Legislative Review: Baser supports pipeline plan

Next week the Public Service Board will hear testimony on the natural gas pipeline traveling through Addison County. Approved some time ago, the application has been reopened due to revised cost estimates. I have been approached by interested parties on both sides of the pipeline approval question to support their stance. As the pipeline is traveling through, and will be utilized in a portion of my district, Addison-4, I felt it would be right to let people know how I felt about the issue.
Natural gas, which as I understand it, will be available to many households and employers, is the cleanest energy producing fossil fuel. Its primary use in our area will be in heating. Natural gas use will reduce greenhouse gas and other undesirable elements emissions by a considerable factor. Even with the costs of converting to its use, natural gas will also save consumers money. How much will depend upon each circumstance.
The availability of this new energy source in Addison County and eventually Rutland County also provides a far lower cost fuel that may assist in economic development efforts outside of Chittenden County where most of our growth has occurred in recent years. I believe in continuing our transition to renewable fuel sources. This effort will take many years, especially in the home heating arena, as the technology and costs for renewables improves. In the meantime natural gas will improve our environmental situation and flexibility.
There are negatives to the natural gas story. Most surround the method of extracting natural gas, fracking. Aside from the occasional minor earth tremor reported in fracking regions, the two major environmental concerns surrounding fracking are the amounts of water needed to extract natural gas and the possible contamination of ground water from the process.
It is my understanding that when fracking is done correctly, there is little risk of ground water contamination. When problems have occurred the major culprit has been cracked and faulty well casings. According to a Stamford University-led study on the subject of fracking, ground water issues have happened in a very small number of well sites.
Water consumption is not an issue in the East but out West it is a problem. The industry counters with statistics showing use of natural gas in electric power plants reduces the use of water at those sites when compared to the energy sources they replace, and as a result, negates the amount of water usage at the well heads. It should be noted that many states that permit fracking have strict rules that regulate the process, and technological improvements in the industry are reducing the risks.
I desire a clean earth, and want human’s contribution to climate change to be reduced. My feeling is utilizing natural gas in Vermont, at least for the near term, will reduce environment costs, while making the most of the environmental and economic benefits.
Rep. Fred Baser, R-Bristol

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