Opinion: Some who oppose pipeline don’t feel they’re being heard

I would like to reply to the letter in the May 19 Addison Independent by Jim Ortuno, the firefighter who felt disrespected at the public hearing for the pipeline in Shoreham.
I was there at the hearing and I didn’t witness any disrespect or harsh reactions. I did hear laughter (and yes, some dismissive snorts) when one speaker touted the stellar environmental record of International Paper.
When Mr. Ortuno made the statement that he thought most people in the room would agree that the pipeline was inevitable, and then glanced back at the room full of people holding up their “stop the fracked gas pipeline” signs, there were some shouts of dissent. But it wasn’t heckling or booing.
I don’t think anyone who is fighting against this build-out of fossil fuel infrastructure is not aware or appreciative of the hard work firefighters and emergency responders do for our communities. Some of us are volunteers ourselves. Our intent is not to cause more danger … quite the opposite. We fear the consequences of a pipeline incident as much as we fear the damage the continued practice of burning fossil fuels will do to our climate.
But let’s be fair. The absence of a few fuel tanks would be replaced by the added risk of explosions that gas transmission and distribution delivers along with the gas. This pipeline would not serve everyone in Addison County so this pipeline would not take all fuel trucks off the road. This pipeline is designed to serve IP and a handful of customers in Shoreham and Cornwall. Fuel trucks would continue to supply the rest of those that would need to heat with propane or fuel oil and most residents would continue to have have fuel tanks in or near their homes. (However, if more of the population would switch to air source heat pumps, powered by solar panels, THAT would reduce the amount of fuel tanks, fuel trucks on the road and also the risk of gas explosions.)
I am glad Mr. Ortuno felt compelled to write a letter expressing his feelings.
I am very sorry he felt disrespected, but I assure him, it was not our intent. And I am sorry he felt we “droned on.” We all felt we had valid arguments to make and spoke out so others (and the PSB) could ponder them. And if, as Mr. Ortuno says, there are many people who want to see this pipeline built that stayed home because they felt they were in the minority, they have themselves to blame for that. Democracy only works if people come out and voice their opinions.
Those of us who are fighting this pipeline are organized (but not rehearsed, I confess) and the only reason we are being so insistent on making our points is because we care about climate change, all of our safety, our environment, and our children and our grandchildren’s future. Speaking in public, for me at least, is the last thing I want to do, but I do it because I feel I must.
If you remember, the majority of those that attended both public hearings on Phase 1 were also against the pipeline. Of approximately 2,000 comments the PSB received, 96 percent of them opposed the pipeline, yet the Public Service Board still granted a certificate of public good. We feel we are not being heard. When people speak out and no one appears to be listening, their voices get louder.
Jane Palmer

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