Environmental groups raise red flag around PSB decision in pipeline case

NEWS RELEASE — Rising Tide Vermont
April 15, 2013

Will Bennington, Rising Tide Vermont

Burlington, Vermont (April 15, 2013) – The Vermont Public Service Board (PSB) issued a briefing Friday denying the participation of an environmental organization in the permitting process for the Addison Natural Gas project.

The briefing was a response to over 30 motions by businesses, town select boards, individual landowners and advocacy groups. VGS accepted nearly every motion to intervene, but outright rejected the efforts of Vermont Intergenerational Stewards (VIS), a grassroots group. The PSB also limited the participation of landowners and the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association.

VIS sought to represent the rights and interests of youth and future generations along the pipeline route and in Chittenden and Addison counties. According to their motion to intervene, VIS’ main concerns with the project are the continued dependence on fossil fuels in the state; the impacts of hydraulic fracturing for gas on air and water quality; and the resulting impacts on climate change.

“Vermont banned fracking in 2012, but also included expanded use of fracked natural gas in the 2011 Comprehensive Energy Plan,” said Rebecca Foster, a mother of two children and representative of VIS. “It is hypocritical of the state to say no to fracking here and to expect communities elsewhere to bear the burden of destruction for Vermont’s supposed benefit.”

Fracking for gas emits large amounts of greenhouse gases and poisons air and water with known carcinogens. Recent studies reveal that emissions from fracked gas—from the wellhead to the burner-tip—may be greater than the emissions from oil and coal over a 50-year period, and are no better over a 100-year period. Methane, the primary greenhouse gas emitted during gas extraction and transport, packs 100 times the global warming impact as CO2 in a 20-year period.

VIS is also concerned about the long-term impacts of failing to take serious action to reduce energy consumption through massive conservation and efficiency efforts, and the lack of a truly participatory process around energy projects in the state.

“The PSB’s decision to exclude grassroots advocacy groups, representing people directly impacted by this project, is deeply concerning” said Will Bennington, a member of VIS and a volunteer with Rising Tide Vermont, a community group that is part of a coalition of citizens and organizations working to stop the pipeline. “The PSB, in denying VIS’ motion to intervene but allowing International Paper and IBM to participate, is putting the interests of multinational corporations before the interests of people and the planet.”

Phase 1 of the ANGP—which only extends service to Middlebury—does not directly impact International Paper, as it is no guarantee that Phase 2 will be approved. However, IP has been granted intervenor status.

Bennington said VIS and Rising Tide Vermont are “extremely concerned” about the barriers to participation the PSB has created. “This is clearly an attempt to fast-track the process and create a façade of democracy,” Bennington said.

The PSB’s justification for the ruling included concerns that VIS’ participation might delay the proceeding. Similarly, the PSB decided to group parties together by interest, in order to ensure a quick permitting process. The majority of the groupings represent potential customers or business associations, all of which are in favor of the project. The largest grouping—with twice as many parties as any other groups—is for landowners, many of who have expressed opposition to the project.

“This debate is extremely daunting and I have to say we feel like we are David and Vermont Gas is Goliath” said Jane Palmer, a Monkton landowner and farmer. The Palmers’ motion to intervene was accepted by the PSB, with limitations. “The 248 process is such that the size and type of stones we are allowed to throw are extremely limited.”

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  • Wendy Raven

    I find this deeply disturbing and part of a growing trend toward corporate bullying in the world….the Public Service Board is just that….it is supposed to SERVE THE PUBLIC, NOT THE CORPORATIONS……..something is terribly amiss here. This is NOT GOOD….

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