GROTON -- Placed on a tight schedule by the Board of Selectmen, the new Tennessee Gas Pipeline Working Group Committee wasted no time in getting down to business when it met for the first time on July 28.
Appointed by selectmen as a response to news that a major gas pipeline project was planned for the region with a length of it expected to run through Groton, the Working Group was charged with coming up with recommendations for selectmen on how to approach the project by Aug. 31.
"That seems very close around the corners to me," said committee chairman John Giger of the deadline.
The town found itself on the spot about the pipeline when if first found out about the project in May.
At that time, it was learned that Kinder-Morgan Energy Partners proposed running a new 36 inch high pressure main from Dracut through Groton and beyond to supply area towns and other communities in central Massachusetts with natural gas.
In Groton, the proposed pipeline would run across portions of land owned by the Conservation Commission, Conservation Trust, beneath the Nashua River, over numerous private parcels, and the Groton-Dunstable Regional High School.
Although some residents in the effected towns have come out against the plan on grounds of damage to the environment due to laying the pipeline or the gas being produced by "fracking," others feared for the sanctity of private property.
Very quickly, the pipeline project became big news in the effected towns with ad hoc committees being formed, regional alliances coming together, and concerned residents collecting petition signatures and conducting cross state demonstrations.
But much of that activity, said Pipeline Committee member Kevin Kelly, was based on misinformation, something he wanted to see the working group address.
Others agreed adding their own concerns including rumors that the proposed pipeline would be supported by local taxes.
"We need to think outside the box on a lot of these things," said Giger, suggesting that maybe the town could collect its own taxes on the pipeline or try to get Kinder-Morgan to spring for emergency equipment that might be needed in case of a pipeline leak.
The town, said Kelly, should let Kinder-Morgan know what it wants and not wait until the company comes to the town.
There was a potential for a "win/win" in the situation, concluded Kelly.
The group, added member Jack Petropoulos, should also work at identifying "areas of critical concern."
In time, the working group is expected to concentrate on its charge by selectmen including acquiring a working understanding of all options relative to bringing a gas pipeline through Groton; formulate a strategy to help selectmen in addressing the issue of the pipeline; assisting selectmen in educating the public about the pipeline; and working with state and federal representatives and regional committees to protect the interests of Groton.
Also to be covered by the working group is identifying milestones in the permitting process for the pipeline.
Faced with the tight Aug. 31 deadline group members decided to meet weekly to start with its next meeting to be used for identification of "stakeholders" in the pipeline project and discussion of a timeline for the permitting process to be followed by Kinder-Morgan beginning in September.