The wind whispers it through the trees.
Birds warble and trill it.
Critters carry it as they move from woods to woods, wetlands to wetlands. Pipeline coming… Pipeline coming…
This 2015 spring moving into early summer time feels different from my previous 11 rural ones in southwest New Hampshire. After a winter entombed in ice and snow with daily shoveling of paths for my dog with sides so high, I couldn’t see her from the window as she traipsed about, more was expected.
Everything seems a bit less lush, not bursting with spring sun to announce survival of a harsh five months. Or maybe it’s me as I wonder how many hundreds of thousands of Americans around the country wake up these days and contemplate: Pipeline coming… Pipeline coming…
And so that morning coffee or run or hike or bike ride or garden time this spring in rural New England becomes a potential memory as the present is linked less to the future, but to a past, before the pipelines came. Or to the idea of a pipeline – not in some earnest documentary – or media photos from “elsewhere” of exploding pipelines with blinding orange-yellow flames that envelope the sky.
Southern New Hampshire became an “elsewhere” about eight months ago when Kinder Morgan announced its plans to gouge land, forests, wetlands, residences, meadows, farms, ponds and lakes to dig several feet or so into, through and despite, layers of granite unyielding for centuries, but now expected to move aside, leaving ruined lives and property in its wake. Pipeline coming… Pipeline coming…
Kinder Morgan appears hell-bent to plunk down this 36-inch natural gas pipeline in an area of seasonal land shifts due to “frost heaves,” making the pipeline itself susceptible to jarring or dislodging that could produce a rupture, leak or explosion. And this chemical-laden, fracked gas will be rushed through, primarily on its way north for foreign export, encased in the thinnest, shittiest steel available because government “regulations” allow that, given the low population density in the pipeline towns. We have been reduced to a Pinto car part, estimated payouts for lost lives.
When they aren’t holding out their hands for campaign contributions, most of New Hampshire’s political leaders appear to be sitting on them when it comes to advocating and representing the nearly 100,000 people of the pipelinetowns. We have been told that we have neither the votes to swing elections in the state, nor the money to cough up for political lucre. We have been told the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has yet to meet apipeline it didn’t like and the number to focus on is over a third of pipeline proposals get withdrawn, due to citizen and politician pushback.
It has become the most basic and necessary of battles to fight, despite the Goliath-esque aspects to it. We have to stand up for our land, our woods, our water, our air because they are, ours’. That Live Free or Die stuff has a newresonance for folks in the pipeline towns. We walk the same ground as did guys like Matthew Thornton, Declaration of Independence signer, or Brigadier-General James Reed, Cpt. Josiah Crosby and Lt. Thompson Maxwell who fought at Bunker Hill, Lexington or participated in the Boston Tea Party. By the way, all of their historical markers are in pipeline towns.
So it’s hard to tell if Kinder Morgan thought they were going to encounter a bunch of maple syrup rubes up here or what exactly. Did they think because we live in the woods, pay our taxes and generally go about our business that we wouldn’t notice? Or, that we refuse to be characterized as some yuppie, granola NIMBYs, which appears to be the governor’s favorite prism through which to view the pipeline.
They have unleashed a ferocity that unites us in the pipeline towns, no matter our political or personal preferences or alliances. Everyone is very, very clear. The gas is not coming to us, it will ruin us and these precarious pipelines being dumped around the country these days at dizzying speed don’t belong in anybody’s backyard.
When I light a sparkler this Fourth of July, I’m going to be thinking how 239 years later in these same woods and towns, lanterns and horses have been replaced this summer by Facebook alerts and text messages to inform and mobilize the populace. Neighbors now warn each other daily when the Kinder Morgan surveyors appear – almost always in large pick-up trucks with out-of state plates from Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi.
We take pictures of the surveyors and post them on social media. Lately, they have started taking pictures of us.
Perhaps we should also be taking summer snapshots of ourselves, standing in front of our homes, woods, ponds and meadows. They may never look this way again.