Day of demonstrations held to stop fracked gas project

Hundreds of Vermont residents attended a public hearing to voice opposition to Vermont Gas System’s proposed fracked gas pipeline project on Tuesday evening. The initial phase of the project includes a 41-mile pipeline extension with a total estimated cost of $116 million, crossing through a dozen Vermont municipalities.  Vermont Gas hopes to carve the pipeline through major ecological areas such as valued wetlands across the state, and eventually under Lake Champlain to Ticonderoga. The hearing, held by the Vermont Public Service Board (PSB), was the last chance for affected community members to express their concerns and opposition.

“This pipeline is a call to action. It’s a time to arise and do something, not only to protect our homes and farms, but to protect Vermont from fossil fuels,” said Jane Palmer, Monkton resident and small business owner. “We aren’t alone, and today we’ve seen how many Vermonters stand with us.”

George Gross, a member of Vermont Citizens for the Public Good cautions, “The nation is watching Vermont. Make no mistake, our reputation for pioneering a clean and green future for our citizens is on the line.  The Public Service Board should recognize the public good of this path and reject Vermont Gas System’s proposed pipeline project.”

Earlier in the day, demonstrations were held during a project site visit attended by the PSB and intervenors.  The pipeline expansion will have serious, detrimental impacts on farmers, landowners, and sensitive environmental areas across the state.  The pipeline would transport fracked gas.  The process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is highly controversial and causes major environmental damages to communities where it is extracted, as well as threatening communities through which it is transported.

A banner drop at a farm in Monkton, which is slated to have 2.5 miles of pipeline run through it, urged the PSB to stop and view the farm and to deny a Certificate of Public Good.  The owner of the farm has asked the PSB several times to do a site visit of his property, but his requests have been repeatedly ignored.

“We are standing here today to support the grassroots opposition to this dirty energy project. In community after community we’ve heard the same thing – Vermonters do not want more dirty gas,” said Anna Shireman-Grabowski, a spokesperson for Rising Tide Vermont. “Whether they’re worried about the impact on their friends and neighbors, want to protect Vermont’s ecosystems or think it’s reckless to use even more fracked gas knowing how devastating it is to communities, hundreds of Vermonters stood up today and said ‘No! This pipeline is not in the public good, and it should not be built.’”

Naomi Graber, a community organizer with Toxics Action Center, spoke about the economic and environmental costs of this project, “Vermonters can’t afford this fracked gas pipeline.  By locking us into a dirty energy future with fossil fuel infrastructure, this pipeline would only make worse the dangers of climate change which Vermonters experienced firsthand with Tropical Storm Irene.”

As the day of demonstrations continued, hundreds of community members who oppose the pipeline gathered in front of the PSB hearings as dozens testified against its construction.

“Fracked gas is not the solution to our energy needs,” said Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG). “In fact, a new fracked gas pipeline in Vermont will only extend our reliance on fossil fuels while postponing the adoption of safer and more sustainable clean energy solutions. It makes no sense for a state that recently banned fracking and established a goal of producing 90 percent of its energy from renewable sources to build a brand new fracked gas pipeline that will lock Vermonters in for the next 50 years or more.”

Community members across the state have been working in a coalition with environmental organizations since late-2012, calling for the PSB and Governor Shumlin to reject the pipeline.

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