Opposition to the proposed pipeline, otherwise known as the Addison Natural Gas project, has grown in recent weeks as the environmental and human health risks associated with hydraulic fracturing, gas consumption and high transmission pipelines becomes more apparent. The proposed pipeline route intersects farms, preserved wetlands and would eventually go underneath Lake Champlain to supply International Paper’s Ticonderoga mill with gas service. Many landowners along the route are concerned about the impacts on their land, as well as the ability of Vermont Gas to seize their land should they refuse to sign easements.
“Here is the democratic process: The Public Service Board, a judicial like board of three individuals, will decide if Vermont Gas gets a Certificate of Public Good,” said Jane Palmer of Monkton, “Once they get that certification, Vermont Gas will be able to condemn our land using eminent domain and install this pipeline.” Palmer spoke, along with other landowners and climate justice activists, to a crowd of nearly 100 supporters.
Palmer is one of several landowners who is refusing to sign an easement that would allow Vermont Gas to lay the pipe across her land and through her organic pasture and vegetable gardens.
Climate activists are concerned that the gas in the pipeline is obtained through hydraulic fracturing, an increasingly common form of extracting gas that blasts a high-pressure cocktail of sand, water and chemicals below the surface of the earth to crack open deposits of gas in shale formations. Fracking has been linked to water contamination, fish kills, and sickening communities.
“Natural gas is not clean energy. It is a fossil fuel that contributes significantly to climate change, and building this pipeline will lock us in to decades more of fossil fuel use in Vermont,” said Sarah Mehalick of Rising Tide Vermont. ”Vermont banned fracking in 2012. We can’t say we don’t want it here, but are okay with imposing the pollution and destruction on other places.”
Much of the gas will come from Alberta, Canada, where there is growing grassroots opposition to fracking.
Opponents are also questioning the climate benefits of the pipeline. According to a 2011 Cornell study, gas obtained through fracking is worse than coal and oil in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. Recent EPA estimates state that methane, a greenhouse gas which is released during the extraction and transport process of gas, has a impact on the climate that is 20 times greater than CO2. Methane leakage rates are as high as 9% in fracking operations.
“Fossil fuels have no place in Vermont’s energy future,” said Mehalick. Rising Tide Vermont is working to stop new fossil fuel infrastructure projects, and supports efforts aimed at reducing energy consumption overall, such as weatherization for low-income Vermonters.
A coalition of labor, environmental and social justice organizations also issued a statement at the hearing, voicing opposition to the pipeline and support for a just transition away from fossil fuels that will create long-term, dignified work for displaced workers.
After the rally, the crowd moved inside to testify to the Public Service Board, which can either approve or deny the permits for the project.