The Board of Selectmen said they can't stop the company from doing surveys of land but they might be able to stop the pipeline itself.
LENOX, Mass — The town's Selectmen took a firm stance Wednesday in saying they don't want the proposed natural gas line to come through their town.
The Selectmen passed a motion saying that it opposes Kinder Morgan's efforts to build a new gas line. The expansion of the Tennessee Gas Pipeline is proposed to go through multiple Berkshire towns on its way through to Franklin and Worcester counties.
"We have a vague, proverbial line on a map. We know there is a strong preference of Kinder Morgan to use existing right of way," said Town Manager Christopher Ketchen, adding that so far the proposals seem to "circle the currently existing AT&T right of ways."
The company has asked to survey land as it craft its plans but the board held back approval. At town meeting, a citizen's petition to oppose the pipeline passed easily and many advocates hoped the board would fight the survey work.
However, on Wednesday, the Board of Selectmen opted to hold onto resources rather than spend money on fighting the survey work.
"The article also didn't offer any funding for fighting the survey," said Chairman Channing Gibson. "The legal right to survey is likely going to trump any effort to fight it."
Selectman Dave Roche agreed.
"We are a town of limited resources. The money we do have I would like to see be used to oppose the pipeline itself," he said. "We will never get them not to be able to survey."
The board also reviewed a letter Selectman Warren Archey, a former state forester, is writing to the state asking for an environmental study to be done.
"We need to see that environmental impact done in a very professional way," Archey said, adding that he wants state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli and state Sen. Benjamin Downing to "back" the town in it.
Archey said he wants the company to look for a different route because he has concerns over water quality and the dangers with a "failure" in the pipes. Gibson added the size of the pipe is concerning as well.
With an exact route undermined, the board is waiting to take any further action and is allowing the company to survey. Once the company proposes a route, the Selectmen say they will be ready to fight.
"I need to know where the fight is before I show up for it," Selectman Ken Fowler said.
Roche voiced similar thoughts in saying, "I'd be in favor of fighting this thing tooth and nail. But fighting it when we know where it is going to go."
At town meeting, discussion did circle around fracking, or high-pressure fracturing of shale to release natural gas, and what the town's position should be. The Selectmen said that is a bigger scope of issues than what the town is facing right now. Gibson said 92 percent of the town's gas is fracked, so trying to reverse that isn't in the town's best interest, while opposing the pipeline is.
"We're not going to let anything slip through the cracks," Gibson said, assuring those who petitioned against the pipeline that the selectmen are watching the progress closely.