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