Pipeline Worries Natural Roots Farm

Aug 26 2015

The Recorder, August 26th, 2015, by Tom Relihan.

In 1998, David Fisher came to Conway with the dream of establishing a farm that would embody his ecological ideals and reverence for all life — a farm powered entirely by horses, allowing it to operate independent of fossil fuels like gasoline and diesel fuel.

That dream eventually took root, along with a variety of vegetables and other crops, as Natural Roots Farm at 888 Shelburne Falls Road.

As hard as Fisher, his family and his farm’s employees have tried to avoid fossil fuels in their own operations, however, he’s concerned that trend may soon come to an end for reasons beyond his control: according to maps released by Kinder Morgan, the proposed Northeast Energy Direct natural gas pipeline project is slated to pass within a mile of the farm, with one of the pipeline’s remote blow-off valves, which will periodically release natural gas into the air, expected to be located less than a mile away.

In a letter to the Community Supported Agriculture shareholders of his farm, Fisher has urged its members to pen letters to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which will ultimately decide on whether to permit the project, explaining their connection to the farm and asking it to deny the company’s application.

Fisher said letters can be sent to the farm to be packaged together and sent to the agency.
Fisher wrote that the proposed blow-off valve poses two threats to the farm, one immediate and another over the long term. The first threat, he wrote, is the possibility of methane — the primary component of natural gas — traveling down into the valley where the farm is located, concentrating, and exploding. The second comes in the form of the other possible components of the gas: chemicals used in hydrofracking, the process through which it is obtained.

“An array of hydrofracking chemicals that travel with the gas from the gas wells in Pennsylvania. There are over 600 chemicals used in the hydrofracking process, many of them are proven carcinogens, endocrine disrupters, and neurotoxins,” Fisher wrote. “Most, if not all, of these chemicals are heavier than air, so when they are released with the gas, they first travel with the prevailing wind, which would carry them southwest, directly over our farm, and then settle out, falling to the ground.”

Fisher said those chemicals could contaminate the food the farm produces, harm its animals and workers and cause health issues for his family and those who consume the farm’s crops.

“It is our sincere hope that we can assemble a heavy package of testimony from any and all of you, our customers who have supported us, and who value the healthy food that you eat, before August 31,” Fisher wrote.

Co-owner Anna Maclay said the farm has already received a number of letters.

“Natural Roots has been built by a phenomenal amount of labor over the past 18 years, not just our own but also that of countless apprentices, employees, volunteers, friends, and extended family,” Fisher wrote. “Embodied in this farm are not only the manifestations of our own dreams, but all of our financial resources as well. This is not a farm that we would consider walking away from. We feel that our life’s work, as well as our community’s health and safety, is at stake here. … From where we stand the NED Pipeline project is clearly not an option. We will fight it until the end.”

You can reach Tom Relihan at: trelihan@recorder.com, or call 413-772-0261 ext. 264. On Twitter, follow @RecorderTom

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