Opinion: Vermont Gas pipeline flawed on several fronts
There are numerous reasons to oppose the granting of a permit by the Public Service Board to Vermont Gas Systems Inc. in its attempt to build a gas pipeline to International Paper in Ticonderoga, N.Y. One of the reasons many of the residents of Cornwall have coalesced in opposition is to try to protect the sanctity of private property. This should be of concern to all Vermonters.
Ethan Allen and others got it right when they contributed to the creation of the Vermont Constitution. Chapter One, Article One, of our Constitution states “that all persons are born equally free and independent and have certain natural, inherent and unalienable rights amongst which are enjoying and defending life and liberty (and) acquiring, possessing and protecting property.” An overwhelming majority of the residents of Cornwall have asked our selectboard to protect our property from Vermont Gas. We have said no to the request by Vermont Gas to allow a pipeline through our town. We are trying to protect our property right as prescribed in our Constitution.
Mr. A. Donald Gilbert, who is chief executive officer and president of Vermont Gas Systems, said in March 2011 when interviewed by the Addison Independent that Vermont Gas would not try to force the project on any community. Mr. Gilbert said, “We won’t come if people don’t want us.” He should honor his words.
On April 14, 2006, Gov. Jim Douglas signed into law Senate Bill 246, which prohibits the use of eminent domain where “the taking is primarily for purpose of economic development.” The Addison Natural Gas Project (Vermont Gas Systems has cleverly changed the name to the Addison-Rutland Project with its intense barrage of public relations advertisements) has promoted economic development as one of its basic tenets. The Vermont Public Service board is not required to follow the principle stated in Senate Bill 246. Residents of Cornwall would ask the Public Service Board to honor this law and prevents Vermont Gas Systems from using eminent domain in acquiring properties in our town.
Chapter One, Article Six, of the Vermont Constitution states that all officers of government are accountable to the people. I feel betrayed and abandoned by Gov. Shumlin and those legislators who support this Vermont Gas Systems plan, which can force the citizens of the town of Cornwall to allow a pipeline through our rural properties to serve International Paper. These public servants are condoning the acquisition of property owned by Vermont residents against their wishes by the Canadian-owned Vermont Gas Systems to supply gas to a New York-based subsidiary of a multinational conglomerate.
By supporting such a plan our highest elected officials are in effect relegating Cornwall residents to be subservient to the financial interests of international corporations. In my opinion should this occur it would be neither just nor ethical. It is not too late for the governor to rescind his support for this projects and to support the property rights of his electorate in Cornwall.
The road to Rutland does not pass through Cornwall and under Lake Champlain. Most of us have been taught that if we desire something we are obligated to pay for it. It would seem equitable that if the residents and businesses of Rutland want service from Vermont Gas Systems that they should seek appropriate financing solutions the respect the private property rights of their fellow Vermonters in Cornwall. One established source is the Vermont System Expansion and Reliability Fund approved in 2011 by the Public Service Board at the request of Vermont Gas Systems. It allows Vermont Gas Systems to set aside millions of dollars a year until 2031 to pay for its expansion.
Editor’s note: The writer submitted this letter to the Public Service Board.
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