Rebecca Foster, Just Power, 646-468-3511
Maeve McBride, 350Vermont, 802-999-2820
Keith Brunner, Rising Tide Vermont, 802-363-9615
Groups renew call to scrap entire Vermont Gas pipeline project in wake of Phase II cancellation
Today a coalition of organizations including Just Power, Rising Tide Vermont, 350Vermont and Toxics Action Center renewed calls to cancel all phases of the Vermont fracked gas pipeline, in the wake of an announcement that Vermont Gas will no longer proceed with Phase II.
The coalition is calling on the Vermont Public Service Board to revoke the Certificate of Public Good for Phase I in light of the near doubling of Phase I costs, the stark climate impacts of fracked gas, and impacts on landowners in the path of the pipeline. Yesterday, the PSB was given permission by the Vermont Supreme Court to undertake a review of the Phase I permit with no time or scope constraints. The groups are calling on the Board to execute a rigorous review of all aspects of the project given the change in the landscape since the initial filing.
Cornwall resident and impacted landowner Mary Martin said, “Today’s announcement is the culmination of years of conversations with neighbors and making our voices heard. While we’re relieved that Phase II is cancelled, we can’t stand idly by and watch our neighbors in Monkton and other towns who are fighting Phase I. Today we’re celebrating, but our fight is not over until the whole project is cancelled. If the costs are too high for IP, then they’re too high for the state of Vermont.”
“The house of fossil fuel cards is falling.” said Maeve McBride, coordinator of 350Vermont, “The cancellation of this pipeline is yet another example of a reckless, misguided fossil fuel project that succumbed to people power and practicalities. In the last few days, we’ve seen a tar sands export terminal near Quebec City cancelled and the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund has pledged to divest billions of dollars from coal and tar sands companies.”
Shaina Kasper, Vermont Community Organizer with Toxics Action Center, an environmental and public health non-profit, called the decision a huge step in the right direction. “We've known all along that this pipeline was a bad investment for Vermont's energy future, and we're glad Vermont Gas finally agrees,” Kasper said. “We hope the next step is to abandon the entire project so that we can invest in clean energy and a shift away from polluting fossil fuels.”
International Paper had always been the primary beneficiary of this pipeline expansion, and the primary customer of VGS. Now that IP has decided this is a poor investment and has withdrawn from the project, the groups are concerned Vermont ratepayers will be required to pay for the additional $30 million shortfall for Phase I.
Burlington resident and VGS ratepayer Devon Ayers joined the call to scrap Phase I, arguing that “I can’t afford to pay another dime on top of my family’s already sky high heating costs, especially for a fossil fuel project which threatens the world my son will grow up in.”
“Today’s announcement is a victory for grassroots organizing and our growing people’s movement in Vermont,” said Sara Mehalick, a volunteer organizer with Rising Tide Vermont. “From workers’ rights to migrant justice, and human rights to climate justice, today’s decision reaffirms that social movements have the power to change what’s politically possible.”
NOTES FOR EDITORS
1] Total IP contribution ($135 million) - Phase 2 cost ($105) = IP’s Phase I contribution ($30 million). Based on most recent cost estimates from the VGS press release on Feb. 10th 2015: “Our updated cost estimate for Phase 2 is now $105 million...” said Jim Sinclair, Vermont Gas’ Vice President for System Expansion. Under the agreement between Vermont Gas and IP, this would mean that IP’s total financial responsibility to Vermont Gas for Phase 2 as well as Phase 1 improvements would have risen from $99 million to $135 million.”