Protesters arrested blocking Vermont Gas worksites

Vermont Gas

Protesters hold signs Monday along Route 2A in Williston opposing the Vermont Gas pipeline. Photo by Kelsey Neubauer/VTDigger

WILLISTON — Protesters temporarily blocked access and chained themselves to construction equipment Monday at sites where Vermont Gas Systems is building a controversial pipeline.

At least four people were arrested, according to the group Rising Tide Vermont, which organized the protests.

The Addison Rutland Natural Gas Project pipeline, first approved by the Public Service Board in 2013, will run from Middlebury to Colchester, carrying natural gas to 4,000 customers.

Protesters with Rising Tide have been fighting it since 2012.

“I actually think it is criminal to build new fossil fuel infrastructure when we are on the brink of a climate disaster,” said Danby resident Beth Thompson.

She said the battle she fought 18 years ago against breast cancer was small compared with the fight to stop the pipeline.

Thompson and other Rising Tide protesters stood in front of the pipeline construction site off Route 2A in Williston on Monday, temporarily delaying work. About half a mile down the road, activists chained themselves to construction equipment beginning at 5 a.m.

Vermont Gas spokeswoman Beth Parent said work on the pipeline had resumed by 1 p.m.

Vermont Gas

A protester chains himself to heavy equipment Monday in Williston. Photo by Kelsey Neubauer/VTDigger

Parent says “natural gas is a clean, affordable and reliable heating choice.”

Alex Prolman, one of the protest organizers, said one activist who locked herself to equipment was removed and arrested. Another person could not be safely removed right away.

Prolman said three others were arrested at sites in Chittenden and Addison counties.

Prolman said Monday’s action was sparked in part by a major milestone: the beginning of work on the project by Michels Corp., also a contractor for the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Vermont Gas announced the company’s selection as a contractor in July.

In addition, Thompson said, the protesters were inspired by the recent death of Claire Broughton, who had been fighting to keep the pipeline from crossing her land in Monkton.

Rising Tide’s protests could end up costing its customers. Through an agreement with the Public Service Board, Vermont Gas is able to pass along cost overruns caused by delays such as protests.

Prolman said attributing cost increases to the protests is a distraction from the company’s practices.

The gas the pipeline will carry natural gas produced by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, said Prolman.

Thompson said the idea that natural gas is a cleaner alternative is a myth. Though methane omits 25 percent less carbon than other fossil fuels, it leaks 86 times more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, she says.

CORRECTION: The Vermont Gas pipeline expansion was first approved in December 2013, not 2011 as originally reported. Vermont Gas says the pipeline will serve 4,000 customers in Addison. The company has 50,000 customers in Chittenden County.

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  • Glenn Thompson
    • Jane Palmer

      Unfortunately, this article is fraught with errors. I am confident Beth Thompson had the figures correct but the reporter got it wrong as she did with other dates and figures…like this project was originally approved in December of 2013, not 2011.
      Also this $154 million project is designed to serve LESS THAN 2600 new customers as per the figures VGS filed with the state. The 4000 new customer figure is a GROSS exaggeration VGS keeps repeating and unfortunately, many people get their information from VGS’ propaganda and lies. Too bad VTDigger could not report accurately so we could have some sort of congruity about the figures associated with this project.

      • Beth Thompson

        Thanks, Jane. The facts I mentioned to the reporter were painfully misquoted. What I said was that while natural gas emits about 25% less CO2 than fuel oil when burned, the methane leaks at extraction and compression sites outweigh that gain since CH4 is 86x more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2 over a 20-year time frame. I also said that what we have learned about methane over the last 3 to 5 years has been enlightening and startling (in the revelations about just how much more is being leaked than anyone thought and its GHG potency) and that we had been heading down a wrong road thinking NG was a “better” fossil fuel (a sales pitch brought to us by the purveyors of the fuel they want to sell).

    • Beth Thompson

      To set the record straight. The facts I mentioned to the reporter were painfully misquoted. What I said was that while natural gas emits about 25% less CO2 than fuel oil when burned, the methane leaks at extraction and compression sites outweigh that gain since CH4 is 86x more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2 over a 20-year time frame. I also said that what we have learned about methane over the last 3 to 5 years has been enlightening and startling (in the revelations about just how much more is being leaked than anyone thought and its GHG potency) and that we had been heading down a wrong road thinking NG was a “better” fossil fuel (a sales pitch brought to us by the purveyors of the fuel they want to sell). One of my major sources of information on this matter is the Union of Concerned Scientists and my son who is a meteorologist and bullish about vetting facts.

      • Glenn Thompson

        I still disagree with your claims. I would refer you back to the quote and link I posted in response to Jane! However, what the issue should be is understanding the scope of why NG continues to be in high demand and will continue to experience rapid growth for the foreseeable future! Then the question must be asked what current energy source could replace NG?

        In case you missed this!

        “According to analysts, North America needs to invest $641 billion in energy infrastructure by 2035 to meet growing demand. That is expected to triple the annual investment rate, which should drive strong growth for pipeline stocks over the next few decades. While there should be a lot of winners, in my opinion, the best five stocks to invest in the growth of pipeline infrastructure in North America are as follows:”

        And I will back it up with this link!

