By Katina Caraganis
LUNENBURG -- Destructive. Short-sighted. Quick fix. Those are just three of the many adjectives residents from the communities that could be impacted by the proposed expansion to the Tennessee Gas Pipeline at a public forum held Tuesday night in Lunenburg.
The forum was put together jointly by the local delegation and the Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce as a way to bring everyone together to have questions answered.
Tennessee Gas Pipeline, a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, is proposing the Northeast energy direct project to upgrade its existing pipeline system in New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut.
The proposed project will begin at the New York border and end in Dracut.
Officials from Kinder Morgan were on hand for the public forum Tuesday night, and in response to questions about why this project is being proposed in the first place, Allen Fore, the director of public affairs, said it is because of "increased demand" in the region.
Pending approval of the project at the federal level, the project is expected to be placed in service by Nov. 18 in order for the additional supply to be available for the 2018-2019 winter heating system.
State Rep. Stephen DiNatale, D-Fitchburg, spoke at the beginning of the forum, expressing his strong displeasure for the project.
Pointing to the dozens of people in the audience, he said, "This is a demonstration of how important this project is.
"I want to want to learn more about this and get some reassurance that this gas will stay in the United States," he added.
DiNatale also questioned whether ratepayers in Fitchburg would actually see a reduction in the rates they are paying, calling this an "important economic" decision that needs to be made.
Representatives from the construction workers union were at Tuesday night's meeting, voicing support for the project, due in large part to the number of construction jobs it would create in the region.
DiNatale said he doesn't want to turn his back on bringing construction jobs to the region, but he wouldn't support it "at the cost of private-property rights."
Kinder Morgan representative Jim Hartman said a certificate of convenience to go ahead with the project would only be issued if "it is determined there is a need for this project."
Fore said that during the process, Kinder Morgan plans to purchase hundreds of thousands of acres of property to put into conservation to mitigate the vast amounts of property the pipeline would cover. That includes a recent acquisition of 147 acres of open space in New Jersey that will be conserved.
Tuesday's forum was open to the general public and not only residents from Lunenburg, and many asked for more detailed maps of the projected route as it stands now.
Fore said those maps are hard to determine because the path changes slightly on a daily basis.
He said the route is only proposed and has not been approved yet.
DiNatale said that in this day and age, when you can "read a license plate from outer space," he couldn't understand Kinder Morgan's reasoning.
"Why is it so difficult to get maps that better show the proposed route?" he said.
Lunenburg Board of Selectmen Chairman Tom Alonzo agreed, saying that when Kinder Morgan representatives were in front of Lunenburg selectmen earlier this summer, the board requested more detailed maps, and they have yet to be provided.
While Hartman said they could get the board some of the information requested, the parcel map in question "will become a public document after we file."
State Reps. Jen Benson, D-Lunenburg, Jon Zlotnik, D-Gardner, and Sheila Harrington, R-Groton, were also in attendance at the forum.
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