By Hiroko Sato


GROTON — Karen Johnson wants to know why Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co., a Kinder Morgan subsidiary, is proposing to run a major pipeline through protected open space and residential neighborhoods instead of already disturbed areas.

Joni Parker-Roach, for one, wonders if the inexpensive natural gas, which would be shuttled from other states via the new pipeline would benefit New England residents or would simply be exported. And she asked why state law couldn’t keep preservation land from being dug up for the project.

More than 200 people who packed Groton’s first informational session on the Kinder Morgan Northeast Expansion Project on Thursday night asked a series of questions about the company’s potential plan to dig up their neighborhoods. Selectmen said many of those questions could only be answered by Kinder Morgan representatives, who weren’t there. Residents also can do only so much to block such a project, town counsels said.

But those who may see their homes possibly abut the pipeline said they would fight.

“Please talk to Deval Patrick,” Cheryl Scammell of Overlook Drive told Rep. Sheila Harrington, R-Groton, asking her to urge the governor to get on the side of concerned residents.

“I’m opposed to the pipeline,” Selectman Stuart Schulman also said, drawing thunderous applause from residents. “This would be an absolute disaster for Groton.”

The informational session came more than three months after town officials first became aware of TGP’s interest in surveying various properties in Groton and surrounding communities for its natural-gas pipeline-expansion project. The town has worked hard to communicate with the company and set up a public session scheduled for June 23, which company representatives will attend, according to town Land Use Director Michelle Collette.

The Thursday night session began with a project overview by Ken Hartledge of Nashoba Conservation Trust, followed by talks on energy and legal issues by Groton Electric Light Department Manager Kevin Kelly and town counsels David Doneski and Jackie Cowen. Harrington also served on the panel. The project involves the installment of up to a 36-inch-diameter pipeline between Richmond and Dracut in Massachusetts, according to Hartledge. Because of the lack of gas pipelines in New England, natural gas is far more expensive in the region compared with elsewhere in the country, Kelly said. In fact, New England spent $4.2 billion more for natural gas this past winter than those in Western Pennsylvania, where natural gas is abundant, he added.

Hartledge said TGP hopes to obtain a permit by late 2016 and start the pipeline operation in 2018. The 129-mile pipeline in Massachusetts would go through 206 wetlands, he said. Doneski and Cowen explained the permitting and appeal process and the issues concerning eminent domain.

While Kelly stressed the need for more natural gas to make up for dwindling energy sources due to the discontinued nuclear and coal-fire electricity generation, many residents expressed strong resentment toward Kinder Morgan and vowed to fight the project.

Selectman Peter Cunningham, who emceed the session, and Selectmen Anna Eliot and Jack Petropoulos said they wanted more information before taking a stand on the issue. Schulman said he opposes the project.