Vermont Gas says it could use eminent domain against right-of-way holdouts

Vermont Gas Systems is informing landowners along the route of a proposed natural gas pipeline in Monkton that they can accept the company’s right-of-way offers or receive thousands of dollars less through the eminent domain process.

In a Jan. 17 letter, a Vermont Gas’ right-of-way agent offered one Monkton couple $20,000 to allow the company to build a 50-foot wide, 900-foot long section of the pipeline.

The land agent cautioned that if Gerald and Nancy Menard did not accept the deal, the company could take the section of land through eminent domain and pay fair market value for the strip, which was appraised at $245 in an attached report.

At least a dozen Monkton residents have yet to sign easements, one landowner estimated.

“Those who signed early, we have provided incentives. As time progresses, I think it will be less likely to provide those incentives,” said Steve Wark, a spokesman for Vermont Gas.

Wark said the company, which he says has never taken property through eminent domain, has been offering above-market-value easement settlements in order to avoid the process of eminent domain.

“We want to be good neighbors, and part of that is paying people fairly the value of their property,” he said.

When Vermont Gas first announced its 41-mile pipeline expansion down the western side of the state, many landowners dismissed the possibility that the project would materialize.

But now, state regulators have approved the first phase of the pipeline expansion that will connect Colchester to Middlebury with a 12-inch transmission main line to be buried 5-feet below ground.

With construction set to begin as soon as this summer, landowners must either accept the company’s easement offers or face having their land taken through eminent domain for a fraction of the price.

Jane Palmer, 59, of North Ferrisburgh is an outspoken opponent of the pipeline expansion.

“A lot of people have just ignored this and thought that maybe it just won’t happen,” Palmer said. “And now people are coming out of the woodworks.”

Jane Palmer and her husband, Nathan, own a 77-acre organic farm with rich clay soil, fields and pasture. The proposed pipeline route, which passes less than 200 feet from their home, cuts directly through their farm.

Palmer’s land includes a two-acre garden, an orchard and a pond – all of which will sit adjacent to a protected wetland. Vermont Gas has not offered them a price for the land, she said.

“Our farm is everything to us,” Palmer said. “Every penny we have, we put into that place. And if this goes through, it’s going to seriously devalue it.”

For now, the Palmer’s plan to expand their organic garden on their 18-year-old farm is on hold.

Maren Vasatka, 52, of Monkton received the same letter from Vermont Gas’ right-of-way agent offering $42,500 to use her land, of which $12,500 is contingent upon a signing a release from damages while the pipeline is constructed, she said.

She said the company’s first offer was $2,500. The most recent letter did not include an eminent domain estimate.

Vasatka has spent the past 15 years putting “blood, sweat and tears” into her home, she said. Now, she says she is being pressed to host a 50-foot wide permanent easement extending 500 feet in length.

“We really have no option. It’s a really scary place to be in,” she said. “How do you negotiate when they threaten eminent domain? I don’t even know what to do at this point. So, that’s the way we are all feeling.”

The company also wants to use her land as temporary workspace during the initial construction phase without providing any details, including a timeline.

Vasatka, who often works at home, wants to know who will be contracted to work on the project and how long the workers will be on her land. She’s particularly concerned given a recent WCAX story involving the arrest of alleged meth dealers who worked on Vermont Gas’ pipeline in Franklin County.

Vasatka has contacted the Public Service Department, which represents ratepayers, the regional planning commission and the Attorney General’s Office. The only remaining option is to either accept the offer or engage the company in a costly court battle.

“There is no place for us to get any help other than expending money that we may never get back,” she said.

Vermont Gas will not cover the cost for landowners to appeal the eminent domain process, Wark said.

He said the company has adjusted more than three-quarters of the pipeline’s original route, dodging properties and valuable land assets.

Vermont Gas said it has worked with the town of Monkton to move the pipeline off the roadway and onto the VELCO transmission line corridor and signed and memorandum of understanding to keep the pipeline 300 feet away from landowners’ homes when possible.

The company has reached easement agreements for 52 percent of the pipeline’s distance, Wark said.

Despite offering landowners “generous” easement settlements, “This is not a blank check situation,” he said. “Ultimately customers and ratepayers pay for that.”

Comments

  1. Annette Smith :

    That is a shockingly low number of landowner agreements. VGS is obviously doing something wrong, boasting they have never used eminent domain before.

