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Once again, 1Berkshire invites skepticism about the integrity of its advocacy

The fact that 1Berkshire would take a position on the Kinder-Morgan natural gas pipeline while accepting funds from Kinder-Morgan raises many questions, just as it did when they opposed the Housatonic River cleanup while accepting a large, secret donation from General Electric.

To the Editor:

The Berkshire Eagle ran a column on Saturday February 25th under the headline: C. Jeffrey Cook and Donald R. Dubendorf: The pipeline and the Berkshire economy, in which the authors put forth a detailed argument in favor of Kinder-Morgan’s proposal to run a natural gas pipeline through Berkshire County.

They describe the public conversation about the project thus far as “confrontational, shrill and highly politicized.” They characterize opponents of the pipeline as confused and refer to a study commissioned by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office that concluded that the pipeline is not needed, as narrowly focused and flawed.

In their closing they appeal to those involved in the decision making to take a hard look at “…our actual experience with the construction and maintenance of pipelines over many years.” And in the end the authors are described simply as “leaders in the Berkshire community,” a rather benign phase given the connection to Kinder-Morgan money.

The Eagle’s editorial staff and the authors failed to disclose the fact that the authors both serve on the boards of 1Berkshire and that 1Berkshre receives funds from Kinder Morgan. Mr Dubendorf is the Chair of 1Berkshire and serves on both of it’s boards – Mr. Cook is a founder and currently serves on the 1Berkshire and its affiliated Chamber of Commerce board.

It might be considered little more than an oversight were it not for a similar, highly publicized episode during the inception of 1Berkshire five years ago.

The then fledgling organization received $300,000 from GE in late 2010, and launched a campaign in January of 2011 supporting GE’s arguments for low-cost remediation under the name The Smart River Cleanup Coalition. According to a front page article in the Boson Globe (Feb. 27, 2011) the group first denied having any connection to 1Berkshire but later acknowledged that the coalition was an initiative of the new alliance and that 1Berkshire had received $300,000 from GE just months before.

Kinder Morgan is currently listed as an “Investor” on the 1Berkshire Alliance website because of a widely publicized contribution made in February of 2015. In an article in the Berkshire Edge, 1Berkshire spokesman and Berkshire Chamber of Commerce President and Chief Executive Jonathan Butler said, “We welcome anybody’s investment. If they are doing legal business, we accept it just as we would for those organizations who are opposed to the pipeline.

“It’s not to our advantage to take positions on things,” he added.

1Berkshire has attracted the interest and good will of many individuals and organizations in the Berkshires including several non-profits through its Trend Setter Awards and other activities. The fact that they would take a position on the pipeline while accepting funds from Kinder-Morgan raises many questions. Their failure to disclose the association in what appeared to be an ordinary op-ed column is a breach of the trust and good will of it’s members and the community at large.

In an editorial “GE funds invite suspicion”  (February 22, 2011), The Berkshire Eagle advised, “In taking the GE funding, 1Berkshire should not have taken a stand on the river cleanup. If adopting the stance came first, then 1Berkshire should have declined the GE funding.“  The leadership of 1Berkshire would do well to adopt this sort of standard if they plan to continue to operate within the bounds of the public trust.

John Whalan

West Stockbridge

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