FITCHBURG, Mass. — Opponents of a plan to construct a natural gas pipeline across northern Massachusetts hope a rally on Saturday will further mobilize rising public opinion against the project.
Protesters from Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New York were staging a “Stop the Pipeline Statewide Summit” in Fitchburg. Rally organizer Cathy Kristofferson called a pipeline of such massive scale “a bad plan anywhere in New England.”
Houston-based Kinder Morgan Inc.’s plan would route the pipeline from the town of Richmond, Massachusetts, near the New York border, to Dracut, Massachusetts, near the New Hampshire line. Supporters say the pipeline, which still needs regulatory approval, would help relieve the need for more natural gas in New England.
The proposed pipeline is part of a broader plan to bring more natural gas into the Northeast. Kinder Morgan says the overall project, which includes new pipeline through Pennsylvania and upstate New York, will cost as much as $6 billion. The Massachusetts section would represent about half the cost.
The company’s pre-filings with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission indicate the project would require 91 miles of new right of way in Massachusetts and 37 miles of co-location with existing power lines. The report says the project affects 1,554 total acres for construction, impacting 357 acres of federal endangered or threatened species habitat.
Gov. Deval Patrick’s energy and environmental affairs secretary, Maeve Bartlett, has cautioned federal regulators that preliminary reviews show the pipeline could cross a number of parks, wetlands, forests, conservation lands, farms and areas where protected wildlife live.
“We do not need new fossil fuel infrastructure designed to bring us dirty fuels for 50-80 years into the future,” Kristofferson said in a statement ahead of the planned rally.
Environmental activists and others — including some from New Hampshire, who fear the pipeline could end up being rerouted through the southern part of that state — said they hoped Massachusetts Gov.-elect Charlie Baker will intervene and help create more incentives for green energy jobs.
Rally organizers said they would screen a film and display maps showing the public how the proposed route would impact each affected town in Massachusetts.