Opinion: Money is overriding motivation of pipeline proponents

Every day the writing on the wall becomes clearer. Through the actions — and inactions — of county and state officials, the proposed Phase II gas pipeline from Middlebury to International Paper in Ticonderoga, N.Y., seems less like a proposal than a fait accompli. Despite the enormous opposition to affected communities, the land, the lake and the people of Vermont seem likely to be sacrificed to a gas pipe — not for any so-called “public good” but to enrich two corporations: Vermont Gas and International Paper.
“There’s a lot of money at stake.” This refrain occurs often in Addison Independent  quotations of officials about the gas pipeline proposal. It’s not that Vermont Gas is pining to serve Rutland. If so, the company would forge straight to Rutland as it had originally planned before the awful idea of drilling under Lake Champlain put dollar signs in their corporate eyes. There’s a lot of money at stake. For whom? Well might landowners in Cornwall and Shoreham ask. Well might the fish in Lake Champlain ask. But who cares for the public good of fishes? A lot of money is at stake.
A recent vote taken on the Phase II question by the Addison County Regional Planning Commission is especially frustrating and almost shameful. The commission passed a motion in favor of the pipeline, 15-11. According to this newspaper only days before the vote, just the reverse had been expected, and by a fairly comfortable margin. Now only four votes have changed everything providing the Public Service Board with an approval which is purported to represent county people as a whole. Hardly a landslide vote.
Legitimate questions about the vote arise. Why did several members of the ACRPC commission fail to show up for such an important vote? Why did Executive Director Adam Lougee seemingly pressure other members prior to the vote by announcing his personal opinion in favor of the pipeline? Why did the Audubon Society’s delegate to the ACRPC betray the explicit will of his own organization by voting in favor of the pipeline? The refrain recurs: There’s a lot of money at stake.
And no, that money is not about serving Addison County people with cheap energy. County folk will hardly get a whiff of that gas, at least until it leaks from under ground or lake. That money is not about restitution to landowners or taxes paid to help communities. Vermont Gas proposes to pay annually decreasing taxes. Soon it would pay no taxes — forever.
And no, that money is not about keeping International Paper in business so that John Doe can have his job, or at least not to have to compete with a bunch of jobless Yorker Does. Scare tactics are a gross form of public pressure. But, for the corporation, there’s a lot of profit at stake.
Every Vermonter and every New Yorker should rise up in protest at this threat to alter the bed of Lake Champlain. This is not only a local concern, but also a state and a national concern of the Environmental Protection Agency in terms of our natural resources and how to protect them. I wonder if anyone has even inquired of the Public Service Board: How would you like a giant machine to drill a livid gas pipe under your beds? Of course, you would have to believe in the life present in nature in order to sympathize with this question. Nevertheless we should not abjectly relinquish the lake to the corporations which have only one thought in their corporate heads.
Observing the dwindling numbers of passenger pigeons in New England, Henry David Thoreau made an analogy to the dwindling of serious thought in humans: “So, it would seem, few and fewer thoughts visit each growing man from year to year, for the grove in our minds is laid waste — sold to feed unnecessary fires of ambition, or sent to mill — and there is scarcely a twig left for them to perch on.”
Will the Public Service Board dwindle down to only one thought — there’s a lot of money at stake — when it rules on the “public good” of the Phase II proposal? Does the PSB read letters to the editor?
Janice Potter

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