PEPPERELL -- Voters moved decisively against a proposed natural-gas pipeline Monday night, unanimously voting for a non-binding resolution opposing the pipeline, with no discussion.
The resolution, brought forward by a citizen's petition, states the town's stance in opposition to a natural-gas pipeline, proposed by Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, which would cut across the northern part of the state. Under the route being considered, the pipeline would pass through private property, as well as town-owned conservation lands.
It also states the town's opposition to any similar projects that may be proposed, and instructs legislators to enact legislation to disallow such projects through the state.
Selectman Stephen Themelis said the quick vote, which drew 432 residents, sent a decisive message on the town's opposition.
"This shows a united front from the town in opposition to the proposed Kinder Morgan project. There was not one dissenting vote, and I think that speaks loud and clear for how the town feels on the proposed pipeline," Themelis said.
Selectmen have also formed a coalition of Middlesex County towns along the pipeline route that are opposed to the project. That coalition is expected to have its first meeting Tuesday in Groton.
"We're trying to figure out, being a coalition for the people, what message we want to get to our state leaders and our legislators and eventually, to the federal level," said Themelis, who is serving as the Pepperell Board of Selectmen's representative on the coalition.
Selectmen Chairman Michael Green said selectmen have been working hard to represent residents.
"We've spearheaded the coalition, we've asked the tough questions. Unfortunately we haven't gotten great answers," Green said.
"The town has spoken against the project and as a selectman, I'll do everything I can to uphold that and work as directed," he added.
Paula Terrasi, the town's conservation administrator and a member of Nashoba Conservation Trust, said the vote was an indication of the rapidly growing movement opposing the pipeline in the region.
"It hasn't died down. There's more and more people every time we have a meeting, and people care," Terrasi said.
Outside the meeting, a small group of residents carried signs urging voters to adopt the resolution.
Resident Nicholas Scarsdale said he's opposed to many parts of Kinder Morgan's proposal, including the possibility that land could be taken by eminent domain, and the environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing and natural gas, which he says is a short-term solution to meeting the country's energy needs.
"I think that you might say it has some merits as a slightly cleaner alternative to coal, but I think in the search for long-term solutions, it's foolish," Scarsdale said.
Ruth Stevens is among residents whose property would be cut by the pipeline if the route being considered goes forward. Her home is in an aquifer-protection zone, and she said her top priority is ensuring that future generations have clean water to drink.
"We have to protect the environment. We have to do something and tell the government that we're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore," Stevens said.
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