PEPPERELL -- Wednesday's rain did little to stop a crowd of more than 40 people from gathering at Pepperell Family Pharmacy to unveil the list of about 100 local businesses that endorse the Stop the Pipeline campaign.
"The response from small businesses really has been overwhelming," said Claire Miller from Toxics Action Center, an organization based in Boston that assists neighborhood groups to fight pollution in their communities.
"People keep saying 'yes, I want to help the campaign' and 'yes, I want to sign this petition,' " she said.
Stop the Pipeline supporters went out for two days to gather endorsements from local businesses in Ashby, Ayer, Dunstable, Pepperell, Townsend, Groton and Tyngsboro. The signed petitions will be delivered to Gov. Deval Patrick's office this fall.
The petition calls on Patrick to withdraw his proposal to publicly finance new gas infrastructure and hold this pipeline to the strictest standards possible for any requested permits.
Ashby Conservation Commissioner Cathy Kristofferson said it is important for Gov. Patrick to come out publicly in opposition of the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline.
"This is a federal project, so we need pressure from all of our representatives, not only those representing affected areas," she said.
State Rep. Sheila Harrington, R-Groton, appeared at the rally to show her support.
"I think that in the very beginning, when this issue came up, there was a lack of awareness," she said.
At first, only the legislators whose districts were directly affected by the pipeline were vocal in opposing it, she said, but now the entire Legislature is aware of the issue.
Today she is expected to meet with David J. Molher, executive director of the Office of Transportation Planning, and representatives from Kinder Morgan. She said both parties have already met to discuss the possibility of changing the route of the natural-gas pipeline to run along state highways rather than through rural neighborhoods.
"What I am trying to do is show what rights of way we have through our Department of Transportation and try to get a meeting of the minds," she said, "to be able to use existing rights of way so we don't affect natural resources or private property."
Promising to provide an update after Thursday's meeting, Harrington said she plans to sign the petition endorsing the Stop the Pipeline campaign on behalf of her law office.
Tracie Ezzio, owner of Pepperell Family Pharmacy, said she is proud to join the group of businesses opposed to the proposed pipeline route.
"Pepperell Family Pharmacy values our families and our health. This pipeline flies in the face of continuing to grow our local healthy community," she said.
Pepperell business owner Susan Edwards, of Extra Mile Designs, said even though the pipeline would not run through her yard or her neighbor's yard, she is part of the community and has an interest in its health and well-being.
"I hope the governor hears these small business owners' voices and publicly opposes this project," said Miller.
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