    Isn’t offering $12,5000 in advance in exchange for signing off against potential damage during construction admission that there will be damage?

    Between the welders hyped up on meth, the bullying tactics of the easement agents, and initially blindsiding Hinesburg and Monkton by changing the route to the road without telling the public first, Vermont Gas System continues to pursue what seems to be a disaster in the making. I am seriously worried for the landowners along the route, who will be exposed to blasting through a lot of rock and once construction is completed, anxiety because of their lack of trust in the company.

    VGS and its collaborator, GMP, seem to have been on a campaign to lose public trust rather than earn it. But for Gaz-Metro and its parent Valenar, it is apparently profitable to do business this way.

    • Margaret Harrington :

      Yes, I agree with Annette Smith that VGS offering sums of money to landowners in advance in exchange for signing off against potential damage during construction is admission that there will be damage.
      Also we can be sure that the landowners have to sign an agreement not to sue VGS for further damages when they take this money up front.

    • Elias K Gardner :

      Valener is actually a minority (29%) owner of Gaz-Metro. I even seem to remember reading that Valener only owned non-voting shares but can’t find anything that confirms that.

      If you follow the chain of ownership back you will find the controlling owner of Gaz-Metro is the Province of Quebec through Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec.

      This is a crucial piece of information that should have been better understood by all before the GMP and CVPS were approved. The largest electric utility (75%) and only natural gas company in our state are controlled by our neighbours in Quebec.

      See Valener’s website for the chain of ownership http://www.valener.com/Societe/Societe1.aspx

  2. steve merrill :

    We had an “eminent domain” land-grab right here in N. Troy Village where “trustees” (chairman being Bobby Starr’s nephew) took a parcel off the tax list, some 100 ft. wide by 50 ft. deep and called it “Main St. Extension” so Bobby could have US villagers provide HIM with a fine place to park his trucks and trailers, just in time for his Workers Comp. “problems” that may have led to him selling the business..So now we’ve lost it off the tax rolls and have an empty lot next to the local Post Office, a fine tribute to nepotism/cronyism which was reported to the state, the VLCT, etc. but hey-if you can’t use an elected position to do things that benefit friends & relatives what good is holding office? I guess the good news being the fact that there’s not a 12″ pipe underground carrying explosive high pressure gas welded by (allegedly) out of state meth-heads..Vermont, of the corporations, by the corporations, and FOR the corporations, so good luck changing the stays quo..SM, North Troy

    • Randy Martin :

      Patrick, I had the same thoughts as you until about a little over a year ago, when we were approached by a Right of Way agent for VT Gas about using our property for the pipeline to International Paper. When we asked at that time what would happen if didn’t agree, he informed us that they would take our land by “eminent domain”. From that point on I have become a very active pipeline opponent and I can tell you from first hand experience that anyone I have met involved with VT Gas will lie, trespass and throw the “eminent domain” card in your face every chance they have. I’m not or never have been some left wing liberal that fights all causes, but when someone tries to steal my land, I will go to no ends to stop them. Thanks for your support, spread the word.

      • Patrick Cashman :

        It’s a remarkably tone deaf move on their part. One has to wonder if their threats sounded better in the original French and they didn’t realize how it would come across once translated.

  3. Patrick Cashman :

    Woops.
    So while previously I disregarded the pipeline opponents as the “recycle your toilet paper, mother earth cries when you drink from a plastic bottle, don’t fly on a commercial airplane or Krishna kills a kitten” types, suddenly I’m opposed.
    A man’s property is his property. Neither the hippy dippy super-special snowflakes, or big corporations have a claim to that property without his consent as long as he is not impacting his neighbors.

    • Jeff Noordsy :

      Thank you. This is the point I have making time and time and time again.

      • Robert Yerks :

        How can a corporation use “eminent domain”? I thought it was a government prerogative, are GMP and CVPS agents of the state? is this a dumb question?

        • Jeff Noordsy :

          Nope, it’s a great question and one you should be asking your elected officials. These energy corporations are literally stealing land from VT taxpayers and there’s nothing local selectboards or individuals can do to stop them. Big government at its worst.

