PEPPERELL — Pepperell homeowners were urged not to give up the fight against a proposed natural gas pipeline Thursday night at a meeting of about 150 residents.
Members of the Nashoba Conservation Trust and concerned residents led the meeting in order to mobilize people against a natural-gas pipeline that has been proposed by Kinder Morgan Energy Partners and its subsidiary Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company. The pipeline would run from Wright, N.Y. to Dracut.
“You owe it to yourselves, you owe it to your family, you owe it to your neighbors to fight this,” said Pepperell homeowner VInce Premus, who led the meeting.
Premus urged residents to write letters and make phone calls to their elected officials, put up yard signs and vote in Pepperell’s Special Town Meeting June 30, which was called to ask the town to take a stand against the pipeline after a citizen’s petition garnered more than 250 signatures.
Volunteers at the meeting passed out copies of form letters that were addressed to Gov. Deval Patrick, U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas, U.S. Sen. Ed Markey and Ann Berwick, chairwoman of the Department of Public Utilities.
“The proposal, if enacted, would endanger our children’s safety, do irreparable harm to ecologically sensitive conservation land, put our water supply at serious risk of contamination and have the potential to cause a significant decline in the value of thousands of homes throughout the state,” the letter said. “Despite the gross impact of these costs, the project has been proceeding without a formal public process or an opportunity for meaningful public input and without proven need.”
Premus said that from his research, he did not see a demonstrated need for more natural gas in New England, and said that shortfalls were limited to a few days of the year. Those shortfalls could be covered by renewable energies, shipments of liquified natural gas or improvements to existing natural gas infrastructure in the region, he said.
Another concern, he said, is the possibility that a tariff will be imposed on ratepayers in order to fund construction of the pipeline.
“If it’s for one cent of the cost of that pipeline that they’re putting through our backyards without our permission, there’s a big problem with that,” Premus said.
Resident Margaret Scarsdale told residents that now is the time to become outraged.
She encouraged residents to deny Kinder Morgan access to survey their properties, or to rescind that permission if they’ve already granted it.
Although Kinder Morgan can choose to file a petition with the DPU to gain permission to survey the land, Scarsdale said that the more people who deny access, the less likely it is that Kinder Morgan will be given that permission.
Combatting the pipeline at the state level now is critical, she said.
“At the federal level it is really hard to have any kind of traction to stop the pipeline. Think trying to turn the Titanic with 100 yards to go,” Scarsdale said.
By contacting local representatives, she said, residents could have a major impact on the project.
“It’s a five-minute phone conservation. You will feel so good that you’ve done something to keep this movement going,” Scarsdale said.
George McLaughlin, a Boston-based attorney who specializes in eminent domain, also gave residents a crash course in the process by which Kinder Morgan could gain ownership of easements through properties.
He said that property owners are entitled to compensation for the highest fair market value of their land if some is taken through eminent domain.
“It’s not what it’s worth to Samantha, it’s what it’s worth to Donald Trump. It’s the highest and best use,” McLaughlin said.
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