There's a reason residents "peppered" Kinder Morgan representatives at the Tuesday, August 5, forum in Lunenburg.
Here's what the press release from Representative Jen Benson's office said about what was supposed to happen at the open forum at the Lunenburg HS:
"The purpose of the public forum is for state elected and local officials, residents, and business owners to share information and coordinate efforts on the issue. The legislators believe it is crucial for all impacted residents and municipalities to have an abundance of information, and understand the characteristics of the pipeline, such as its route, and what land it would affect, in order to make decisions concerning the project. The discussion is open to all members of the public.: (Source: Press release from Representative Benson's office, dated 7/24/2014)
What actually happened? Attendees walked in to find a table filled to the brim with handouts and informational sheets from ... none other than Kinder Morgan! And, surprise, surprise, the organizers thought it would be a good idea to let Kinder Morgan start off this public meeting by giving their newly updated (but still lacking in details) corporate dog-and-pony show for 20 or so minutes. What followed was 1 1/2 hours of citizens getting to ask questions of Kinder Morgan.
I hardly think this qualifies as "an abundance of information" since the only "official" source of information was Kinder Morgan, an entity with clear bias on this topic.
Citizens did an excellent job of bringing up a host of issues and complaints related to this proposed project, but Kinder Morgan downplayed all of them or outright gave false information, such as denying that Kinder Morgan uses strong-arm tactics to gain access to homeowners' land for surveying purposes. This in spite of the fact that numerous residents got up to speak about the ominously worded letters they had received and the threatening tones used by Kinder Morgan representatives who appeared at their door out of the blue.
When the chair of the Lunenburg Board of Selectmen gave a fiery speech about how Kinder Morgan had not been upfront with the town of Lunenburg about its intentions to survey property and had never replied to the board's request to have an accurate map of which parcels of land Kinder Morgan was looking at (this will sound familiar to every Board of Selectmen in every town where Kinder Morgan has presented), Allen Fore (KM rep) did his artful dodger routine and said that "the map hasn't been finalized."
To my eternal relief, the chair fired back that Kinder Morgan must know what parcels they're considering because the homeowners in the cross-hairs of this proposed pipeline had received the aforementioned threatening letters from Kinder Morgan about surveying their property.
Allen promised that the board would have the letters by the end of the month. We'll see.
Overall, there were about 75 people who stood up that night to ask questions, voice outrage, express frustration, and convey dissatisfaction with the process KM has undertaken ... and the proposed project in general. There were three people (two union members and one union rep) who voiced support for the pipeline.
The "coordinating efforts" to oppose the pipeline (which the press release also mentioned) never happened. It is a shame that the Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce and the representatives were not able to make the reality of what happened match the ambitious goals outlined in the press release.
Kudos to Representative Benson (Lunenburg) and Representative DiNatale (Fitchburg) who stood up and voiced their opposition to not only this project but to Kinder Morgan's handling of it. They stand with tens of thousands of residents and 24 (and counting) towns who have quickly -- and often unanimously -- passed nonbinding resolutions opposing this proposed pipeline.