News Briefs: Sandisfield Land Bill; BRPC clean-up award

The Tennessee Gas pipeline would cross and alter numerous wetlands and vernal pools in Sandisfield, increase the spread of invasive plant species and permanently remove more than one million gallons of water from Spectacle Pond.

Public hearing date set for Sandisfield Article 97 Land Bill

Boston — State Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D- Pittsfield) and State Representative William “Smitty” Pignatelli (D- Lenox) announced that a public hearing date has been set by the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight (SARO) for H. 3690, An Act relative to the conveyance of an easement in the town of Sandisfield, Massachusetts.

The public hearing is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, November 10 at 11 a.m. in Gardner Auditorium of the State House. It will be the only matter of discussion during the hearing.

State Representative Garrett Bradley (D- Hingham) sponsored the legislation at the request of the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, LLC, a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan Energy Partners. The legislation is necessary to advance its proposed Connecticut Expansion Project (CT Expansion), as passage of it would secure access and easements to state-owned, public conservation lands in Sandisfield.

The company is seeking to add a 3.8-mile, 36-inch diameter storage loop to one of Sandisfield’s two existing gas lines in order to supply its Connecticut markets. The easements will be used by the company to lay, construct, maintain, operate, repair, remove, or replace the underground gas transmission lines in order to upgrade its existing system.

On August 25 Downing and Pignatelli hosted the SARO Committee chairs and members in Sandisfield so they could personally visit the land outlined in this legislation. During the site visit it was discussed that work associated with the project may affect biodiversity, cause erosion, and require the removal of old oak and ash trees that also serve as habitats. Further, the pipeline would cross and alter numerous wetlands and vernal pools, increase the spread of invasive plant species and permanently remove more than one million gallons of water from Spectacle Pond.

Downing and Pignatelli intend to testify against H. 3690 at the beginning of the hearing. Local testimony will help inform the Committee chairs, members, and staff on the impacts of the legislation, and Downing and Pignatelli therefore encourage residents, officials, and concerned parties to participate as well.

There are three ways to testify on a pending bill: written testimony submitted by U.S. Mail; written testimony submitted by e-mail; and oral testimony presented during the hearing. All testimony received will be given the same consideration.

The written testimony of an interested party should identify their name and contact information, the bill number and title, their position on the bill, and the reason for that position. Those who do not support H. 3690 want to urge the Committee to keep the bill from advancing by either placing it into a study order or giving it an adverse recommendation.

Oral testimony delivered in person at the hearing will be limited to three minutes. Most Committees have a sign-up sheet outside of the hearing room and call people on a first-come, first-served basis. It is tradition for legislators and stage agency officials to be recognized out of turn as they arrive in the hearing room if they wish to testify.

While the hearing will take place on November 10, written testimony will be accepted until the Committee takes action on the bill. If it is not enacted and sent to the Governor by Sunday, July 31, 2016, the bill will be defeated. Roll calls are necessary for the passage of Article 97 land bills, and under the Joint Rules that govern the House and Senate, no roll calls can be taken after formal session recesses on July 31 of the second year of session.

Contact information of SARO Committee Chairs:

The Honorable Joan Lovely, Senate Chair

Joint Committee on State Administration &Regulatory Oversight

State House, Room 413-A

Boston, MA 02133

Joan.Lovely@masenate.gov

 

The Honorable Peter V. Kocot, House Chair

Joint Committee on State Administration & Regulatory Oversight

State House, Room 22

Boston, MA 02133

Peter.Kocot@mahouse.gov

–E.E.

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Brownfield cleanup funds for Berkshire Regional Planning Commission

Pittsfield — The Berkshire Regional Planning Commission (BRPC) has been awarded an additional $500,000 for its Berkshire Brownfields Revolving Loan Funds by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The funds are available to assist in the clean-up of sites contaminated by either petroleum or hazardous materials. For-profit entities are eligible for loan funds and non-profit organizations or public entities may seek loans or grants from the program.

Funds previously awarded to the Berkshire Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund have been used to remove the contaminated buildings from the New England Log Homes site in Great Barrington, remove the threat of petroleum contamination from a small site on School Street in downtown Lee, clean up petroleum contamination at a site on North Street in Dalton which has been sold for new business development by the Town, and is being used to clean up contamination from several lots on Dewey Avenue in Pittsfield which will become part of the Housatonic Greenway in the Westside Neighborhood.

Projects that have indicated they may seek to access this additional funding include the final clean-up of the New England Log Homes site in Great Barrington, Eagle Mill in Lee, Greylock/Cariddi Mill in North Adams, Memorial Middle School in Adams, and St. Martin’s Church in Pittsfield. Other potential sites include Deerfield Machine & Tool in North Adams, the former Stetson Cleaners in Pittsfield, and the former Ried Cleaners in Great Barrington.

BRPC is actively seeking applications for the revolving loan funds from the organizations that have already expressed interest as well as any other parties who may have sites needing clean-up funds. Initial applications are due to the Commission no later than December 31. Interested parties should contact BRPC’s Brownfields Program Coordinator Melissa Provencher at (413) 442-1521 x22 to discuss their needs.

–E.E.