        • Jane Palmer :

          Robert,
          Because the Vermont Public Service Board granted Phase 1 of this project a “Certificate of Public Good” the government can condemn our land and take the easement by eminent domain.
          Your question is one we asked when we first heard about it as well…and the answers we got did not make any sense to us. Why our lawmakers would let our state be put in a position such as this is beyond me…unless, of course, you figure in the greed factor.

    • Jim Barrett :

      In Vermont there is a faction of people who are against everything and they openbly file suit to stop any project. They love to stall and use every means possible to bring Vermont to its knees. Yes, the people have a righ to object but when I read of professional protesters at every turn something has to be done. How many people would benefit from lower, much lower prices? Who cares just add a few more people to the welfare rolls.

      • Jane Palmer :

        Jim
        I think the faction that will “bring Vermont to it’s knees” will be the corporate stronghold Gaz Metro has on our utilities and our state. Think about it.

        And by the way…I am NOT a professional protester…I am a landowner who has been forced to fight to protect what is mine.

  4. Maren Vasatka :

    245.00 for Menard’s property is VGS’s appraised value not that of an independent appraiser. The pipeline goes through their well, it doesn’t take an expert in real estate to know that a drilled well is worth more than 245.00.

    So Steve Wark states VGS adjusted the route dodging properties and valuable land assets. What real estate experience or education does he have that allows him to decide that our home and land is not a valuable asset? After all they didn’t dodge us. That’s the kind of insults VGS keeps sending out.

    Bottom line; they threatened Eminent Domain to homeowners that were negotiating VGS was the one not responding to homeowners. 362 days we have waited for them to respond to our offers and they have waited on us for 32 days. Who is negotiating in good faith?

  5. Don Peterson :

    Dear Vermont Gas Lawyers:

    “It is the hasty blow that often goes astray..”

    With only 52% in your pocket, its too early to start the mop up of the “holdouts”. You’re not in Quebec, where corruption is institutionalized and accepted.

    • Jim Barrett :

      I would like to add that your lovin g governors have approved of Quebec being the supplier of our energy. It was SHUMLIN who endorced the merger of CVPS, GMP into one big family of foreign owners ccalled GAZ METRO! You like your money going to out of country businesses and no one objected.

  6. Mike Kerin :

    I thought “eminent domain” could not be used for private profit.
    Isn’t it for the good of all?

    If they want to build it they should do it right. That means buying the right or going somewhere else. NOT taking someones land for their own profit!

  7. Kim Fried :

    Big energy, GMP, it’s all the same with the Governor, DPS, ANR and the PSD. They get what they want at the expense of the citizens and environment. Your gas problem is no different then what we are experiencing with ridgeline industrial wind in Newark. Out of state coprorations, out of state land owners, lawsuits, and just a very bad feeling about this state which we believed in and loved.

  8. Don’t blame the gas company, altho they are draconian, it is legislators that have allowed this to happen. I’m wondering what “goodies” VGS has handed policy makers?

    By the corporation, of the corporation, for the corporation!!!!!

    We need to take back Vermont. Vote NO for career Politicians!!!!!

  9. John Gilman :

    So now a private corporation wants to steal other people’s property to save itself some money. I sure hope this backfires on them, they have no business stealing people’s valuable real estate and destroying their quality of life.

    • Maren Vasatka :

      John, I couldn’t agree with you more however it isn’t just the private corporation. The Public Service Department which represents the public actually told us that they can’t help landowners get fair market value for their property because it is their responsibility to protect the rate payers and seeing as VGS is using rate payers money to buy the easements the Public Service Department wants to see them get it as cheap as possible. Legislators won’t look you in the eye when you mention you are a landowner, they just say they have no jurisdiction over the PSB process. PSB does not hear issues pertaining to landowners compensation unless you are in condemnation. The state of Vermont does not run the utilities the utility runs the state of Vermont. Sad to say we are run by the Canadian Company that owns all our utilities. We are Vermont strong but Canadian owned.

  10. rosemarie jackowski :

    From my 2012 Campaign Statement: “…Eminent Domain should be used only in the extremely rare case when the public good demands it…”

    Voting has consequences.

  11. Philip Beliveau :

    NY gets the gas, Canada the profits and I am forced to host the pipeline on my property. Doesn’t seem like public good for Vermont?

  12. Nate Palmer :

    VGS is beating their war drums…boom boom boom…us impacted landowners had better gather the women and children and head for higher ground…a safe haven against the army of lawyers and land agents that advance on us at a steady pace wielding the clubs and spears of eminent domain. Wait…where’s that safe haven again?

