PEPPERELL -- Selectmen hope to form a coalition with other towns in Middlesex County to present a united front against a natural-gas pipeline that has been proposed through northern Massachusetts.
Selectmen voted 3-0 Monday to form the coalition, and voted for Selectman Stephen Themelis to represent Pepperell selectmen on it. They said they plan to invite representatives from the towns of Ashby, Dracut, Dunstable, Groton, Lowell, North Reading, Reading, Tewksbury, Townsend, Tyngsboro and Wilmington, as well as Hollis, N.H., to join the coalition.
A high-pressure natural-gas pipeline route across the state has been proposed by Kinder Morgan Energy Partners and its subsidiary, Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co., LLC, to provide natural-gas service to New England.
The board also voted to call a Special Town Meeting on June 30 at Nissitissit Middle School to address a petition asking selectmen to take a stand against the pipeline. The petition, which garnered 255 certified signatures, asks that the town pass a non-binding resolution to stand against the pipeline and not allow it within town borders.
The petition also asks for opposition to any pipeline through Massachusetts that would carry natural gas obtained by hydraulic fracturing.
Each selectmen expressed some degree of support for opposing the pipeline.
"We as a board, we need to try to take action against the pipeline. We need to try to go with other towns in the area that will be affected to present a united front for this," said Selectman Michelle Gallagher.
Themelis said he was in support of the petition's request to oppose the pipeline because of the effects the project would have on property owners and conservation land in town.
"We're looking at emotional stress and financial hardship for our property owners," Themelis said.
Chairman Michael Green's response was more tempered, stressing his hope to work in the town's best interest whether the pipeline comes through Pepperell.
"I don't want it in my town, but I would like to make sure that I still have the ability to work for the town if it sets in that this thing's going to happen and it's going to be federally mandated, but also work hard to do everything we can to either get them to change their course or maybe prove to them it's not necessary," Green said.
A letter sent from Town Administrator John Moak to Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. representative Rick Charbonnier on May 23 has so far gone unanswered, selectmen said.
The letter asked the company to provide written responses to concerns raised by residents at a meeting last month. Among those questions were the safety of the pipeline, the effects on property values, impacts on water supplies and natural habitats and why other routes along roadways or existing utility easements weren't being pursued.
Selectmen said they had not hired an attorney to represent the town on the pipeline issue because there is no money to do so.
"We're doing our best with what we have at this time," Themelis said.
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