Legislature’s Climate Caucus challenges Vermont Gas Pipeline

Legislators request Vermont Department of Public Service to direct a reassessment of the “public good” permit for the Addison County gas pipeline. Citizens to continue to gather support at Town Meetings this week. 

 

The Vermont Legislature’s “Climate Solutions Caucus” delivered a sharp letter to Department of Public Service (DPS) Commissioner, June Tierney last Friday, March 3, calling for a reassessment of the Vermont Gas Addison County pipeline. The letter, approved by a vote of the caucus last Thursday, calls on the DPS to request the Public Service Board (PSB) to “re-open the Certificate of Public Good associated with the project and conduct a thorough review of the cost, safety, environmental considerations, and need for this project.”

The letter was drafted in response to a public forum about the Vermont Gas pipeline, held with the Department of Public Service in Montpelier on February 22nd. The forum was attended by close to 200 Vermonters, who urged passionately that the Department of Public Service use its authority to put a halt to the project.

DPS officials stated at the forum that they were powerless to stop the project, and that they take their lead from the legislature. A group of concerned citizens followed the suggestion to reach out to the legislature as the appropriate body with authority to direct the DPS. The Department, in turn, can petition the Public Service Board to reopen the Certificate of Public Good (CPG) for review in light of the concerns raised at the forum.

Issues raised at the recent forum and in the legislators’ letter include monumental cost overruns and mismanagement, questions about compliance with federal and state construction and safety standards, new understandings about the public health and climate change impacts of “natural” gas (methane), and the lack of any demonstrable need for additional natural gas in Vermont. The legislators also highlighted the more than two-year long failure of the PSB to rule on the Conservation Law Foundation’s challenge to the validity of the project permit, while allowing construction to continue.

The legislators’ letter emerged from a meeting last Thursday, March 2 with the General Assembly’s Climate Solutions Caucus attended by several organizers of the late February forum. At that meeting, caucus members voted to send an agreed-upon letter to the DPS addressing the citizens’ concerns. During Town Meeting week, others across Vermont will approach their legislators, seeking further support for the letter and for the request to reopen the Certificate of Public Good, which is the basis for the permit that has allowed construction of the pipeline.

Brian Tokar of the 350Vermont board of directors stated: “We cannot ignore the seriousness of climate change and the urgency to act now. This pipeline project has gone from being a bad idea to a disaster in the making. If it is allowed to proceed we will be locking Vermonters into at least 30 years of fracking and climate changing methane emissions, with Vermont ratepayers footing the bill and bearing the burden in the event of a pipeline failure or accident.”

Rachel Smolker of Protect Geprags Park, based in Hinesburg: stated: “The legislators who signed this letter deserve tremendous thanks for taking action on behalf of our communities and our climate. Over town meeting week we aim to gather further support for this letter and the request that the certificate of public good be reopened for thorough reconsideration. It is not too late to put a halt to the project, and that’s exactly what we have to do.”

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