    The thing is, my wife, Jane and I have been flipping VGS the bird since the first time they asked to survey our land to see if it was feasible to use our farm for the re-route. And even though there has been an alternative route proposed (by us and on our own land that would be away from all residents in this re-route) they march on beating the drum of eminent domain…using “saving the ratepayers money” as their shield for siting it within 160 feet of our house. So we can understand why they don’t talk to us…we are not the low hanging fruit. We are the resistance. We are putting our scouts in trees with rocks and arrows…hoping to deter the destruction this pipeline will bring. But lots of other folks HAVE been negotiating with them and they have allowed surveys and studies to be done on their land. The reward they get for cooperating while trying to negotiate the best deal for themselves? Threats that they will lose BIG time in terms of compensation and legal fees.

    None of us asked for this…none of us deserve to have to finance the fight, knowing that even if we win and this thing doesn’t get built, we will still have lost….the legal fees and the time and energy spent on the battle.

    The above commenter is spot on..this is the lawmakers’ fault…we can only fight with the weapons we have in the shed. And I also blame our governor…because he is blinded by the glint of gold he envisions on the horizon..and is stomping over the people and land that make Vermont what it is.

  13. So if I read this right, the Digger is telling me a Canadian Corporation might take property because it’s where they want to put a potentially dangerous pipeline. That there is a “Velco” right of way….that’s for power, guys. Canadian Vermont gas has no right of way. In Monkton,Vermont they have promises from selectmen who are not re running for office. VGS is threatening elders with eminent domain. Well go ahead you bunch of bully Canadian businessmen. Go ahead. Meantime pipeline explosions, your welders making meth, your threatening. Go down the New York side. That is a sensible approach to Ticonderoga, NY from Alberta CA.

  14. dodie shea :

    Since when does “a good neighbor” force anyone to do something with their land they don’t want? Of course the Public Service Board and the Shumlin administration knew who they were dealing with before CVPS was sold and the gas pipeline was proposed.

  15. rosemarie jackowski :
  16. victor ialeggio :

    Anyone know anything further about Stephen Wark than his tenure @ Dept Public Service & Burlington PD? Or is that it…revolving door simplex?
    Sounds like he’s taking his cues from another great division of Caisse de dépôt — the folks from Enbridge who’ve been taking land in the midwest by eminent domain last couple of years for Keystone XL right-of-way…

  17. Randy Martin :

    The headline is misleading, the majority of the people that were sent eminent domain letters thought they were negotiating with VT Gas. They were not Right-of-Way- Hold outs. 24 days after VT Gas gets their Certificate of Public Good, letter are sent, either agree with our terms or we will TAKE your land. I encourage everyone to make your voice heard. This is all so WRONG!

  18. Rebecca Foster :

    A friend who attended the Addison County Regional Planning Commission meeting on Feb 12 had this observation:

    This evening the town of Monkton made a formal request to the ACRPC for help in dealing with VGS who are not negotiating in good faith. Last year Various Monkton landowners had been in negotiations with VGS over easements and had questions. They were told that their questions could not be answered until after the CPG had been issued. So they waited and heard nothing more from VGS until letters started arriving threatening eminent domain proceedings with offers far below fair market value for the land in Question if the land owner did not agree to the deal VGS was offering. Since the MOU between VGS and Monkton stated that eminent domain would only be used as a last resort, this represents a breach of trust and seems to be impacting the level of trust some commissioners on the ACRPC are feeling toward VGS.

