Opinion: Pipeline makes moot state efforts to clean up lake

I was struck by a headline in the April 2 Burlington Free Press: “Conservation department updates plan to clean up Lake Champlain.” Here we are, the state of Vermont, trying to clean up the lake, yet Vermont Gas Systems (owned by a Canadian corporation, Gaz Métro) wants to lay a natural gas pipeline under the lake to feed the profits of International Paper, who owns a mill in New York state.
And Gov. Shumlin, whose very Department of Environmental Conservation is behind the headline, along with many others in Montpelier, is in favor of the pipeline. What is wrong with this picture? Don’t they know pipelines leak? Don’t they know fracked gas (which this pipeline will carry even if VGS won’t admit it) comes with a variety of unknown chemicals? “Unknown” because when asked, VGS hides behind the answer “Well, that information is proprietary so we won’t tell you.”
I live on Lake Champlain. I get my drinking water from Lake Champlain. So do thousands of other Vermonters. VGS tells us the pipeline won’t leak. OK, maybe not in the next 25 or 50 years, but what about 75 years from now? A hundred years from now?
Can VGS really guarantee that it will never leak? Can they guarantee that the sludge under the lake (put there by IP, by the way) will remain undisturbed? Are we really that short-sighted that we are willing to risk the health of this region’s most valuable resource?
Once the lake is contaminated, even by the smallest amount of gas or secret chemicals, it’s too late. You can’t go back. You can’t clean it up. You can’t unring the bell.
Maureen Gour

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