Opinion: PSB should reexamine Phase I pipeline project

I call on the Public Service Board to re-open discussion of the permit for Phase I of the fracked gas pipeline. Here are some of the reasons.
1)      The outrageous cost overrun of 40 percent, which equals millions of dollars — and guess what? — it will be foisted off on the unknowing ratepayers of Chittenden and Franklin counties. How did this international company, Gaz Métro/Vermont Gas make such a huge miscalculation? And WHY did they delay making the error public for at least four months? What happens in two months, or six, or a year, when they’ve found that, “oh, whoops, we made another mistake — it’s going to cost another 40%, or 60%, or another $100 million,” paid by — you guessed it: the poor, beleaguered ratepayers?
2)      There is new technology available now that was not a year ago. Cold climate heat pumps are far more efficient, working as a combination heater and air conditioner; they do not involve fossil fuels, and are run by electricity. If you have solar panels, and a heat pump, you can be net zero, which gets Vermont faster to our goal of 90 percent renewables by 2050. Heat pumps are far more cost-effective than building an already obsolete fossil fuel infrastructure for fracked gas from Canada. Similar to the light bulb program through Efficiency Vermont, heat pumps receive a financial incentive from the state.
3)      In their haste to force this project upon Vermonters, willing or not (and the overwhelming majority is not), Gaz Métro/ Vermont Gas has been bullying and arrogant. They’ve refused to meet with landowners and town selectboards; their agents have illegally trespassed upon landowners’ property and refused to give information about their plans. They casually and deliberately changed the name of the project in mid-stream to Addison-Rutland NG Project, with full knowledge that each phase is separate, and needs its own permit, for subliminal emphasis on “getting gas to Rutland sooner.”
Their ultimate goal is to connect south with the national grid, since Vermont does not have the population density needed for true profit from gas distribution.
4)      A state program of weatherization would bring far more ongoing sustainable jobs to our state, similar to the WPA state and government jobs program after the Depression, to put people to work, conserve energy and help our state reach our goal of getting off fossil fuels and reducing emissions.
We want more answers and transparency on this project, which was presented to the state and its people by Gaz Métro/Vermont Gas carelessly and with a presumption of unassailable good. We ask that the PSB do their required due diligence and fulfill their commitment to serving Vermonters by examining carefully and impartially the project’s true and ballooning costs.
Bethany Barry Menkart

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