PEPPERELL -- A coalition of municipalities formed to oppose a proposed natural gas pipeline is gaining steam, with four towns signed on and three more expressing preliminary interest.
Pepperell, whose selectmen proposed the coalition, has been joined by Ashby, Groton, North Reading and Townsend in its efforts to keep a pipeline that has been proposed by Kinder Morgan Energy Partners and its subsidiary, Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, from coming through the region.
Selectman Stephen Themelis, who will be representing Pepperell on the coalition, said that Pepperell decided to take the lead on the issue after seeing a passionate response from residents opposed to the pipeline.
"This movement to stop the gas pipeline didn't come from the Board of Selectmen, it came from the residents. That's who we represent and personally I've been opposed to this pipeline from day one. I can't support any project that would cause emotional grief or anguish or financial loss or hardship for any of our residents," Themelis said.
Selectman Sue Lisio will be representing Townsend and Selectman Janet Flinkstrom will be representing Ashby.
Representatives from Wilmington and Tyngsboro said they are interested in the coalition, but were waiting to meet with Kinder Morgan representatives before deciding whether to join, according to Pepperell Town Administrator John Moak.
Themelis said that he expects the coalition to grow as more towns meet with representatives of Kinder Morgan.
"This coalition seems to be getting some traction now. After Kinder Morgan does their presentations and people go to the presentations they realize that they don't want anything to do it. There's really no benefit to their communities having the pipeline comes through," he said.
In a letter written to the invited municipalities on behalf of the Pepperell Board of Selectmen, Moak said the group's mission is to serve as a forum to exchange information and ideas on how to approach the pipeline issue.
"The board is strongly committed to supporting actions that will secure the property values of our residents and prevent the compromising of conservation land and natural resources which appears to be inevitable in this current proposal," Moak wrote. "The boards feels that the best way for communities to effectively oppose the proposed gas pipeline is to unite as a coalition to support the public interest in this matter.
The coalition will have its first meeting on July 1.
All Middlesex County towns that fall along the pipeline's proposed route were invited to the coalition. Other towns contacted include Dracut, Dunstable, Lowell, Reading and Tewksbury.
In a series of public meetings, some residents have expressed concerns about the pipeline's safety, as well as its impact on property values and the environment.
Kinder Morgan has said the pipeline will provide a cheap and clean source of fuel to New England during peak demand.
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