        “While domestic crude oil production is projected to level off and then slowly decline after 2020 in the Reference case, natural gas production grows steadily, with a 56% increase between 2012 and 2040, when production reaches 37.6 trillion cubic feet (Tcf)”

        https://www.eia.gov/pressroom/releases/press402.cfm

        Hate to be blunt, but protesting in front of a gas work site and chaining yourself to construction equipment, does nothing to change the equation.

  • Thomas Gauthier

    If these protestors want to disrupt the hard working contractors and laborers in the name of free speech they should have to pay or be held liable for the cost of the delays from exercising their first amendment rights.

    • Jane Palmer

      Haven’t you been paying attention? This project is being paid for by the ratepayers and the cost is $154 million to hook up less than 2600 new customers!!! The ratepayers will be paying for this fiasco for over 32 years! Regardless of how you stand on climate change, that should give you pause and cause you to question this project.
      The “hard working contractors and laborers” got to stand around all day and do nothing for pay. I guess you think its OK for ratepayers to pay for this pipeline they will never see the benefit from. I guess you think folks should shut up and take whatever big corporations and our government dishes out and not complain or cause delays because it would only cost more money. Good thing folks with your attitude were outnumbered when this country was new . Things would be very different here indeed. We need to be able to speak out when things are unjust. And if you don’t agree with that, you live in the wrong country.

    • Melanie Peyser

      Yes, and VGS should also be liable for all of the project delays and cost increases that have been caused by it’s mismanagement and failures to file timely to achieve the project on budget. The company has just begun its campaign to suggest that ratepayers should have to pick up costs it promised to cap. Even if it covers that last $20 million why should ratepayers have to cover the other $50 million in VGS errors and delays that wereaused soley by VGS?

      Incidentally, VGS must prove that these protests are the cause of additional costs, but their other bungles are well documented. It’s not going to be so easy to fake cause and effect this time around.

  • Andrew Simon

    I salute the persistence, disciplined non-violence and creativity of Monday’s action. A decade from now, with the climate catastrophe accelerating, people will ask, “Why didn’t we do something sooner?” And perhaps they will even question the collusion of the Public Service Board and the energy companies. These “protestors” will be remembered as heroes and truth-tellers in an era of corporate lies and media distortions.

  • Without all the easements settled, how can this delay what should be stopped? Vermont Ratepayers already in the tank for over $150 Million for the pipeline to infinity. Don’t blame protesters.

  • Natural Gas is only natural as long as it is in the ground, where it belongs

    • Glenn Thompson

      To be realistic, that isn’t going to happen anytime soon! Until another energy source is discovered that is cheaper and as convenient, NG usage will continue to expand. This article sums it up nicely and also includes some good stock tips.

      “According to analysts, North America needs to invest $641 billion in energy infrastructure by 2035 to meet growing demand. That is expected to triple the annual investment rate, which should drive strong growth for pipeline stocks over the next few decades. While there should be a lot of winners, in my opinion, the best five stocks to invest in the growth of pipeline infrastructure in North America are as follows:”

      http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2015/06/05/the-5-best-stocks-to-invest-in-pipelines.aspx

      • sandra bettis

        What about renewable energy? If Vt banned fracking, how could the PSB legally approve this pipeline?

        • Jim Leyland

          Natural Gas isnt fracked in Vermont. Water wells are. The gas coming through that pipeline is gathered in western Canada. There is no gas under Vermont to frack. That was just a law passed to impress the masses and let politicians pat each other on the back. The renewable energy available to us now is not yet feasible or efficient enough to support energy needs here in New England. Unless we clear every mountain and hilltop and for wind turbines and every field and pasture for solar and then maybe we could reduce the number of oil, gas and propane users by half. Then we’d be exporting a great deal of agriculture and tourism elsewhere and Vermont would no longer be Vermont.

      • Paula Schramm

        Thank you, Glenn Thompson, for the great investment tips. Do you have any equally good ideas about investing in climate-change reduction strategies for the benefit of our children and grandchildren and the life systems of our planet over the next few decades ? That would be even more greatly appreciated, under the circumstances we all are facing.
        Here is the info printed at the end of the article and website you linked to : (their viewpoint about investing is all to do with making the best profit off the growth in use of
        fossil fuels, which unfortunately has nothing to do with facing an extremely daunting future impacted by climate change.)
        “Matt DiLallo owns shares of Enterprise Products Partners and Kinder Morgan and has the following options: short January 2018 $30 puts on Kinder Morgan and long January 2018 $30 calls on Kinder Morgan. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Kinder Morgan. The Motley Fool has the following options: short June 2016 $12 puts on Kinder Morgan. The Motley Fool recommends Enterprise Products Partners. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.”

        • Glenn Thompson

          “Thank you, Glenn Thompson, for the great investment tips. Do you have any equally good ideas about investing in climate-change reduction strategies for the benefit of our children and grandchildren and the life systems of our planet over the next few decades ?”

          Paula, if you have read any of my links, (including the eia.gov site) you would have learned NG is replacing Coal and Oil thus emissions and green house gases will gradually decrease over time. Not at a rate we would like, but a far better option than burning coal.

          FYI, as an investor, about a decade ago I followed a group of approx a couple dozen green energy stocks. I even owned a couple for a short period time. Today, all of those companies have either gone out of business or are ‘penny stocks’ thus likely to go nowheres. The problem is with the technology, it is not there to replace current fossil fuel technology on a grand scale. Thus the projections for rapid growth of the NG industry is likely to occur for the foreseeable future unless some technology comes along that can compete with NG in convenience and price.

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