City councilors question the impact of the gas pipeline project
Proposed routes have been revealed for a controversial gas pipeline in western Massachusetts.
Eversource has proposed four possible routes for an approximately 5-mile-long pipeline connecting Longmeadow and the South End area of ââSpringfield. One route – although not one the utility said it prefers – would take the pipeline through part of Forest Park.
Joe Mitchell of Eversource said the project is needed to keep natural gas flowing through the city in case a 70-year-old pipeline under the Memorial Avenue Bridge fails.
âIt’s a reliability project,â Mitchell said. “We are trying to create a loop to mitigate an existing risk and this is not an expansion plan.”
Speaking at a Springfield City Council Sustainability and Environment Committee hearing held at a distance earlier this week, utility officials said if anything happened to the old pipeline, 58,000 customers could be without gas for weeks.
âThis is a fundamentally very important project that we have to move forward,â Mitchell said.
The project was originally designed by Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, which was acquired by Eversource in 2020. Environmental activists protested. They argue that no new pipelines should be built in the state, as the use of fossil fuels to heat buildings must be reduced.
The 16-inch-diameter pipeline would send natural gas from a proposed new delivery station in Longmeadow to the existing Eversource Bliss Street pressure control station. It would be built under the existing streets and no land intake would be necessary, according to the utility.
City Council Chairman Marcus Williams said construction of the pipeline in the proposed areas would result in “massive disruption.”
The project would require local permits, said Chris Cignoli, director of Springfield DPW.
âThis is where (city engineers) come in with detailed surveys, detailed locations, how long to build in a particular area, impacts on traffic and all kinds of things that we will be looking at,â said Cignoli.
The municipal councilor of district 6, Victor Davila, who represents many districts crossed by the gas pipeline, strongly opposed its routing through Forest Park.
âThis park is a neighborhood gem,â Davila said. “And this park has to be protected and it has to be in perfect condition.”
The total cost of the project, including the cost of constructing the new delivery station at Longmeadow, has been estimated at $ 40 million. City Councilor Jesse Lederman questioned the impact on Eversource taxpayers.
âSo I plan to ask for an independent cost-benefit analysis against the tariff increase and I hope the DPU (Department of Public Utilities) agrees with this,â Lederman said. He added that he would ask the DPU to hold hearings in the city of Springfield.
The Eversource spokesperson said the project proposal will be submitted to the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board later this year to open a regulatory proceeding that typically lasts two years.
Eversource has scheduled two virtual public meetings next month to discuss the project with buters.