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.

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