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Opinion: Phase I pipeline can’t be called a transitional project

The Vermont Supreme Court’s ruling allowing the Public Service Board to reconsider its previous decision that Phase I of the Addison County fracked gas pipeline is in the public interest is a victory for due process. But it will mean little if the focus remains on Vermont Gas’ belated admission that the construction costs had been underestimated by 40 percent. The increase isn’t enough to eliminate the main reasons the board initially supported the project: Near-term economic benefits for Addison County energy users and diversification of our energy supplies to reduce dependence on oil from unstable foreign sources.
The board should take this opportunity to finally embrace the fundamental problem with the pipeline: It commits Vermont to half a century or more of unacceptable and unnecessary environmental destruction. This is billed as a transitional step toward a greener energy future. If only it were structured to work that way, I and, I suspect, many other pipeline opponents might become reluctant supporters.
What would a truly transitional pipeline project look like? To start with, the profits would not be dedicated to Vermont Gas’ shareholders and expanding the gas infrastructure even further. The vast majority if not all profits would be specifically diverted, directly or through carbon taxes, to the true long-range public good. They would fund investments in solar energy and other renewable resources, in energy storage and distribution technology reducing our reliance on far-away energy sources, and most of all toward energy efficiency. Secondly, a truly transitional pipeline would be structured with an eye toward retiring the pipeline and restoring property rights of landowners along the way as soon as possible.
Would Vermont Gas be interested in such a project? Of course not. That’s a pretty good indicator of how high the public interest ranks in its considerations.   
(Although I am the minister at the Champlain Valley Unitarian Universalist Society, I am speaking on behalf of myself.)
Rev. Barnaby Feder
Middlebury

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