Opinion: Pipeline opponents were disrespectful at hearing

After attending the Public Service Board hearing in Shoreham (on Phase II of the proposed Vermont Gas pipeline), I came away with a different perspective than I went in with.
I wanted to speak on behalf of the Shoreham Fire Department and how we feel dealing with natural gas in a house fire is much safer than having a home on fire with large fuel tanks in the basement or outside the house. We are right in the middle of the 22A corridor where all sorts of trucks carrying fuel, chemicals and hazardous materials go through our town. Our firefighters have to train endless hours to be ready for an accident or chemical spill. We feel that having a gas line come through our town is safer than what we have driving down 22A every day. The safety of firefighters is my priority.
As I entered the room to speak and looked around I saw a sea of faces that I did not know and were not from my town. As these very passionate people against the pipeline began to speak I realized that the majority of them have been showing up and speaking at every meeting.
I have to say they are a very well organized group. They were well rehearsed. I guess I thought that this meeting was basically for Shoreham and Ticonderoga residents to have their chance to speak on Phase 2. Boy was I wrong. The majority of the people were from everywhere else: Middlebury, Monkton, Bristol, Burlington, etc.
And, as I said, most of them have spoken several times. I guess they must love to hear themselves talk. I felt so sorry for the PSB to have to listen to them drone on once again. If your words are spoken clearly and correctly the first time, they shouldn’t have to be repeated.
The next day I asked some of my neighbors and friends why they didn’t attend. The overwhelming response was that they felt it was going to be a three-ring circus and between all the media and outsiders who hijacked the meeting, they didn’t want to deal with it.
On a personal note, being booed by this group of people in my own town and gym I found to be rude and a complete lack of manners. Firefighters and EMS spend hundreds of hours a year protecting our communities. I hope when these people went home to their own communities they show more respect for their fire and EMS personnel than they did to me.
Shoreham is a great community. We care a great deal about our town and what happens. I have been to 18 years of meetings in this town where friends and neighbors agree to disagree, but the next day we will help each other when needed without question. I don’t base my decisions on what outsiders have to say. I depend on our elected officials in the community to sort things out and make the best decision for Shoreham residents.
Jim Ortuno
Assistant Chief
Shoreham Fire Department

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