Community forum: Civil protest vs. pipeline needed
This week’s writer is Jason Kaye of Middlebury.
This is the full text of the statement that I read to the Middlebury selectboard during their June 14 meeting, regarding my decision to participate in nonviolent civil disobedience to stop the Vermont Gas pipeline expansion project.
My name is Jason Kaye and I live on Washington Street Extension. I am currently the chairperson of the Town Energy Committee.
For the last three and a half years, I have been deeply engaged in efforts to stop the Vermont Gas pipeline expansion project. Over this time, I have articulated my perspective to numerous iterations of the Middlebury selectboard. Spurred by the urgency of the climate crisis and the steadfast call of “no new fossil fuel infrastructure,” my opposition to this project is, perhaps surprisingly, rooted in a place of optimism.
Rooted in the notion that all people — those here in Middlebury, and those at the other end of the pipe far away from here — can abide in a safe, healthy and affirming environment. Rooted in a better democracy, where communities themselves can deliberate and decide their approach to the projects and policies that impact them. Rooted in a healthy economy, where stability and dignity are our highest values.
For these three and a half years, I have participated in countless meetings and conference calls and strategy sessions and rallies and potlucks with friends and strangers. With younger people expanding the boundaries of our understanding of justice; with older people — some in their final days — trying to bestow to the rest of us a safe world; with landowners desperately trying to be responsible stewards of their sliver of the Earth; with moms and dads anxious over what their kids’ future might look like; with clergy holding strong their faith. I have heard these people articulate truth after truth of what they are fighting for, even as they — we — fight against this pipeline.
I have taken every opportunity afforded to me to stop this project in the regulatory processes of the state of Vermont. I have spent many nights sifting through Vermont Gas’ filings; scrutinizing their financial analyses; crafting and implementing legal strategies with others. I have attended regulatory hearings; I have submitted public comments; I have entered into the record sworn affidavits. I have helped to organize many others to do the same.
Two years ago, I was part of a small group that was invited to have a private meeting with Governor Shumlin, his chief of staff, and the then-Deputy Secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources. During that meeting, the Governor interrupted me as I was explaining what I was fighting for, and he made it clear that there was no way he was going to change his mind about this pipeline.
Even still, my fundamental belief in the rightness of the rule of law has kept me committed to Vermont’s regulatory process. Even as Vermont Gas constructed initial segments of their pipeline, there was still an open legal avenue to stop this project, so I conceded those first few miles.
Even as the families — that took a stand on their land because of their commitment to protect something far greater — had finally succumbed to the pressure of Vermont Gas and state agencies, I was still holding onto hope that things wouldn’t come to this.
There are no more legal avenues available that have a reasonable expectation of halting this project. Therefore, I am compelled by my conscience to participate in nonviolent civil disobedience as a means to sway Vermont Gas to abandon their project.
My conscience compels me, as well, to be fully accountable for my actions. One part of that accountability is due to my fellow members of the Energy Committee, with whom I shared this during our meeting last week. And another part of that accountability is due to the selectboard, which has appointed me to serve on the Energy Committee each of the last four years. I understand that my participation in nonviolent civil disobedience may render members of the Energy Committee, or members of this selectboard, or residents of Middlebury no longer supportive of my continued involvement with a Town committee.
I come before you tonight to explain the reasoning behind my actions, to be direct and honest about my intentions, and to be explicitly clear that I will embrace my responsibility and its consequences.
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