From the New Haven Register

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has signaled that her office plans to confront Kinder Morgan’s Tennessee Gas Co. in court over access to Otis State Forest in Sandisfield to construct its new natural gas pipeline spur serving three utilities in Connecticut.

Kinder Morgan filed suit in Berkshire Superior Court last week seeking an injunction to allow immediate tree-cutting to begin along the nearly four-mile pipeline loop that cuts through state-protected land in Sandisfield.

The court filing listed the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Department of Conservation and Recreation and its commissioner, Leo P. Roy, among the defendants.

Healey’s office confirmed that it will represent the state and the DCR and will file in opposition ahead of a court hearing on the case.

“Our state Constitution protects conservation land across Massachusetts, including Otis State Forest,” Healey stated in an email message to The Berkshire Eagle. “Any company with plans to build on or re-purpose state-protected land has an obligation to fully comply with the requirements set forth in our Constitution.”

Article 97, an amendment to the constitution, shields state-designated land from development. The state acquired as conservation land the woodlands including Spectacle Pond Farm for $5.2 million in 2007.

Kinder Morgan is seeking the court injunction because federal environmental guidelines limit tree-clearing to a period between Oct. 31 and March 31 through the provisions of the Endangered Species Act. The company’s construction schedule aims to put the pipeline into service next winter to supply the Connecticut utility companies with additional natural gas.

The court document asks for immediate eminent-domain condemnation of more than 15 miles of permanent and temporary easements through the state forest. The company argued that “it is indisputable that the DCR is unwilling to enter into a voluntary agreement to transfer the easements to Tennessee Gas unless it is approved by a two-thirds vote of the state legislature.”

Kinder Morgan officials explained that they sought the court injunction because state lawmakers had failed to act on proposed legislation that would have granted the company a waiver from Article 97, allowing the pipeline construction to proceed through the protected state land.

Company spokesman Steve Crawford told The Eagle: “After the completion of a full environmental review, a public comment period and the development of extensive mitigation and land protection measures, Tennessee Gas Pipeline received its environmental certificate from the state.”

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