RELATED | Tennessee Gas pipeline protesters begin statewide march in Richmond

RICHMOND -- Though he did not take organizers up on an invite to attend the anti-pipeline cross-state walk kickoff event that stepped off in town Sunday, Gov. Deval Patrick is not keeping mum on the proposal.

Patrick sent a letter to one of the 100-plus-mile demonstration's lead organizers, Russell Schott of Pepperell, dated June 30.

"As you know," Patrick writes, "the primary authority for siting a pipeline lies with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. While this Administration has not taken a position on this proposal, and will not unless and until the FERC process, I did want you to know that we intend to be involved in the event of such a process, and that we have called on FERC to assure that the process is robust and that all those interested have a chance to engage."

He goes on: "I am personally aware that some of the concerns about the project involve impact to natural resources and sensitive environmental resources to both state-owned and other publicly and privately owned lands. Our environmental agencies are starting to examine available information about these potential routes and I fully expect that any process will need to include detailed environmental reviews."

Patrick ends by thanking Schott "for so clearly organizing at the grassroots" and wishing volunteers a safe walk.

Those involved in the walk locally and elsewhere were grateful to learn of Patrick's words, and took his letter as a sign that the state will not play the role of a disinterested party in the events following Tennessee Gas Co.'s pipeline expansion proposal.

Many have pointed out that any buildup of fossil fuel infrastructure flies directly in the face of the governor's ambitious clean energy goals.

"I won't read between the lines too much, but it's nice to finally have something from the governor's office that suggests that he wants to take a closer look at this," said Melanie Masdea, a Richmond participant in Sunday's march.

Tennessee Gas documents indicate the high-pressure, 36-inch line the company wants to build would pass through portions of Richmond, Lenox, Washington, Dalton, Hinsdale, Peru and Windsor. It's part of the 250-mile Northeast Pipeline Expansion Project extending from upstate New York to Dracut, north of Lowell.

To reach Phil Demers:
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