TOWNSEND -- As a group of marchers opposed to a natural-gas pipeline that could cut across the state made a 2.2-mile trek down Route 119 Monday evening, the drivers of dozens of passing cars honked their horns and waved in support.
About 80 protesters marched from near the Townsend VFW Post to Townsend Common Monday evening, brandishing signs with messages such as, "Can you hear us now, Gov. Patrick?" and "Only dinosaurs want more fossil fuel."
The group was part of a statewide march organized to oppose a natural-gas pipeline, proposed by Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, that would run from Wright, N.Y. to Dracut.
"The whole nature of our lives in Townsend is being threatened by this and we're being asked to pay for it. We have no vote in the matter, and so much of this plan is harmful to us," said Emily Norton, a Townsend resident and conservation advocate who has taken the lead on the anti-pipeline movement in town. "It seems like it's becoming government of big gas, by big gas, for big gas, when it should be government of the people, by the people, for the people. If this plan goes through, it's not for the people, it's for Kinder Morgan."
Supporters of the pipeline say it will provide a necessary energy source to meet peak demand periods in New England.
Opponents say that the new infrastructure would harm the environment, infringe on the rights of property owners and increase the country's reliance on nonrenewable energy sources.
The march was expected to travel through Pepperell Tuesday and continue along the proposed route throughout the week, culminating in Dracut on Saturday. On July 30, protesters are planning to deliver a petition bearing more than 10,000 signatures to the Statehouse and hold a rally on the Statehouse steps.
The crowd in Townsend was mostly made up of residents, but included protesters from surrounding towns. Many of those who had gathered said that their primary concern is the environmental impact of natural gas.
"It isn't as good as people are touting it to be as a bridge fuel. It's going to keep us trapped in fossil fuels and emitting CO2," said Max MacPhee, a 27-year-old Townsend resident.
Suzanna Black, who splits her time between Groton and Cambridge, said she is concerned that the natural-gas supply that would feed the pipeline is only expected to last about 50 years.
"They're trashing a lot of land, the effects of which are going to be felt for eons, for a 50-year supply of natural gas," Black said.
Townsend Conservation Agent Leslie Gabrilska said the statewide march is drawing attention to the opposition movement in a way that meetings and petitions hadn't yet.
"It does draw attention and it shows, hopefully, our legislators and the governor how much opposition there is to this proposed pipeline and the fact that most people feel like we don't need a pipeline," Gabrilska said.
When the protesters reached Townsend Common, Selectmen Carolyn Smart and Colin McNabb spoke briefly in support of the group's efforts.
Townsend selectmen have refused to grant Kinder Morgan access to survey town-owned property for the pipeline project. On July 31, the town is holding a Special Town Meeting to vote on a nonbinding resolution against the pipeline.
"The right to peaceably assemble is one of the cornerstones of our democracy and it warms my heart to see it in action today," McNabb said.
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