By Katina Caraganis
TOWNSEND -- Residents concerned about the proposed Kinder Morgan natural-gas pipeline got some help Monday night from a group of college students who are part of a number of students biking the entire route this summer in opposition of the project.
The Climate Summer Riders, part of the Better Futures Project, have been riding along the route of the proposed pipeline project, stopping in various communities along the way to educate people about climate change and the issues surrounding the proposed pipeline.
Tennessee Gas Pipeline, a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, is proposing a northeast energy project to upgrade its existing pipeline in New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut.
According to the Kinder Morgan website, the proposed expansion is a chance to meet the increased demands in the Northeast for transportation of natural gas.
Nicholas Jansen, a junior at the University of Michigan and a Michigan native, said he felt compelled to help with the pipeline project after he wasn't able to get involved in a similar one affecting his home state.
A similar project went through his town in Michigan, he said, and residents were not given the chance to weigh in or express concerns they had about it.
He said by getting involved in the project, it gives him a chance to help make a difference in other communities facing a similar project.
"I feel hope here," he said. "I feel like we can still do something.
Tuula Perry, a native of Hawaii, just graduated from Salem College in North Carolina and said that becoming involved in the project has helped shape her future goals.
Next month, she starts a job in San Jose, Calif., helping to bridge the gap between freshly grown vegetables and grocery stores.
Perry and Jansen, along with Jana Wilkes of Minnesota, Rachel Eckles of Texas and Gonzalo Crivelli of Florida represent the eastern part of the proposed pipeline project and have been biking together for two months now.
In each community, they stay in churches, barns and other places while educating the general public.
Emily Norton, a longtime Townsend resident and self-proclaimed "environmental activist," helped set up Monday's event on the common and said the pipeline project has become personal for her.
She taught environmental science for many years and felt it was time "to do what she preaches," she said Monday.
While she has many reasons she is opposed to the project, she said one of her biggest concerns is the impact it will have on the environment.
"It will increase our dependency on fossil fuels at a time where that should be decreasing, and we are taking steps back in decreasing greenhouse gas," she said.
She said more than 3,000 acres of land would be clear-cut to build pipeline, she said. Also, she said there would be an added tax on residents' bills to have pay for pipeline expenses.
"I don't know that there is anything positive about this project from an environmental standpoint," she said. "We shouldn't be covering the business expenses of a multibillion-dollar company. It's a project being forced on us."
Jeanne and Ken Nevard of Pepperell are not directly impacted by the proposed project but are actively involved in conserving open space in town and are fearful of the amount of conservation land that would be impacted.
Though many conservation lands are generally considered protected against development, Ken Nevard said, it is his understanding that projects like this supersede the clean-water and clean-air acts as long as Kinder Morgan can prove their is a great need for the expansion.