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Pipeline tax protesters cap 43-mile hike at State House steps

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After marching 43 miles from Medway to the steps of the State House, 69-year-old David Klafter on Sunday said there were times when he would have loved to go home and rest his feet.

But the toll it took on his body in the past four days, he said, is nothing compared to what future generations may feel from the effects of climate change.

So together with members of grassroots climate groups, he marched to protest the construction of natural gas pipeline projects in Massachusetts.

The marchers also protested a tariff proposed by the Department of Public Utilities that could allow utility companies like National Grid to charge electric ratepayers to help pay for pipeline construction in the state.


"I don't think I could feel like I was being fair to my children ... if I didn't do what I could to stop this," Klafter said. "We want to tell [Governor] Charlie Baker that the ratepayers are not going to pay for a pipeline."

The march was planned by 350 Massachusetts for a Better Future and Massachusetts Power Forward. Klafter and about 40 others started walking Thursday morning, in a route that took them from Medway to Sharon, West Roxbury and finally onto to the State House steps a little after 4 p.m. Sunday.

Marchers followed the route of state pipeline projects by Spectra Energy, a Houston-based company, according to 350 Massachusetts organizers.

They were joined by dozens along the way; about 100 people were present outside the State House. Protesters hoisted signs with phrases such as "Not in any backyard" and "People before profit."

A spokeswoman for Spectra said the company respects people's right to peacefully protest.

"It seems deeply unfair to me that we would be asked to subsidize new gas pipelines," said Emily Kirkland, 24, director of organizing for 350 Massachusetts. "Alternatives like wind and solar ... are the right thing on climate, and we should be investing in those."


The so-called "pipeline tax" is facing challenges from the state. The state Senate voted to add a pipeline tax ban amendment to its version of the omnibus energy bill, and the Supreme Judicial Court is considering a challenge to the tariff's legality.

Before reaching the State House, marchers stopped early Sunday afternoon for a rally at the Ruggles transfer station at Northeastern University. There, they heard speakers who advocated for expansion of renewable energy resources and for greater connections between climate and social justice.

"Environmental justice is social justice is racial justice," said Matt O'Malley, a member of Boston City Council, to the crowd. "This is a people-powered movement."

On Saturday morning, the group had rallied on the construction site of a Spectra pipeline in West Roxbury with Representative Stephen Lynch and Michelle Wu, president of the Boston City Council.

"We need to stop Spectra so families in Massachusetts do not have to go to bed at night worrying about a natural gas pipeline in their backyard," Lynch tweeted. "All I can say is that we have to keep on fighting. And if we just keep at it, like a dog on a bone, we will win."

Some of the marchers planned to pitch tents and camp in front of the State House building overnight.

The group is set to hold a rally there Monday morning.


Miguel Otárola can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @motarola123.