Pipeline opponents rally at capitol

 MONTPELIER — State Sen. Peter Galbraith, D-Windham, last Wednesday joined a rally opposing the natural gas pipeline proposed for Addison County.
He and other Vermonters gathered on the Statehouse lawn in Montpelier to speak out against the proposed Vermont Gas Systems (VGS) pipeline and celebrate the maple sugaring season.
Galbraith offered a cheer of encouragement:
“I’m with you all,” he shouted. “I sponsored the bill to ban fracking in Vermont.”
Those gathered ate pancakes and syrup from Mike Hurlburt’s farm in Monkton, which is host to one mile of Vermont Gas Addison-Rutland Natural Gas Project, against his family’s wishes. Activists hoisted a banner into Statehouse maple trees reading “Climate Change Destroys Vermont’s Forests, Stop Fracking, Keep Tapping!” The action drew attention to the environmental, cultural and economic threats of gas that is harvested using the controversial technique called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
Attendees called on Gov. Shumlin to stand with them in opposing the Vermont Gas pipeline. Vermont banned fracking within its border in 2012. Shumlin continues to support the project that would extend VGS’ pipeline system, which transports fracked gas from Canada through Franklin and Chittenden counties. And organizers of the rally said despite recent studies showing that natural gas is a major contributor to climate change, the governor supports it as a clean-burning “bridge” fuel.
“We are serving maple syrup from Mike Hurlburt’s sugar bush in Monkton,” said Sara Mehalick, an organizer with Rising Tide Vermont and resident of Plainfield. “He fought to reroute the pipeline out of his sugar bush and into a utility corridor on his property, and now VGS is trying to move it back into his agricultural land.”
Rising Tide has worked with landowners and concerned residents throughout the state to stop the pipeline, which Mehalick described as, “a total false solution to climate change. It threatens communities in Alberta, Canada, where the gas is fracked, and communities in Vermont, where increased climate change — caused by burning fossil fuels — threatens rural livelihoods, farms and forests.”
Rising Tide said the construction of the pipeline is opposed by thousands of Vermonters due to its impacts on climate, water, habitat and farmland, in Vermont and beyond.
Wednesday’s action, which took place the same day as the regional planning commission considered Phase II of the pipeline, aimed to debunk the notion that natural gas is a clean bridge fuel and educated the public on its actual effects on the planet’s climate. Signs, banners, music and pancakes with fresh maple syrup filled the Statehouse lawn as activist groups, families and children drew attention to the climate-related threats facing the sugar maples and the production of maple syrup in Vermont. Signs read: “Sap-lines Not Pipelines”; “Tap it, Don’t Frack it”; and “Pancakes against the Pipeline.”
Pika Morgan, a local opponent of the pipeline shared her reasons for being there: “I call it ‘pancakes against the pipeline.’ It’s our way of celebrating Vermont’s local economy and sugar tradition while putting pressure on Gov. Shumlin to quit ‘waffling’ on climate change and stand strong against the proposed Vermont fracked gas pipeline.”
Much of the attention focused on Mike Hurlburt’s woes dealing with Vermont Gas, which he described as “a buncha liars.” Referring to Vermont Gas’ non-compliance with a reroute on Hurlburt’s property (approved by the Public Service Board in their Dec. 23, 2013, Certificate of Public Good) Hurlburt said, “They say one thing and do the other.”
Although Hurlburt was able to save his sugar bush, much of which would have been destroyed by Vermont Gas’ original route proposal, he has had to submit another request to the Public Service Board to protect his land. Vermont Gas is attempting to change the route on his property a third time, but the PSB has not responded to either of his requests to enforce the Certificate of Public Good.
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