DRACUT -- The statewide relay to oppose a proposed natural-gas pipeline ended in Dracut on Saturday, but protesters vowed to continue the fight, beginning with a rally at the Statehouse planned for Wednesday.
"We are fighting for our future and the future of our children, and we are not going to stop. We will never stop," said Jim Cutler, of the Massachusetts Pipeline Awareness Network, to a crowd of about 50 people in Dracut.
In Boston on Wednesday, pipeline opponents from across the state are meeting to present a petition at the Statehouse that has garnered more than 11,000 signatures.
The rally there is the culmination of a statewide march that began in Richmond, on the New York border earlier this month. Protesters have walked through each town along the pipeline's proposed route, handing off a symbolic piece of pipe containing the petition from town to town.
In a clearing in the Lowell-Dracut-Tyngsboro State Forest, protesters chanted "No pipeline" as the last leg of the walk ended Saturday, with about 30 people marching through Dracut.
The high-pressure pipeline, which has been proposed by Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, would run from Wright, N.
Supporters say the pipeline would meet the demand for energy in New England, and they tout natural gas as a clean bridge fuel.
Detractors say the pipeline would destroy conservation land, infringe on the rights of property owners, and pose safety concerns for those living nearby.
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"It's really easy to get lost in the shuffle of big business and lost in the shuffle of infrastructure where they say it's about domestic energy and creating jobs, but really it's about our backyards," said Mark Fraser, executive director of the Nature Walks Conservation Society in Tyngsboro. "It's about the environment where we raise our children.
"If they put a pipeline through this state, that's going to slam through every aquifer and every watershed under the soil," he added.
Vince Premus, a Pepperell resident who has been outspoken in the movement against the pipeline, called the plan "reprehensible," particularly because of a possibility that some of the gas may be exported for higher profit.
Premus urged elected officials throughout the state to take a stand against the project.
"Now is the time for some of these folks to really show their authentic side," Premus said. "They've been elected because they say they have our interests at heart. It's time for them to intervene on our behalf. We stand at this point without a voice in all of the official proceedings that have been going on between the energy-industry stakeholders and the New England States Committee on Electricity."
Premus and his wife, Denene, walked some portions of the pipeline protest and have helped organize the opposition movement in Pepperell. Denene Premus said walking the pipeline route has helped to bring the impacts the project would have to life.
"It really brings it down to the ground level," she said. "It's a totally different, more personal perspective that you could never gain from doing a drive-by."
Volunteers with the internship program Climate Summer have spent weeks riding their bicycles to towns along the pipeline route to educate people on the environmental impacts of natural gas.
Others stressed the need for renewable energy, rather than an increased reliance on fossil fuels.
"We are in a new paradigm," Cutler said. "The old way of thinking, where its OK to destroy the Earth in order to maximize one's profit, is being replaced with a different perspective, a perspective that realizes that energy consumption has far-reaching and potentially dire consequences if done thoughtlessly and with little regard for future generations."
The statewide relay, he said, would serve as an example to others on the importance of standing up to fight the pipeline and other similar projects.
"This march, from Richmond to Dracut, has reverberated across Massachusetts and New England," Cutler said. "We have become the battleground to watch as victories against Kinder Morgan and other pipeline companies are beginning to pile up. This will demonstrate to the rest of the country and to the world that the purveyors of extreme energy in the form of oil and gas fracking and tar-sands extraction can be defeated."
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