Many of you know of the biblical account of David and Goliath. It is a story we have shared with our children countless times, and history has born witness to its recurrence time and time again.
Well, as retold in 2014, the story appears to be taking the form of the proposed Tennessee Gas Pipeline Northeast Expansion project, which calls for a 30-inch natural gas pipeline to be constructed through our town and surrounding towns in Massachusetts. Residents of Pepperell, Townsend and Ashby, as well as many neighboring towns throughout the commonwealth, you already know which role you'll play.
Perhaps like many of you, I am a long-time resident of the state of Massachusetts, having lived here for over half of my life. I came to Massachusetts in the 1980s as a young college student, moved away, then returned to the state in the 1990s to begin a career, invest in a home and, ultimately, raise a family. As residents of Pepperell, my family and I love the community, the history, the beautiful natural resources and even the pace of living in Massachusetts.
But now, through no fault of our own, we find ourselves in the path of a proposed project by an out-of-state, billion-dollar corporation that seeks to disrupt our neighborhoods by installing a 30-inch natural-gas distribution pipeline within a couple hundred feet of our home. The potential consequences of this project -- including, in the near-term, a lengthy period of disruption to our roads and landscape, and over the long-term, the risk of gas leak-related explosion and chemical contamination to our soil and water supply, and a decline in property values -- are alarming to say the least.
As currently planned, this project will also cross sensitive conservation land, leaving a permanent scar through some of Pepperell's most picturesque open spaces and putting one of our primary sources of drinking water at risk of contamination. Natural resources that many of our friends and neighbors have worked throughout their lives to protect and preserve will be forever at risk.
While energy costs are a concern to all of us who work to provide for our family's needs, the effort to meet the Northeast's ongoing energy demands should not adversely impact residents' quality of life, nor come at the expense of open space benefiting the public good. We all share a concern for protecting the value of our investment in our homes, especially at a time when our property values attempt to rebound from the real-estate downturn that has affected us all over the last 10 years.
As homeowners in Pepperell, we chose to settle here because we sought a balance between access to work and the opportunity to live in a bucolic, peaceful setting in order to raise our family. The nature and scope of the Tennessee Gas pipeline project is alarming to us as we weigh the potential impact to our quality of life and the safety of our families.
When prospective homeowners commit to buying a home in a town such as Pepperell, they rely on a town's zoning bylaws to protect their investment by constraining the nature of improvements to property that are available to residents and property owners that share a common zoning district. Property owners are entitled to know that subsequent changes to the surrounding environment will only be allowed in accordance with the uses outlined in the town's zoning bylaws, or as modified through due process at Town Meeting. As a homeowner, I am suddenly horrified to learn that an industrial land use of such scope and intensity as a 30-inch diameter natural-gas pipeline could be even considered to be permitted in a residential zoning district such as ours.
Over the past three months, an agent for Tennessee Gas/Kinder Morgan has repeatedly contacted us seeking consent for the company to enter our land to perform surveys, presumably to assess the suitability of our land for this project. On each occasion, we have denied these requests, refusing to sign the documents presented. In the most recent communication from the company, a letter dated April 21, the company appears to threaten to seek permission to enter our property from the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities to perform these surveys, despite our objection.
The letter states, "It is Tennessee's preference and intent to continue to work with each landowner that has not consented to the survey without having to petition the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (MA DPU), as provided under Chapter 164, Sections 72A, 75B, and 75D, for an order to enter your property to perform the requested surveys."
Now, as a citizen of the United States of America, I was unaware of the fact that I still might be forced to defend my right to dictate what happens on my land, and that a U. S.-owned, billion-dollar corporation might be able to usurp those rights in order to implement its business plan.
I am beginning to view these communications from the company's agent as harassment. They are beginning to place a great deal of unwanted stress on our family as we try to understand the best way to defend ourselves against this intrusion, while at the same time balancing the responsibilities of being a parent, going to work, volunteering, coaching and just doing the things we need and love to do as members of this community.
In view of this recent letter from the company's agent, it has become clear that it is time for me (and all of you who are reading this letter) to personally engage the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities, as well as local and state elected officials, to make sure they are aware of this issue and the degree of local opposition to this invasive proposal. I would urge you to visit the Nashoba Conservation Trust (NCT) website at nashobatrust.org/pipeline for a comprehensive summary of the impact to our community. I am not a member of this organization, but have read their synopsis and believe it to be a concise and well-written summary of the proposed project's impact to natural resources in the surrounding area.
Finally, as articulated by NCT, "the proposed pipeline appears to perpetuate reliance on nonrenewable resources for short-term gain while ignoring the long-term benefits of renewable solutions that are safer, less invasive and potentially less costly. Massachusetts has a strong track record promoting renewable energy and energy-efficiency programs."
I have begun writing to the Massachusetts DPU, as well as state Rep. Sheila Harrington and state Sen. Eileen Donoghue, requesting that they take notice of this situation. I have asked that they prioritize further investment in alternative-energy solutions, consider the acceleration of the repair of existing pipelines, and ultimately, take any actions as are necessary to disallow the Tennessee pipeline expansion project.
All of you who read this newspaper have a vested interest in this situation, whether you may realize it or not -- some more directly than others. This situation affects all of us. Please reach out to these state and local officials. We need their help to ensure that this corporation is not permitted to enforce its will upon individual homeowners across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for their own, and their investor's, economic gain.
Vincent E. Premus