This article was first published in Green Mountain Noise, 2VR’s E-zine publication
Gathering in a small kitchen before a battery of cameras, four Monkton homeowners are raising their voices in ardent resistance to the natural gas pipeline that is proposed to slither its way through Addison County. Recently receiving letters of eminent domain, homeowners Claire Broughton; Louise Peyser; Nancy Menard; and Maren Vasatka held a press conference on Wednesday morning to address the escalating tactics and threats of the Vermont Gas Company.
On January 17th, each of them received a letter from Vermont Gas stating “With the issuance of the CPG [Certificate of Public Good] we have reached a critical milestone in the Project’s schedule. We’d like to revisit our proposal with you one more time before Vermont Gas must begin the legal process of eminent domain to acquire the easement rights necessary to construct the Project.” Vasatka, whose home lays along the pipeline’s proposed route, spoke candidly of her experience resisting the pipeline and the Canadian owned energy corporation that has set its sights on her home:
“We have tried several avenues for help. We have written to the Public Service Board, we have not received a response. We have reached out to our legislators who tell us they do not have jurisdiction over the Public Service Board. We have reached out to the department of Public Service, whose position is that they represent the rate-payers; and because the rate-payers’ funds are being used to buy these easements, the Department cannot assist us, the landowners, to get fair market value for our property for fear of raising the costs to the rate-payers.”
Continuing through a heated question and answer session; Louise Peyser, who also received a letter threatening eminent domain, chastised Vermont State officials for failing to represent her as a citizen. “The truth is, I don’t want a pipeline, I’m faced with it because of the Public Service Board. Why should I give somebody the right to take my happiness, my enjoyment of my home away?” said Peyser. “And it is not in my opinion a public good. I am also a citizen and I’ve been failed by my Governor, my Board of Selectmen, I’ve been failed by everybody! There’s just no-one who stands up for a single person.” When asked about her refusal so far to agree to an easement with Vermont Gas, Claire Broughton summed up her firm response to VTG Right of Way Agent Stephen Taylor, “I’m not signing this because you have not answered my questions.”
When asked if they felt that the pipeline fit with the broader energy and sustainability goals of the Green Mountain State, the Monkton four responded unanimously: “absolutely not.” Elaborating on already existing systems of renewable energy across her community, Vasatka fears that such an enticing pipeline would become a distraction. “Addison County could have been a poster-child for renewable energy without this,” she said. “We already have the evils of fossil fuel. Why are we adding another evil?”
With the slow thawing of snow in the North Country, it appears that the stage is set for the summer of 2014 to become a watershed moment for popular resistance to the domestic expansion of fossil fuels and the infrastructure that supports them. As businesses, neighbors, communities, and homes are put under increasing pressure and threat by corporations like Vermont Gas and Gaz Metro, we will arrive at a crossroads leading to separate and distinct futures.
If communities recognize their broader goals for resistance and downright survival, Vermonters will be once again positioned to lead the nation in chartering a radically sustainable relationship to their home landscape. On the other hand, if the propaganda, fear-mongering, and political treachery of Vermont Gas proves successful; we will join the rest of the planet in a lemming’s march over the cliff of the coming decades. The climate will change further, shortages and extreme weather will become the new normal, toxic spills and dangerous explosions be innumerable, and we will be party to the worst economic and ecological plundering of any time in our collective history.
Standing of knife’s edge of history, Vermont’s next footfall may prove to be our most important step yet.