RICHMOND -- In a near-unanimous vote, residents this week adopted a nonbinding resolution against a new natural gas pipeline Tennessee Gas Co. hopes to build through town.
At a special meeting on the issue on Wednesday, residents voted 99-1 in support of the resolution; the person who voted ‘no' objected to the wording of the resolution, not the content.
The resolution calls on the Board of Selectmen to "stand in opposition" to the new pipeline and to rescind permission earlier granted to the company to do survey work in town in connection with the plans.
Melanie Masdea, a leading voice in the town against the pipeline giant's plans, called the vote "a significant victory for the opposition movement in Richmond and the entire resistance movement across the commonwealth."
"Our hope is last night's vote clearly sends a message to [Tennessee Gas parent company] Kinder Morgan, the governor, our legislators and hopefully the federal government," Masdea wrote in a message to The Eagle.
Tennessee Gas aims to build a 250-mile pipeline to carry natural gas from upstate New York to Dracut, north of Lowell. This plan, called the Northeast Pipeline Expansion Project, calls for a high-pressure, 36-inch line to pass through portions of Richmond, Lenox, Washington, Dalton, Hinsdale, Peru and Windsor.
Two other Tennessee Gas lines, built during the ‘50s and ‘80s, exist in Richmond.
Richmond joins 21 other Massachusetts cities and towns who have passed similar resolutions against the plans.
In opposing the project, residents cited concerns about environment and the threat of a explosion or leak, and they expressed significant distrust in the company's practices.
The resolution also points out that Kinder Morgan "is exempt from liability in addition to being exempt from the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Superfund Act" and the pipeline, "while being run by a private ‘for profit' company, would be paid for by the Massachusetts citizens through a utility bill tariff" and the gas "is not intended for Richmond" or state residents.
The company has not specified to which markets the gas would be sold.
All three members of the Board of Selectmen also attended Wednesday's meeting and made statements "indicating that they were against the pipeline and believed it was not in Richmond's interest," according to resident Arnold Piacentini.
In a message to The Eagle, Piacentini mapped out future activism on the part of Richmond residents who oppose Tennessee Gas' plans.
"As far as the where the resistance to the pipeline project goes from here, there is a two-pronged approach," Piacentini wrote in a message to The Eagle. "Some of us will continue to provide help to other municipalities to get the support of their government behind ‘we the people,' who wish to ban this project. Pittsfield is the most immediate case in point. And, our Richmond committee along with several other organizations and persons will now turn its attention toward influencing our representatives at all levels toward several objectives."
Local and regional opponents of the company's proposal Sunday began a protest march in Richmond that following the path of the proposed pipeline. The protest is still underway, being picked up by new teams at each municipal border with plans of continuing all the way to Dracut.
The Select Board granted Tennessee Gas permission survey in the town earlier this year. Masdea said it is "yet to be determined" whether the board will follow the letter of the resolution and rescind this permission.
On Tuesday, the Dalton Select Board voted to rescind permission it had granted Tennessee Gas to do survey work in town in connection with the same project in response to popular pressure from residents.
View the entire resolution here: http://bit.ly/W1JbHB.