  19. Jane Palmer :

    Guillaume,
    Thanks for bringing that point up…sometimes we forget that not everyone has been in the fight like we have for over a year.
    First of all, no one on the transmission line will even be offered gas unless they are also on the distribution line. (Not many) And the cost of conversion is a lot higher than you might think it would be so your savings will only be realized if the price of gas stays very low in comparison to other fuels…something that is not likely when you look at the factors involved.
    Second, many of us are thinking toward the future and what this so called “cheap fuel” will cost everyone in the long run. I can’t go into that here…it would take pages. You can read other articles and comments in VTDigger. Just do a search for “gas pipeline” and you will bring up all sorts of stuff…pro and con.
    And we are thinking of the folks on the other end of the pipeline…in Alberta Canada, whose land has been forsaken so the gas and oil companies can make big profits. The planet only has so much water…and the extraction of gas and oil uses so much water, it will make your head spin and that will seem funny to you as well. There are also scores of other environmental and human health side effects that are associated with the extraction of gas and oil.
    Also, having a high pressure, industrial gas transmission line sited on your property will seriously reduce the value. I know VGS would dispute that…but this is Vermont and when people are not accustomed to something, they tend to avoid it. Properties with electric transmission lines on them historically do sell for a lot less as well.
    So…to sum things up..contrary to your last statement….we stand to win nothing from this project and we stand to lose much.
    The low price is not the only thing you should consider. That is what Vermont Gas wants you to focus on….it is the ONLY argument they have in favor of this project and those predictions they make that methane(“natural” gas)will continue to be cheap are them just being optimistic…and frankly, deceiving.

  20. John Gilman :

    Some states have passed laws forbidding private corporations from using eminent domain after the Kelo fiasco from the SCOTUS. It’s time VT does the same. Our legislators are not powerless to stop these abuses, they have simply chosen, so far, to do nothing about it.

    • victor ialeggio :

      You’re absolutely right, Mr Gilman. One explicit recommendation of SCOTUS dissent on Kelo v New London was that states get on the ball — examine their individual eminent domain statutes (or lack thereof) and take steps to remedy the situation in order to avoid similar misfortunate cases in the future. Has there really been no movement at all in Montpelier on this subject since 2005…?

      (A dispiriting postscript to Kelo: after encouraging the city to lay waste to a perfectly functional lower-middle-class neighborhood and then dragging the city through the courts when Ms Kelo objected, Pfizer Chemical consolidated its activity in Groton, on the other side of the harbor, in late 2010, with a loss of over 1000 jobs in New London and left nothing but a brownfield and a depleted city treasury behind. Pfizer’s “strategic” move to Groton coincided with the expiration of tax breaks on the New London site that would have increased the company’s property tax bill by several hundred percent.)

      [apologies if this posts in multiples -- something funny going on with my state-of-the-art semaphore system...]

  21. Don Peterson :

    Peter Shumlin is doing a lousy job of protecting the Vermont Brand, and a wonderful job of enriching his Quebec overlords.

    None of his signature initiatives in the energy sector seem to benefit Vermonters as much as they do other stakeholders; and I am left wondering how this administration gets away with that.

    In Peter Shumlin’s brave new world, all syrup is Grade A. How absurd that is.

    By the same token, to think we would not notice his gratutious pandering to wholly controlled Canadian energy companies is equally absurd.

    And now those Canadian entities threaten state sanctified civil action against essentially defenseless property owners.

    These are hard times indeed.

  22. Cynthia Browning :

    Just so that you all know, the Legislature should have known of the ownership structure of GMP, Vermont Gas, Gaz Metro, Enbridge Oil Pipeline, and up to the Province of Quebec entities BECAUSE I AND OTHERS TOLD THEM ABOUT THIS AND WARNED ABOUT JUST THIS KIND OF OUTCOME before the GMP/CVPS takeover.

    I had a bill that would have required legislative approval of the merger and we could have set conditions to protect Vermonters as both ratepayers and property owners. Ask your legislators why they did not support that.

    When you allow private corporations to have monopoly power they will usually succeed in capturing the regulators and working the system to their own benefit.

    We might take a look at the campaign contribution patterns of these corporations and their executives.

    Rep. Cynthia Browning, Arlington

    • victor ialeggio :

      Do you really mean to say, Ms Browning, that you are the only one in the Vt legislature who objects to the State of Vermont becoming a third-world pass-through economy (VtGas/Valener,
      HydroQuebec, GMP/Gaz Metro, Portland Montreal Pipeline/Enbridge? I don’t mean this sarcastically — I know, through your activity in the House, that your heart’s pretty much in the right place. This is a Youth Wants to Know question…and I will be happy to toast my local rep’s feet first over a slow fire if it is so.

    • Rep. Browning:

      You may have only exposed the very tip of the iceberg* (problem) when you state the legislature should have known about the ownership structure of GMP, etal.

      Thinking about knowing, your comment leads one to wonder:

      How much did the legislature actually know about the costs vs benefits of covering Vermont with industrial wind and solar projects before they acted?

