Opponents of a proposed Addison County natural gas pipeline brought their concerns to Montpelier on Monday with a street protest that targeted the Shumlin Administration’s support for the project.
The group says the administration has downplayed the pipeline’s impact on climate change.
About 20 protesters chanted and sang, as they voiced their frustration with the Department of Public Service, which represents ratepayers in utility cases. The protesters argue the department overlooked evidence that the line will cause an increase in greenhouse gas pollution.
Avery Pittman is from Vergennes. She says the Addison County pipeline will also carry gas derived from the environmentally risky process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
“This is essentially the climate equivalent of a coal train going through our neighborhoods. But the DPS has refused to do a life cycle analysis of the climate impacts of fracking, and the fracked gas pipeline,” she said. “And this pipeline locks us in in this region to more dependence on fossil fuels at the expense of future generations in our communities in Vermont.”
Andy Simon of the climate action group 350.org has helped organize town meeting votes against another pipeline in northern Vermont that may carry tar sands oil from western Canada. Simon was also on the picket line Monday in Montpelier, holding a huge blue banner that pointed out the shared ownership of the two projects. GazMetro, a Montreal company that owns both Vermont Gas Systems and Green Mountain Power, is in turn partly owned by Enbridge Inc., the oil pipeline developer.
“The corporate structure makes it very clear that the infrastructure for the fossil fuels is the same, whether you’re talking about oil or you’re talking about natural gas,” Simon said. “Really, the only way to get around it is no new fossil fuel infrastructure.”
The protesters wanted to meet with Public Service Commissioner Chris Recchia. But he was out of the office, so they offered their giant rubber stamp – symbolizing the administration’s support for the pipeline – to other officials in his office. The officials did not take the stamp, but did accept a box of pastries and a written statement.
In an interview later, Recchia said his department did not overlook the project’s impact on climate change.
“We appreciate their comments and it is a concern, but it isn’t that we downplayed them,” he said. “We recognize how complicated it is to do life cycle analysis. And all we really said in our comments was that if you do whatever life cycle analysis for natural gas, you’ve got to do a parallel one for propane and fuel oil.”
Recchia said the Shumlin Administration supports the project because it’s good for consumers to have a new, competitive fuel source. The 41-mile long pipeline would serve homes and businesses in several Addison County towns before running under Lake Champlain to provide fuel to the International Paper plant in Ticonderoga, New York.