Opponents of the Vermont Gas pipeline to Addison County went to the company’s South Burlington headquarters Wednesday to call on Vermont Gas to halt construction on the pipeline while the Vermont Supreme Court considers a land rights issue and federal authorities investigate safety concerns.
About two dozen protestors arrived to find South Burlington police cruisers staged in the Vermont Gas parking lot and the front doors of the company headquarters locked.
Standing in front of the locked doors and speaking into a bullhorn decorated with political bumper stickers, Hinesburg resident Theora Ward tried to communicate her concerns to Vermont Gas officials inside.
“This pipeline is being constructed even as the legality of the easement through our public park in Hinesburg is under appeal to the Vermont Supreme Court. This pipeline is being constructed even as the federal Pipeline Hazardous Material Safety Administration has announced that they’re going to conduct an investigation into the safety violations that have plagued this entire project from the beginning,” she said.
A group of Hinesburg residents is fighting a decision by the Vermont Public Service board to grant Vermont Gas the right to build pipeline underneath Geprags Park, a public park owned by the town. The park is the only land parcel along the pipeline’s route for which the company’s building rights aren’t fully resolved; the company says the section of pipe running under the park is the only part of the 41-mile pipeline that hasn’t been completed.
The land rights case is pending in the Vermont Supreme Court, but the court has allowed Vermont Gas to proceed with construction through the park even before the case is decided.
As that case is pending with the court, the federal agency responsible for pipeline safety is investigating the state’s oversight of the pipeline construction after citizens wrote to federal authorities expressing concern about safety during construction.
Vermont Gas officials refused to leave their offices to meet with protestors or address the press.
In a phone interview after the demonstration, Vermont Gas spokeswoman Beth Parent refused to say what the company will do if the Vermont Supreme Court rules that the pipeline should not be installed under the park because she didn’t want to discuss hypotheticals.
“The supreme court lifted the stay because of the strength of our case,” she said. “We are almost finished with this project, and it’s been a very long and challenging project, and we are so excited to finally be able to serve the thousands of folks in Addison County who’ve been waiting on us to get down there.”