      How much did the legislature think Vermont air quality would actually improve by covering the state with industrial wind and solar projects?

      Considering the mess Vermont is in with health care reform, did the legislature have any understanding of what they were doing when they passed enabling legislation?

      Did the legislature having any idea of what they were doing when debating the safety aspects of Vermont Yankee that ultimately landed the state in a losing Supreme Court battle?

      And the list of acting before knowing can go on.

      The lesson here for the legislature is that drinking the lobbyists’ and activists’ cool-aid is not sufficient preparation for big votes that have even bigger consequences everyone.

      * The use of “iceberg” is metaphoric as we all know there are no icebergs remaining according to the latest global warming …..oops, I mean climate change thinking.

  23. John Greenberg :

    Cynthia Browning writes: “When you allow private corporations to have monopoly power …” as though that happened only with the merger. Actually, it happened almost 100 years ago in VT (and throughout most of the US), when we opted for regulated monopolies rather than market competition for delivering our electricity. The CVPS – GMP merger was a merger of 2 monopolies into 1 monopoly. There was never any competition between the 2 monopolies: each had its own territory.

  24. victor ialeggio :

    You’re absolutely right, Mr Gilman. The explicit import of SCOTUS dissent on Kelo v New London was that states get on the ball — examine their individual eminent domain statutes (or lack thereof) and take steps to remedy the situation in order to avoid repeats of the same case. Has there really been no movement in Montpelier on this subject since then…?
    (A dispiriting postscript to Kelo: after encouraging the city to lay waste to a perfectly functional lower-middle-class neighborhood and dragging the city through the courts, Pfizer Chemical sashayed over the harbor to Groton which had meanwhile offered a better deal, leaving nothing but a brownfield and a depleted city treasury behind.)

  25. Paul Lorenzini :

    Let’s all just forget the whole idea of AFFORDABLE energy and live in teepees!

    • Kai Mikkel Forlie :

      With all due respect, Paul, if you seriously think that as global demand for natgas ramps up and as the LNG export terminals along our coasts come on line that natgas will remain cheap relative to other fossil fuels, you are either deluding yourself or are a paid shill for the gas industry. This is simple ‘Resource Economics 101′. Just like building another lane on a highway is rendered instantly obsolete the minute it’s opened so will this pipeline. This transmission line project is nothing more and nothing less than a vehicle to increase VG’s profits in the short term and its control over our communities in the long term. I get a kick out of how VG keeps announcing rate reductions, like a pusher having a sidewalk sale. Once you’re hooked(up) they’ve got you right where they want you.

  26. Maren Vasatka :

    Guillaume,

    According to the Vermont Gas website this project has a price tag of 140 million dollars and according to their advertising they expect to service 3,000 homes. Do the math, hardly seems like a low priced energy.

    How do we win if we give up the fight?

    If I give up I get to live in a home that could always be one of the four natural gas explosions that happen each week. Doesn’t sound like the safe enjoyment of my home I currently have.

    Would you let your son or daughter buy a house to raise your grandchildren in that was within 75 feet of a high pressure natural gas transmission line installed by meth addicts? If you say yes we know of a house for them to buy, come see us in Monkton. If we don’t see you we understand you get the point now.

  27. Randy Martin :

    Eminent Domain is to be used as a “Last Resort”! Did VT Gas just create a Last Resort because they don’t want to negotiate anymore?

  28. Wayne Andrews :

    I bet if these stubborn landowners thought to 90 degrees out of sink, drilled and hit oil they would want it piped and trucked elsewhere for profit?

    • Jeff Noordsy :

      Wait, what? Please explain.

  29. Cynthia Browning :

    For Mr.Ialeggio and for Mr. Greenberg,

    I have worked with other legislators to improve the regulation of our utilities. I would never claim to be the only one with concerns in this area. But as an economist I may have a stronger analytical foundation for my concerns and therefore a stronger motivation. And as someone who does not bow to political pressure, I have raised my voice when others may be uneasy but silent.

    But Legislative leadership and the Administration seem uninterested in righting the balance of power between ordinary Vermonters and corporate utilities.

    The GMP/CVPS merger was an opportunity to correct a system already seriously unbalanced, as Mr. Greenberg notes correctly. We lost that opportunity.

    I am reviewing the statutes surrounding the use of eminent domain in Vermont.

