TOWNSEND -- Two pioneers in the movement that has sprung up to oppose a proposed natural gas pipeline across Massachusetts spoke in Townsend Saturday, urging residents to fight the project and making their case for why the new infrastructure is unnecessary.
Kinder Morgan Energy Partners and its subsidiary, Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, are considering construction of a pipeline from Wright, New York to Dracut to meet peak energy demand in New England, as well as another segment of pipe that would bring gas from Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania to Wright.
"My position is that we don't need this pipeline, we could fix the gas leaks, we can encourage further gains in renewable energy, further gains in energy efficiency and actually meet that low demand scenario," said Jane Winn, executive director of the Berkshire Environmental Action Team, in a presentation to more than 100 local residents in Townsend Meeting Hall. "It's not clean, it's not going to be cheap, it's not going to be reliable and I don't think it's needed."
On Kinder Morgan's website, the company calls natural gas "a clean, environmentally friendly energy source produced domestically."
But Winn said chemicals found in natural gas can be more harmful to the environment than coal, when gas leaks are taken into account.
Winn said that investing in solar energy had the potential to both meet energy demand over the long term and create thousands of permanent jobs, as opposed to the 3,000 temporary construction jobs Kinder Morgan representatives say the pipeline will create.
She decried the influence of an outside company to have more of a say than the residents whose land would be affected by the project.
"There are two things that can stop this pipeline. One is the market analysis, it just doesn't work out financially for them to do it. The other is NIMBYism -- not in my backyard. My guess is lots of you were worried about fracking before you thought it was coming to your own backyard. Not in my backyard? Not in anybody's backyard," Winn said.
Rosemary Wessel, of No Fracked Gas in Mass, advised residents to deny or rescind permission to Tennessee Gas Company to survey their land. She also suggested writing letters to officials, signing a state-wide petition opposing the pipeline and pressing legislators to eliminate language from a bill currently before the House Committee on Ways and Means that could open the door for a tariff on ratepayers to fund the pipeline's construction.
Language that would have allowed the tariff has been eliminated in the current version of the bill, but could be put back in, Wessel said.
"Without the tariff, it could die just for economic reasons, so we're encouraging people to contact the legislature and make sure wording for allowng the tariff is kept out," Wessel said.
So far, she said, 16 towns around the state have adopted non-binding resolutions opposing the pipeline. Pepperell residents will be voting on that resolution at a Special Town Meeting on June 30. A petition in Townsend has garnered enough signatures to force a Special Town Meeting on the subject there as well.
"It's really important to get the word out and get more numbers up on the petition and more people writing to the governor," Wessel said.
Next Wednesday, representatives from Kinder Morgan will be meeting with Townsend selectmen at North Middlesex Regional High School at 7 p.m.
Townsend resident and conservation advocate Emily Norton, who organized Saturday's meeting, urged residents to attend the meeting prepared to press those company representatives for answers.
"We need to pack the place. We need to think of really good questions to ask," Norton said.