Audubon delegate resigns from ACRPC board

MIDDLEBURY — A member of the Otter Creek Audubon Society board has resigned as the society’s delegate to the Addison County Regional Planning Commission after casting a vote on the proposed Addison-Rutland Natural Gas pipeline that he later acknowledged was contrary to the position of his organization.
At issue is a vote that Addison County Regional Planning Commission directors took on April 9 about whether the proposed Vermont Gas “Phase II” pipeline from Middlebury to the International Paper Mill in Ticonderoga, N.Y., could pass muster with the county’s regional plan.
Commission members voted, 15-11, with several absent, that they believed the project could meet the conditions of the regional plan.
Among those voting in the affirmative was Audubon Society delegate and Weybridge resident John Meakin. He cast his vote after acknowledging the inconveniences that some residents must bear in having utility infrastructure nearby. He noted that he resides close to a utility substation.
But the Audubon board had voted, 6-0 (with four abstentions, including Meakin), on April 3 to approve a statement of opposition to “theVermont Gas Pipeline Phase II because of the environmental damage it will cause.”
Ron Payne, president of the local Audubon Society, provided an email response to an inquiry about the manner in which Meakin had voted at the regional planning commission meeting.
“Mr. Meakin’s vote at the Addison County Regional Panning Commission meeting differed from the OCAS (Audubon Society) board vote,” Payne’s statement reads. “I have accepted Mr. Meakin’s resignation as OCAS representative to the Addison County Regional Planning Commission.”
In his own emailed response to the Addison Independent, Meakin described his actions in the following manner:
“I have a poor memory and should have re-read the minutes,” he said. “There were 6 votes in favor, 0 opposed and 4 abstentions for the vote on the motion at the April 3rd meeting.”
Although he argued the motion at the ACRPC meeting was not about endorsing the project, but rather about whether the pipeline was in accord with principles of the regional plan, his email concluded, “I shall tender my resignation as delegate to the ACRPC to the Otter Creek Audubon Society.”
The Vermont Public Service Board will consider the regional planning commission’s vote as part of the evidence it will review in deciding whether Phase II gets approved to proceed.
The Phase II pipeline project has generated controversy. Cornwall and Shoreham residents passed Town Meeting Day resolutions opposing the project, which would deliver natural gas primarily to International Paper, which is now reliant on more expensive fuel oil to power its burners.
Opponents have argued the pipeline might pose safety concerns, will be carrying gas sourced through hydraulic fracturing, and would infringe on private property.
Vermont Gas has argued the project will be safe and would generate additional revenues that would allow the company to expedite service to Rutland County, which has been clamoring for natural gas.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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