    Rep. Cynthia Browning, Arlington

    • Timothy MacLam :

      It seems that questions regarding CVPS -GMP merger were hastily shot down by the governor with his false assurances to then soon-to-be former CVPS customers anytime they were asked. Naturally, they recouped nothing.
      Why would the PSB be so eager to let our utilities go to foreign ownership? They do not get campaign donations.

    • John Greenberg :

      Cynthia Browning,

      My previous comment simply noted that Vermont’s system of regulated monopolies as providers of electricity is not at all new. I said nothing about the system being “unbalanced.”

      So when you write: ‘The GMP/CVPS merger was an opportunity to correct a system already seriously unbalanced, as Mr. Greenberg notes correctly. We lost that opportunity,” you appear to be distorting what I wrote. In any case, to be frank, I really haven’t got a clue what you are trying to say.

      Vermont’s utilities – like those in most of the US – have been regulated monopolies since the 1930s. In the late 1990s, some electric utilities elsewhere in the US were de-regulated, and Vermont also considered regulatory reform. Then speaker Obuchowski essentially stopped everything else the House was doing at the time, and convened “Reform school,” as it came to be known, for a full week. Experts were brought in to provide legislators briefings on the history of utilities, how they came to be regulated as they are, detailed analysis of how they are, in fact regulated, and analyses of what changing the system would look like. Following that week, despite heavy lobbying FOR reform by Governor Dean and both of the utilities, the legislature allowed the idea to die a natural death.

      Short of de-regulation, which the legislature considered and, in my estimation, properly rejected, I’m not at all sure what “opportunity to correct a system” is or was available, let alone, lost.

      If you’re making an argument for de-regulation, I think you owe it to us to articulate your reasoning. If not, I am curious to learn exactly what opportunity it is that you believe has been lost.

  30. Wayne Andrews :

    What I mean by my comment was if the roles were reversed and any landowner should strike it rich by drilling for oil, then I am sure that landowner would think something like the corporation. (not saying who is right)
    We have veered off course in this State as to what is important for the every day Vermonter to live and we should not be out-voiced by everyday activists with boredom any being everyone’s blow horn.

    • Jeff Noordsy :

      These are not activists, they are taxpaying landowners (your Vermont neighbors) who are facing condemnation in order to fatten the wallets of two private coporations.

    • Jane Palmer :

      Wayne, I wasn’t going to respond to your over generalizing and inaccurate assumptions about who is opposing this project….but then I figured, if someone posted a comment such as this, that there might be others out there who are as ignorant of the facts as you are.

      I am not an activist. I am an “every day Vermonter” and I am a person who never thought they would have to deal with something like this. And I hope that as a result of my fighting, perhaps you and others won’t ever have to be put in this position.

  31. Wayne Andrews :

    I wonder if all the farmers with land along side of I89 and I91 circa 1950 would have thought the same way where would we be now?

    • Maren Vasatka :

      Wayne, There is absolutely no comparison here. I89 and I91 were property purchases by the state and they were generous to homeowners. The highways don’t generate income and they don’t blow up.

      What we are dealing with is a private for profit corporation trying to get our land for the least amount of money while hiding behind rate payers protection. These corporations stand to make millions of dollars from this pipeline. Two different worlds.

      We are not activists we are trying to protect our homes. We don’t want the pipeline, we don’t want the gas and we don’t want the money we just want to be left alone in our homes to enjoy them as we did before Vermont Gas came to town.

  32. Grace Ciffo :

    Wayne,

    I am a landowner in Hinesburg being threatened by the condemnation of this VGS pipeline through 175 acres of our active farmland. I find it incredulous that you liken myself and the other landowners on the VGS path to “everyday activists with boredom and being everybody’s activist”

    First of all, i89 and i91 are examples of projects for the GREATER GOOD. There was no interstate system before their exsistance, and everyone is able to access and use these interstates.
    Our farm hosts a Velco transimission line that was taken by Eminent Domain decades ago. There was no alternative source of electricity for many Vermonters before these main transmission lines were installed. That is also an example of the GREATER GOOD.
    I am not an activist by any means. I am an landowner and taxpayer with an active farm. Don’t you dare speak for me or presume to tell others what I would or would not do in any instance. You obviously don’t get it at all.

