TOWNSEND -- With many residents concerned about a natural gas pipeline that has been proposed through northern Massachusetts, one Townsend conservation proponent has a plan to rally opposition to stop the project from moving forward.
Emily Norton, founder of Friends of Willard Brook and an advocate of conservation efforts in Townsend, held a meeting at the Townsend Meeting Hall Thursday night to push people to write letters to their representatives, particularly Gov. Deval Patrick, to delay, and eventually halt, the pipeline's progress.
"Learn all you can about this process. You have a right to participate in that. Work with your neighbors, attend meetings, strategize as a community. We can do this together," Norton said to the crowd of about 75 people.
She also urged people to put up lawn signs, sign a petition against the pipeline and either rescind or refuse to grant permission to Kinder Morgan, the company that has proposed construction of the pipeline.
Norton detailed a number of environmental, economic and health and safety issues that she said the pipeline raises.
Destruction to habitats, increased methane gas in the area, contamination of the water supply and destruction of conservation lands, which the proposed pipeline route cuts through, were some of the environmental issues she said are of particular concern.
"It's going through very senstive conservation areas that we've scraped together millions of dollars in order to save and they're going to plow right through it," Norton said.
In terms of economic impact, she said she is concerned about declines in property values, increases in insurance rates and the possibility that residents would pay for the pipeline's construction through a tariff added to their utility bills.
The health and safety dangers, including water and air contamination and the possibilities of leaks and explosions, were also major issues, she said.
Norton's talk followed a screening of "Gasland 2," a documentary that features interviews with residents across the country who claim that their health and well-being have been compromised by hydraulic fracturing, also known as "fracking," near their homes.
The movie helped to show that the problems associated with fracking aren't isolated to specific communities, but span the country, Norton said.
"It's got to be more than our backyards, it's got to be about this fracking process that is harming our drinking water," Norton said.
In a letter she read that she plans to send to Patrick, Norton said that the natural-gas industry should not be allowed to continue to grow unchecked.
"The spread of these pipelines is a cancer that must be stopped. We must cure ourselves of this cancer and not let it spread further," Norton said, reading from that letter.
She urged residents to follow in her footsteps, and offered copies of form letters that could be sent to local representatives.
Ultimately, she said, stopping the pipeline is possible if the community is mobilized.
"You need to commit for a long term community effort. Educate yourself, educate your neighbors. We can win this," Norton said.
Follow Chelsea Feinstein on Twitter and Tout @CEFeinstein.