ASHFIELD – A “community rights” resolution regarding large-scale electricity-generating wind turbines and high-pressure natural gas pipelines is on Monday’s special town meeting agenda, along with a ban specifically aimed at the Kinder Morgan/Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. natural gas pipeline that is to go through Ashfield, among other Franklin County towns.
The special town meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the Town Hall, and the two articles are the only topics on the warrant.
State Rep. Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington and state Sen. Benjamin Downing, D-Pittsfield are planning to attend. The Community Rights resolution was originally placed on the annual town meeting warrant, then rescheduled to a special town meeting so that the legislators could attend and speak on the issue.
This resolution supports the right of townspeople to hold public hearings and make motions to vote on all corporate, state or federal energy infrastructure or large-scale projects as they arise within town. These include pipeline construction, resource extraction, the removal of ground water for bottling and export, transmission line expansion, commercial-scale wind farms, large-scale solar arrays and the dumping of toxic wastewater from hydraulic fracturing in other states.
It gives townspeople the right to vote to approve such projects and to prohibit any activity by developers of such projects before residents have voted and approved the project. It also requires developers to notify the Selectboard of these proposed projects before contacting landowners, so that residents can first learn of these plans from town officials.
The second article, to oppose the Tennessee Gas Pipeline through Ashfield, cites concerns that such a pipeline poses risks to drinking water, safety, health and human life because of the risks of pipeline leaks and explosions. It says that pipeline construction will require some destruction of forests and natural habitat, conservation land and farm land, that it may result in property devaluation and affect town public safety departments. It says the infrastructure will be paid for by state taxpayers, through increased electricity bills. The article asks residents to oppose the pipeline running though Ashfield and surrounding communities, to ask the Selectboard and other town officials to oppose it, and to instruct the town’s state and federal legislators to enact legislation to prohibit the pipeline from within the town’s borders.
Both items were originally proposed through citizen petitions. The pipeline ban petition had been signed by 306 registered voters – more people than attended this year’s annual town meeting.
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