    • Diane Derrick :

      Grace,

      I am a Hinesburg homeowner on the pipeline route. I have just met with the Monkton folks, and I am so pleased I did. Along with the help of Rising Tide I am trying to organize a potluck get together at my house next Saturday (3/8) @ 6pm Hope you can come and please spread the word. Want to let folks know that have power to not only negotiate but to potentially delay this until it becomes economically unfeasible.
      Diane

  33. Loads of talk here about the gas pile line, land taking, condemnation, eminent domain and the resulting justifiable unhappiness. All serious issues and reasonable human reactions to the issues.

    Now what do you call a situation where a developer comes into a town or neighborhood and plants a 9000+ solar panel farm across the street from peoples’ homes with no compensation paid? Well, this is happening now in Rutland Town with such a proposed development.

    What is this called?

    In Vermont its called legal.

    The PSB will tell the families living across the street, hey if you don’t like it, talk to the legislature and get the law changed. The problem with the PSB’s advice is that we have powerful people in the legislature who have stated they don’t want to hear from the neighbors.

    So PSB, what are we to do when no in power will listen?

    • walter moses :

      peter, organize and form a non-profit corporation. Sell memberships for a dollar a person. ask for support from people of wealth. when ready: 1. hire attorneys preferably savage that believe in your cause. 2. carry the fight to vt gas by injuction and law suit. 3. expose by name the legislators who refuse to support your cause an publish the list. Actively campaign against them. 4. descend on the state house and picket with signs about your cause. 5. raise more money. 6. raise more money. 7 harass the politicians that do not represent or acknowledge your cause. 8. raise more money. that is the only thing that moves MOST politicians.

      • Walter:

        I’m trying my very best every day.

        I did get Senator Kevin Mullin to sponsor a bill requiring buffers, such as trees, to be planted around large solar farm to provide visual protection for neighboring properties.

        I very much appreciate Sen. Mullin’s effort, but unfortunately the bill sits gathering dust in the Senate Natural Resources Committee. So I guess this is what you mean when you say it takes money to move most politicians.

        I wonder how fast David Blittersdorf’s preferred big wind bills move forward or how his non-preferred bills get ditched.

        Now ,where would S. 30, the wind moratorium bill, stand in regard to big money influence? Have any idea?

  34. Wayne Andrews :

    To Grace and Maren: The greater good concepts rests in your eyes as it affects you the most and not necessarily the rest of us in Vermont. Just as I89 and I91 opened up paths for Vermont to get out of the Calvin Coolage stone age so is utility infrastructure in Vermont. In order for Vermont to grow we need infrastructure be it bridges, roads transmission lines and ,yes, pipelines. It will happen and I hope all you land, home and farm owners are justly compensated for your actual losses and some of your perceived losses. Finally I advise the owners not to accept any buyout that regulates your ability to be compensated at a later date should there be some damages. I think that is a horrible way for a utility company to do business but it is a sue crazy world out there.

    • Jane Palmer :

      Uh, Wayne…did you read the article? The point of it is that homeowners are NOT being justly compensated. And it is the apathy and complacency of people like you that allow these type of projects to happen. This pipeline is NOT in the public good…look at the figures…do some research before you blindly follow along with the corporate plan.

      • Jeff Noordsy :

        Here’s just one of the many problems with the “greater good” argument. Phase two of this project might provide gas service to a whopping SEVENTY-FIVE Vermont residences in even the most optimistic projections. Any comparison to rural electrification or the building of the interstate system is downright laughable. This is a not a distribution project, it is a transmission project and the big winners in the game are Gaz Metro and International Paper.

  35. Wayne Andrews :

    Uh, Jane read my response. I believe the pipeline is in the public good and you should be justly compensated and I think the utility company should own up to it. No reason why the best of both worlds cannot be had here without going to eminant domain.

    • Jane Palmer :

      Wayne,
      I believe you are being naive about Vermont Gas. They refuse to offer just compensation. Period. They deny the pipeline will devalue our properties. They deny there is any danger in living within the blast zone of a high pressure industrial transmission pipeline. They can build a pipeline within 25 feet of a home, but once it is installed, you may not build within 300 feet of a pipeline. They deny the construction process will destroy soil. They deny the fact that the process of hydraulic fracturing is devastating to the environment.

      They can deny all these things because, as Lily Tomlin’s character Ernestine the Operator used to say on Saturday Night Live, they are “omnipotent”.

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