Coalition Condemns Pipeline Decision, Calls For Massive Sit-In

Above photo: At a Montpelier protest, members of the Rising Tide Coalition brand Gov. Peter Shumlin and Vermont Gas executives as “climate criminals” for their support of the Addison natural gas pipeline project. VPR/John Dillon

Grassroots environmental and social justice groups condemn Public Service Board decision, Call for Massive Rally and Sit-In

Addison County, VT – A coalition of environmental and social justice groups condemned today’s Public Service Board (PSB) ruling to not reopen the Addison Natural Gas Project Certificate of Public Good, and called for a massive rally and sit-in on October 27 to protest the decision and the Shumlin administration’s continued support of the project.

350 Vermont, Rising Tide Vermont, the Vermont Workers’ Center, and Just Power are calling for the sit-in, which will focus on the Governor and his continued support for the project.

“We’ve reached the end of our rope with Vermont’s broken utility regulatory process,” said Jane Palmer, a small farmer and landowner in Monkton, who has been involved in a legal battle with Vermont Gas for over two years to keep the pipeline off her property and out of the state, “The Board is ignoring the facts. The whole process is broken and rigged to get Vermont Gas the result it wants. The Board is giving Vermont Gas carte blanche to do and spend whatever they want, while ignoring the concerns of the larger community.”

The PSB, which previously approved the gas pipeline despite thousands of comments it received in opposition, was deciding whether to reevaluate the Certificate of Public Good, given recent cost overruns and mismanagement on behalf of Vermont Gas.

“We are extremely disappointed that once again the State of Vermont has given the green light to fossil fuel infrastructure, against the wishes of most Vermonters who want a sustainable future and stable climate,” said Maeve McBride of 350 Vermont.  “The climate crisis is happening now, and we need our political leaders to respond appropriately instead of locking Vermonters into soon-to-be-obsolete fossil fuels.”

Amidst growing opposition, 18 legislative candidates, including Philip Baruth and Dr. Jeremy Hansen, voiced their opposition to the pipeline at candidate forums held in Montpelier and Burlington this week.This summer, several state legislators identified seven specific concerns they had with the project. Sens. Chris Bray and Claire Ayer, along with Rep. Willem Jewett, all of Addison County, sent a letter to Gov. Shumlin outlining their concerns.

Addison County residents have been trying for two years to halt the project through the Public Service Board. Just Power member Jason Kaye, of Middlebury, said, “We took part in Vermont Gas’ public outreach process and learned that our fundamental concerns could not be addressed there. Some of our members formally intervened in the state permitting process and learned that the Section 248 process is materially flawed. We held meetings with the Shumlin Administration’s Department of Public Service (DPS) and Agency of Natural Resources and learned that these agencies are guided by other agendas.”

Landowners along Phase 2 of the pipeline saw today’s ruling as a sign of things to come. “We are going to keep on working through the Public Service Board to try and stop this pipeline,” said Mary Martin, a landowner in Cornwall, “But today’s ruling demonstrates the scathing audacity of the administration and Vermont Gas to ignore the overwhelming opposition to this ill-conceived project.

The coalition is also concerned that this project doesn’t offer a long-term solution for families struggling to pay their heating bills.  “As a mother of two and a provider in my Addison County community, I know natural gas cannot address the reasons why members of our communities struggle to pay their energy bills,”  said Bridport resident Amanda Sheppard of the Vermont Workers’ Center. “Just as healthcare is a right, so is a healthy environment and a warm home.  And businesses thirsting for the cheapest available energy cannot provide a healthy, stable and fair economy for Vermont’s working families.”

Ninety businesses and dozens of farmers signed letters opposing the fracked gas pipeline. Religious leaders have spoken out, and hundreds of letters have been published in the press in opposition to what many are calling a short-sighted project that is undermining the democratic process in the state.

“Today’s ruling marks the moment we realize our state government and the utility it enables with virtually no oversight do not consider themselves accountable to the people of the state,” said Rebecca Foster of Just Power.

Rising Tide Vermont, 350 Vermont, the Vermont Workers’ Center and Just Power are calling on people across the state to attend a rally and sit-in on Monday, October 27, at 3pm at the Statehouse lawn in Montpelier. They can visit 350vt.org and risingtidevemront.org for more information on the event.