By Hiroko Sato
GROTON -- Among all the issues that Richard Hewitt has with Kinder Morgan's plan to run a 129-mile natural-gas pipeline through Massachusetts, he finds what he called the company's lack of transparency particularly troubling.
He and many other residents first found out about the project through "mysterious letters and calls and visits from strangers" who asked for permission to survey their land, said Hewitt, a Longley Road resident whose property directly abuts the preliminary pipeline route. And despite the magnitude of the project, state officials aren't talking, he said.
"Our purpose here tonight is to see if Groton voters will vote to join other towns that have already voted on and passed similar resolutions opposing the New England Direct Energy Project with the ultimate goal of forcing an open public review of all options available to meet New England's future energy needs," Hewitt told fellow Groton residents before they did just that at Special Town Meeting on Monday night.
With an overwhelming majority vote, Groton voters adopted a nonbinding resolution against at Kinder Morgan's Northeast Direct Energy Project.
The resolution calls for selectmen to oppose the pipeline project proposed by Kinder Morgan subsidiary Tennessee Gas Pipeline, as well as any pipeline "that potentially threatens the safety of any Groton students, faculty or school facilities.
The resolution also asks state and federal legislators and executive-branch officials to prohibit projects that would harm the safety of people and the environment.
Even though the resolution was the only item to be voted on in the Special Town Meeting warrant, nearly 300 people showed to participate. There were only a few who opposed the resolution during the voice vote. Before the vote, Al Futterman of the Nashua River Watershed Association, and Jim O'Reilly, a resident who works for Lexington-based Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnership, joined Hewitt to present their views and opposition to the project. Futterman said the proposed pipeline route includes areas that are home to rare species and drinking-water protection areas.
O'Reilly discussed how he believes the Independent System Operator New England's push for the pipeline project is politically driven.
"Clearly, many people wanted information" and are opposed to the project, Selectman Jack Petropoulos said.
Selectman Stuart Schulman said the community is coming together to show its united front in its fight against the project. It's something that "both the liberals and the conservatives can get behind," he said.
Schulman, who expressed his opposition shortly after he heard about the plan, said he has no doubt that the project would do harm to the community.
"I have felt this way since the first meeting," he said. "I just felt this was a no-brainer, and it seems it is."