Palmer: Vermont Gas has no respect for agriculture

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Jane Palmer of Monkton, who is a business owner in Addison County. Her husband Nathan Palmer is an intervenor in Docket No. 7970 (the Addison “Natural” Gas Project ) currently before the Public Service Board. The pipeline route is slated to run through the middle of their farm.

My husband and I have been trying for nine months to help Vermont Gas understand that when they use heavy equipment to dig a five foot trench through an improved agricultural area, especially in clay soil such as we have on our farm, that the soil can be damaged beyond redemption. Bear in mind that this trench is dug within a 75-foot corridor inside which they strip all the topsoil, make a pile of it alongside the “spoils” or subsoil, to be “carefully” returned supposedly in the order it was removed so the topsoil is back on top and the subsoil is back in the bottom. In theory, this makes sense. In reality, it doesn’t happen. We have seen the construction/destruction that is currently going on in Franklin County and it is not how Vermont Gas likes to describe it.

Last week at the 248 process technical hearings in Montpelier before the Public Service Board, my husband and I had an agronomist from UVM Extension Service testify to the damage to our soil this disturbance and compaction will cause … as well as a hydro geologist who testified that the scar in the earth from digging the trench will become a “preferential conduit” for more unwanted and unneeded water to flow down into our improved soil area, regardless of the mitigation measures the engineers building the pipeline claim they will install. It seemed as though (with a little prodding from the PSB) Vermont Gas was finally coming around to understand that the construction of this pipeline through prime farmland is not such a great idea.

This is not just about our farm, or our neighbor’s farm … it is about the attitude Vermont Gas has toward agriculture and landowners in general. Farmers are forced to accept what nature hands out. Why should something like this be forced upon them as well?

 

But a few days ago, when we received a “draft” version of a new revised route, it shows the pipeline now sited to the east of the VELCO corridor and smack dab through the middle of our neighbor’s commercial berry farm! The original route through our neighbor’s involved horizontal directional drilling along the VELCO power lines where the soil is already compromised. But Eileen Simollardes, VP of Supply and Regulatory Affairs for Vermont Gas says this new easterly route “could save us lots!”

What about the berry bushes?

This is not just about our farm, or our neighbor’s farm … it is about the attitude Vermont Gas has toward agriculture and landowners in general. Farmers are forced to accept what nature hands out. Why should something like this be forced upon them as well?

Apparently Vermont Gas was either not paying attention at the technical hearings when our witnesses were testifying, or they just don’t care about agriculture. I suspect the latter because there were about 10 people with Vermont Gas (including a whole bunch of lawyers) at the hearings. Someone had to have been listening. This is just another demonstration of what the focus is for Vermont Gas and the proponents of this pipeline. Money.

Maybe we and a growing number of opponents to this project are all wrong and we should be focusing on how we can financially gain something from this pipeline. The destruction of farmland, the industrialization of our countryside, the loss of land value, the loss of property owner rights, and detrimental effects on our climate and those affected by the earth air and water damage that fracking causes … all those negatives should be balanced out by all the money we will save once this pipeline is up and running, right? But then there is the fact that most of the landowners who will lose their land to this pipeline right of way will not even be offered distribution of this “cheap” fracked gas (as is the case for our neighbor).

What the heck am I missing here? This fracked gas pipeline is a bad deal for the majority of Vermonters and the inhabitants of the earth in general. This pipeline should not be built.

Comments

  1. Lee Stirling :

    From all the news around this gas pipeline I’ve read in recent months, it seems like the project is a given. I understand the concern for your improved soil area and your neighbor’s berry farm, but if you’ve been given information to indicate your own property won’t now be impacted, isn’t that good enough? This project is going to happen, no matter what the opponents say or do…because that’s just what happens via the PSB. Isn’t it enough that your own property doesn’t stand to be screwed up? Take care of your own business and and let others take care of theirs. Don’t rely on your neighbors to stand up for you.

    • Annette Smith :

      Vermont Gas Systems has failed Pipeline Siting 101. They rushed into a poorly-vetted route, had to do clean-up after filing their application with the PSB, and it’s been downhill ever since.

      Yes, there is reason to believe the Rubber Stamp Board will once again give the corporation what it wants.

      But there is also reason to think that a Board doing due diligence would recognize that VGS chose a bad route, and send them back to the drawing board. While it seems unlikely based on the performance of this Board in recent past decisions, there is always the potential that they will do the right thing in this case.

      In 2000, FERC held workshops around the country to tell pipeline companies they needed to spend more time up front choosing their route. VGS knows that and chose to ignore the advice. VGS is now reaping what it has sown.

  2. Janice Prindle :

    I support the Palmers and other Vermont farmers and I do not support the pipeline. We need healthy soil and local sources of healthy food from real farms, instead of relying on industrial scale “farms” and the processed food industry — and more trucking and the need for more fossil fuel, driving the profiteering that destroys more and more of our environment. Vermont won’t even benefit much from this pipeline; I understand from other articles on Digger that most of the gas is going to a business in NYS. I hope farmers all over the state will get a petition together and put it online for us to sign and show our support.

  3. Jeff Noordsy :

    It is well documented that 70% of the gas from the entire project is headed for International Paper. And, no matter how it is spun, less than 1% of the gas in phase two will serve Vermonters.

  4. Sandra Bettis :

    the state of vt came out against fracking so how can we support it now????

  5. I appreciate Jane and Nate’s passion for our precious environment, famers and neighbors. This is not a done deal and for our sake, it will be stopped before Vermont becomes a transmission field for IP.

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