AGAWAM, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- Residents in Agawam are speaking out about a natural gas pipeline project planned for Suffield Street.
The Tennessee Gas pipeline company is seeking to put more than two miles of pipeline in the ground, next to already existing gas pipelines in the same area.
Tonight, at 7 p.m. at Agawam Junior High, the city council will decide whether or not to approve a deal negotiated by town officials with Tennessee Gas.
It's a deal residents say could put them in danger.
We spoke with residents who told us their biggest concern with what the town has negotiated with Tennessee Gas is a damage release, which they fear could release the gas company from any liability in the future should the project cause damage.
"The looping project" would allow the Tennessee Gas pipeline company to install 2.1 miles of new pipeline on Suffield Street. That pipeline would go into the ground, next to two existing pipeline systems.
Ed Cecchi, a property owner who didn't want to show his face on-camera, claims the old pipelines and the new project cross his land.
"For Agawam residents, it’s all risk, no reward," Cecchi said.
The project would also allow Tennessee Gas to upgrade their compressors and technology, but the piece of the project that's alarming to residents like Cecchi: the damage release agreement negotiated by the town with the gas company.
"To release liability for something that hasn’t happened yet, I mean that gave them a blanket," Cecchi added.
Western Mass News obtained a copy of this agreement. According to the language, the agreement releases and discharges Tennessee Gas from "all liabilities therefor" in exchange for $150,000 paid to the town.
It covers potential harm done to "crops, timber and any and all damages to the properties" resulting from the pipeline project.
Resident Susan Grossberg fears the agreement's vague language, if approved by the city council, could leave Agawam's land vulnerable.
"As a litigation attorney, this is something I would never have advised any of my clients to sign onto...to release damages for something that hasn’t even occurred," Grossberg noted.
Agawam Mayor William Sapelli said, by phone, "That’s just not the case."
Western Mass News brought these concerns to Sapelli, who spoke with us over the phone.
Sapelli said the damage release agreement relates only to the $150,000 to be paid by Tennessee Gas to the town. Sapelli said the agreement prohibits the company from trying to change the dollar amount, but doesn't give them a free pass to damage property.
"If there was a faulty pipe or there was some kind of explosion, that’s not letting them off the hook for that," Sapelli explained.
[Reporter: ...and you’re confident that a judge would see it that way too?]
"Well, that’s what my legal team here told me, that that’s just relating to the sale of property. When somebody’s negligent, they’re negligent," Sapelli said.
However, with the deadly 2018 Lawrence gas explosions still fresh in resident's minds, they said any project concerning natural gas brings worst case scenarios to mind,
"I’ll be dead when it explodes. They’ll be fishing my body out of the river. If there’s ever a problem, I won’t even know what happened," Cecchi said.
We reached out to Tennessee Gas. They declined to comment on this matter.
The city council told us tonight will only serve to approve that damage release agreement to the tune of $150,000. A councilor told us they do not have the power to halt the project and that it's in federal regulators hands.