Opinion: Save the fish, instead truck natural gas to IP mill

I have made the point over the past 18 months to a lot of newspapers that there are negative effects from the use of natural gas and pipelines. Several weeks ago I was quoted in one article which talked about whether or not a hydraulic directional drill and the resulting pipeline would be a risk to Lake Champlain as it crossed under it to the International Paper plant. While I seemed to be able to make my point that no research had been done by any state agency or watchdog group on how dangerous this might be, my second contention, that methane is harmful to fish, was literally “lost in the weeds.”
An environmental consulting firm’s spokesman, hired by Vermont Gas, stated that if methane were to escape from the pipe under the Lake that it would “bubble up to the surface and dissipate” and that it “wouldn’t have any effect on the fish or the lake.” I could not disagree with these statements more. I had previously researched claims such as these and found articles by two different marine ecologists that suggest that fish have two or three seconds to escape from released natural gas; and, if they are unsuccessful in their escape, methane is ingested through their gills and then into their blood streams, causing disorientation and eventually death. At the very least, this confirms my first point that more study needs to be done.
The PSB has recently delayed technical hearings on Phase II until January, so this seems to leave us time to do this right.
During the time I contemplated writing this reply other things have surfaced in regard to Vermont Gas’ bid to bring a pipeline from the Burlington area to Middlebury. They announced a partnership with NG Advantage, a supplier of compressed natural gas (CNG) to build what is termed a “gas island” in Middlebury. This is new technology and is exploding (no pun intended) on the national and international scenes. It is how natural gas-needy industries receive gas when not near pipelines or where pipeline construction is problematic. It is being done across the country with single users as large as International Paper on a cost-effective basis.
The question might be asked: Does the International Paper plant need a pipe?
I’m not asking if IP needs gas, which might be cleaner, cheaper, etc., but whether or not it needs a pipe, which would be destructive to the environment, risky to the lake, devaluing to homeowners’ properties and an introduction of an ever-increasing costly infrastructure with a life span of 75 years.
Trucking CNG leaves room for the innovation needed to meet 21st-century energy challenges. It will supply more good-paying jobs than any person-less automated pipeline. And, as even Vermont Gas is admitting as they plan Middlebury’s island, CNG is incredibly safe. It ignites at two times the temperature of gasoline, and to do so it needs an extremely small window of a gas to air mixture. It is lighter than air and escapes relatively harmlessly. It will not pool, meaning it will not contaminate soil or groundwater. Its transportation is both fully licensed and regulated within the states of Vermont and New York. The gas island concept could be applied to Vergennes, to Middlebury and even to Rutland.
As we are repeatedly mired in time-consuming delays and unsightly and possibly unconstitutional eminent domain proceedings, the way to a speedy, profitable future lies in this alternative. Pipelines are outdated disfiguring scars on our landscapes.
A “bridge” fuel should be trucked, not piped.
Norton Latourelle

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