Opinion: Local clergy urge rejection of natural gas pipeline

Editor’s note: The following letter has been submitted by the undersigned local clergy to the Public Service Board regarding the proposed Vermont Gas Pipeline through Addison County:
There are many environmental, safety, energy security and economic issues at play in the proposal to build a major natural gas pipeline into Addison County, west under Lake Champlain to International Paper, and eventually to Rutland. There are also religious and ethical issues and it is those concerns we members of the local clergy wish to address.
We are a diverse group of Addison County clergy in terms of our beliefs about God, good and evil, the fate of humanity and the other classic concerns of religion. Despite that, all of us acknowledge that we have a sacred responsibility to speak the truth as best we understand it. All of us also abhor the corrosive effects of hypocrisy on the human spirit. And we all encourage our parishioners and society at large to serve as faithful stewards of our planet.
Two things stand out about these pipeline projects. First, a large and increasing proportion of the natural gas that would come to the pipeline from its source in western Canada is derived from a process called fracking, which is short for hydraulic fracturing. In brief, it involves injecting a range of toxic chemicals at high pressures deep into the earth to blast loose natural gas deposits. It has a track record of leaving behind polluted water supplies and of stimulating earthquakes.
The Vermont Legislature has banned fracking within our own borders. Yet now we are being asked to enjoy the benefits of despoiling someone else’s homeland. We know of no religion that endorses this violation of the Golden Rule — none of us preach that we should do to someone else what we would not want them to do to us.
Secondly, if we take all of the arguments supporting the pipeline at face value (even though we know promoters of financial schemes are always overly optimistic about benefits and blind to at least some risks), we must confront this disturbing fact: A huge, long-term investment increasing our reliance on energy derived from petroleum will divert us from doing what good stewardship of the earth requires. It will delay our investments in using energy more efficiently. It will stimulate gluttony and over-consumption of material things. It will turn us away from increasing our reliance on solar power and other clean, renewable energy sources as fast as feasible.
We urge all concerned people of faith to join the collective effort, to stop this short-sighted and unjust investment. We speak as individuals, not as representatives of the institutions we serve.
Rev. Lee Adkins, Middlebury
Rev. Meredith Anderson, Orwell
Rev. Barnaby Feder, Middlebury
Rev. George Klohck, Middlebury
Rev. Andrew Nagy-Benson, Weybridge
Rev. Arlen Vernava, Middlebury
Rev. Daniel Wright, Weybridge

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