Opinion: Shumlin skirts pipeline answers

I left the Legislative Luncheon in Middlebury on March 24 with an upset stomach. It had little to do with the great goulash and brownie meal that the American Legion provided. The trouble seemed to originate from the keynote speaker. What the press didn’t say is what the governor avoided answering. And how could they? He didn’t say anything. Sound confusing? Well that’s how I felt.
I simply wanted to know about the $45 million that Steve Wark of Vermont Gas says Vermonters will be saving by approving Phase 2 of the pipeline. The $45 million that IP is “bankrolling” is, according to the Facilities Development Agreement between IP and Vermont Gas, to be paid back over a 55-year payment period. This would be no windfall for Vermonters. And, what would happen if IP were to go out of business? Who would end up paying for the pipe? Vermont ratepayers?
And why isn’t Vermont Gas being clearer on how they are going to use the Systems Expansion Fund — the fund they set up that charges those ratepayers to finance future pipeline expansion? And how about alternative financing by Omya and other Rutland companies that have the means to help finance a project in which they will greatly benefit from?
And why is a stream alteration permit so simple a procedure that it cruises through the DEC? Why are our Legislature and governor taking such a passive role? Do they care about the lake? Shouldn’t we be taking a more in-depth look at the risks, such as the possible eruption of a directional drill in the toxic sludge bed in front of the plant, or the negative effects of methane leaks on our fish and our tourism industry? And what about small earthquakes that could happen from the still occurring effects of glacial rebound? Remember — this has pipe to be safe for the next 75 years.
Also, what about Senate Bill 246, the law signed by Jim Douglas to forbid the taking by eminent domain for corporate gain? Why is the intent of this law to be ignored? Could the endless insertions of loopholes have made this possible? Is the governor to be as hypocritical on this issue as he is on fracking? Boy, I sure ran up against a pro at Monday’s luncheon. I got bulldozed. He seemed to talk about whatever he wanted. Well, it was his birthday.
I posed all of these issues to the governor; not one was addressed. Phase 2 is not the same as Phase 1. We can’t use the same old arguments. Phase 2 is not in anybody’s good but Vermont Gas and IP’s. When the pipeline crosses the center line of the Lake, the state of Vermont and its people will not have a say in the development that gas might bring to New York. By letting them dig up our farmland and drill under Lake Champlain, are we simply assisting them in developing something that might not be in our best interests here in Vermont?
If only our Lake could speak for herself.
Norton Latourelle

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