Cyclists aim to pedal out natural gas pipeline


DRACUT - Concern over the construction of a gas pipeline across the state is building and a group of college students is riding bicycles throughout Massachusetts to put their own spin on the plans - mobilizing communities to try to stop it from ever breaking ground.

A group of five students, part of an environmental activism group called Climate Summer, rode into Dracut Tuesday evening to meet with a group of residents opposed to the pipeline, which is being proposed by Kinder Morgan.

Having already rode roughly 80 miles during their training, the group is looking forward to logging nearly 1,000 more miles in the next month or so.

Member Tuula Perry, of Maui, Hawaii, says she traveled across the country with high expectations from this experience.

"I expect it to be challenging as well as empowering and possibly the best summer I ever had," said Perry.

This year Climate Summer, which is a program of Cambridge-based Better Future Project, is sending four teams of students across Massachusetts to spread the word about the gas pipeline and the negative effects they say the construction, as well as methane emissions, will have on the landscape.

The Climate Summer group that met in Dracut spoke with several residents during their first meeting following cycling and outreach training they went through in June.

"It feels good and I'm really happy how it went. We got some good discussion and people were able to meet each other for the first time," said member Rachel Eckles, of Dallas, Texas, who is the media coordinator for the group.

The group of roughly 10 residents that attended meeting sat out with the Climate Summer group in a small field next to St. Francis Catholic Church, just a stone's throw away from where the proposed gas pipeline would be built.

Barn Road resident Robert Palmer, who lives not far from an existing gas pipeline, talked about the variety of wildlife in the area now and how the pipeline infrastructure, which could include a compression station, would affect it.

"What little wildlife that is still around in this area, will just completely disappear," said Palmer.

The group spoke about several different aspects of the pipeline construction, including emissions, the current need for natural gas in the area, and how that need could be met with existing gas infrastructure.

The Climate Summer group had residents speak to each other and exchange information in order to help some members of the community organize more and become more informed about the issue.

The cyclist-activism group is currently staying at the Pawtucket Congregational Church in Lowell. As the Dracut meeting was their first, the group will soon move on to their next stop in Ashby.

The five will eventually ride as far out as central Massachusetts and then ride back in time for a tentative meeting in Dracut on Aug. 9. Along the way, Climate Summer has set up community partners in order to provide them places to stay.

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