Letter to the editor: Public ‘Service’ or Public ‘Utility’ Department?

I am writing as a member of “Just Power.” Just power does not mean just as in simply power. It stands for just as in justice — to be treated fairly and equally with a meaningful involvement. Almost four years ago, I believed in justice. I was told the Public Service Board (PSB) would hear us and then decide if they should grant a Certificate of Public Good (CPG) for Vermont Gas based on existing criteria…such as need, reliability and economic benefit.
I naively believed what I was told. Gov. Shumlin told me he had no influence over the outcome. It would be determined by a quasi-judicial board. The hearings would be fair. He must have been kidding. I was thrilled because I knew the true “need” did not exist. We were transitioning away from fossil fuels. Our state was headed toward a green, renewable future. This project would be inconsistent with our goals.
Nobody would support a pipeline of fracked gas in this day and age. Need, check, got that one covered. One down and two to go. Reliability is only as good as the provider of this nasty gas. We have seen time and time again how Vermont Gas has botched the project, permits, land acquisitions and budgeting. This is not a reliable or even monetarily viable business. Two down and one to go. 
Economic benefit and this is the real motivator. No benefit exists for the 50,000 customers in Franklin and Chittenden Counties or the 2,000 small customers in Addison County. I used the calculator on the Vermont Gas website and according to their own website my savings would be $0. Yep, $0. According to the Vermont Gas calculator, I would end up spending $150 more for the heating season. The cost to suck on this pipe is $55,000 for each new customer.
Thank you to Vermont Gas current customers in Franklin and Chittenden counties for paying this for us. New customers will pay the costs of hookup and conversion to your existing furnace (if it can be converted) and disposing of your fuel tank (mandatory).
So if by economic benefit, you are referring to Vermont Gas and not the public, it makes sense. No, the PSB is charged with meeting the economic benefit for the public not a privately held company.  Three strikes and it’s out! The only thing we needed was to have the PSB listen to the facts.
Enter the Public Service Department (PSD). PSD’s mission, as stated on their website, is to serve all citizens of Vermont through public advocacy, programs and other actions that meet the public’s need for the least cost, environmentally sound, efficient, reliable, secure, sustainable and safe energy systems for the long and short term.
The PSD should be renamed the Utility Service Department. The department has not once looked out for the public they are supposed to represent. They have sat like bobble-head dolls, agreeing with everything Vermont Gas has said. Never once did they listen to the public. We are asking for environmental justice now. Please consider how the financial and physical risks are distributed.
Ratepayers are footing the bill and Vermont Gas is raking in the money. Think about who benefits versus who pays. How evenly are the benefits distributed and how evenly is the risk distributed? People are tired of trying to do things the right way. I am tired of fighting in a rigged system. We need justice now!
Come join us and stand against this pipeline on Oct. 20. We will meet at Geprag’s Community Park, Hinesburg at 8:30 a.m. More details and signup at http://tiny.cc/Oct20Vermont.
Mary Martin

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