FITCHBURG, Mass. (AP) — Several hundred people packed a high school auditorium Saturday to rally against a proposed pipeline that would carry high-pressure natural gas across northern Massachusetts.
Protesters from Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New York staged the "Stop the Pipeline Statewide Summit" at Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School in Fitchburg, Massachusetts.
The crowd included elected officials, environmental activists and landowners whose property the pipeline would cross or pass near.
"It's all about numbers to the proponents of the pipeline," Ken Hartlage, president of the Nashoba Conservation Trust, told the crowd. "They don't care about your home, your farm, your legacy for your children."
Houston, Texas-based Kinder Morgan Inc.'s plan would route the pipeline from the town of Richmond, Massachusetts, near the New York border, to Dracut, Massachusetts, near the New Hampshire line.
Supporters say the pipeline, which still needs regulatory approval, would help relieve the need for more natural gas in New England.
Protest organizer Elaine Mroz of Lunenburg, along with her siblings, owns a tract of woods in Winchendon that has been in her family since 1901. She said that a call from a surveyor last winter first alerted her to the pipeline proposal.
"That's kind of our family homestead, we know all the rocks and the trees," Mroz said, pointing out the land's location on a large map of the proposed pipeline route. She said that, should the pipeline be constructed, a path up to 100 feet wide would be cut through the forest.
But Mroz said she's looking beyond just the concerns of her fellow landowners. She said the pipeline could help feed the dependency on non-renewable energy sources.
"If we invest in this pipeline, it's going to lock us into gas," she said. "There are a lot of people here looking at how we can make a better energy policy."
Mroz's sister, Carolyn Sellars of Townsend, said awareness of the proposal had spread slowly, but that organizers hoped Saturday's summit would help build and maintain opposition to the project through the lengthy federal review process.
"Everybody that I've talked to in Massachusetts isn't going to give this up," she said. "This is climate change, right here. It might have started as a backyard issue, but not anymore."
The company's pre-filings with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission indicate the project would require 91 miles of new right of way in Massachusetts and 37 miles of co-location with existing power lines. The report says the project affects 1,554 total acres for construction, impacting 357 acres of federal endangered or threatened species habitat.
Gov. Deval Patrick's energy and environmental affairs secretary, Maeve Bartlett, has cautioned federal regulators that preliminary reviews show the pipeline could cross a number of parks, wetlands, forests, conservation lands, farms and areas where protected wildlife live.
Environmental activists and others — including some from New Hampshire, who fear the pipeline could end up being rerouted through the southern part of that state — said they hope Massachusetts Gov.-elect Charlie Baker will intervene and help create more incentives for green energy jobs after he takes office in January.
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