gas pipeline extension project of two groups of protesters. The protesters, whom Procopio described as peaceful, were blocking Cold Spring Road at South Beech Plain Road, as well as an access road, in the work area.

He said the protesters told security guards they were refusing to leave and understood that would face arrest.

“Troopers responded and notified both groups of protestors that they had to disperse,” Procopio said. “When the 10 protesters refused repeated requests to disperse, they were arrested.”

The arrestees were transported to the Berkshire Sheriff’s Department in Pittsfield to be booked. Procopio said they were expected to be released, most likely on personal recognizance, and ordered to appear in court for arraignment in the near future. Police said the roadways were reopened by 9:10 a.m.

State Police lead away a protester. Photo: Ben Hillman

State Police lead away a protester. Photo: Ben Hillman

Those arrested for trespassing were as follows:

Irvine Sobleman, 67, of Northampton

Ellen M. Graves, 76, of West Springfield

Patricia P. Wieland, 73, of Northampton

Harriet A. Nestel, 78, of Athol

Amanda L. Nash, 58, of Gloucester

Erik W. Burcroff, 57, of Plainfield

Priscilla Lynch, 65, of Conway

Mary E. Kehler, 70, of Colrain

Bonner J. Mcallister, 68, of Monterey

Sherrill Hogen, 78, of Charlemont

After the protest the construction continues. Photo: Ben Hillman

After the protest the construction continues. Photo: Ben Hillman


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5 Comments   Add Comment

  1. John says:

    The 10 individuals need to be financially responsible for these repeat actions.
    While it’s great to have free speech, It’s not ok to repeatedly stick the remaining citizens with the bill over and over for such disobedience

    1. Cost of all police activity
    2. Cost of all court activity
    3. Cost of additional construction time

    A fine of $10,000 each, might just cover it all

  2. Lauretta says:

    I am so grateful to all the pipeline protesters, most of whom are from outlying areas, spending their time and money to come here and protest this pipeline and destruction of our forests and waters. They are exercising the basic rights of citizenship to protect us. Let Kinder Morgan cover the cost of police work, they are the ones who will profit hugely from this travesty against our public lands.

  3. Beth Carlson says:

    These people are Heros and Heras. #resistance. The above costs are part of the theory and strategy of non violent protests. This is how change happens!

  4. peter greer says:

    There should be 100X the number of protesters and these 10 should be applauded. This should be a line in the sand against an outdated and destgructive system. The notion that a 1936 act should trump all laws- state local – is absurd. There should have been a sunset provision to see if the gas act continues to serve the public interest. It does not ; it continues our reliance on non renewable sources of energy and in spews as much carbon into the atmosphere as any other form of dirty energy.Google methane. The cost of continuing on this path is way more then the incremental enforcement $.

  5. Bob Fedell says:

    Since the State Police swear an oath to uphold both the Federal and State Constitution, and the Otis forest is “protected” by the state constitution, shouldn’t the police be arrested as well for not abiding by their oath?

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Frederick Simmons Sr., 86, of Lee

Tuesday, Oct 17 - Fred enjoyed hunting and fishing in the local area, vegetable gardening, woodworking, spending time with his large extended family and being a great dad.