Letter to the editor: Department of Public Service must do better

Last Wednesday night I made the trek to Montpelier to attend a public forum regarding the Addison County gas pipeline. I became involved last summer when I read about the threats of eminent domain on properties in Monkton and Hinesburg. This meeting was a result of a direct action “sit-in” at the Department of Public Service earlier this month. I received an email from 350.org announcing the public forum and decided to go.
Around 150 citizens from Salisbury, Lincoln, Hinesburg, Middlebury, even the Upper Valley, gathered to air their concerns. At first there was a tone of graciousness about the meeting as Commissioner of Public Service June Tierney extended hugs and introduced many on her staff.
But the tone of the meeting shifted dramatically after an hour when the question was asked, “What can we, as citizens, do to stop the completion of this pipeline?” A young lawyer from the DPS said that since the Certificate of Good was issued and the Supreme Court had ruled, there was nothing that could be done.
There was a palpable silence and murmurs of “why are we here then?” The next two hours were emotional and heated. Those gathered voiced the frustration of allowing “business as usual” at a time when bold changes are required to adapt to the rapidly changing times.
Commissioner Tierney made it clear that her job was to follow policy and to not allow her personal feelings to factor in. Though I am upset about many things regarding this issue, this idea alone is upsetting. The mission of the DPS is to “serve all citizens of Vermont through public advocacy.” (DPS website) She must be impassioned about not compromising the quality of life of Vermonters. We are not fully or even partially represented by what works on a spreadsheet, what is legal, and what is policy.
We must protect what is intangible — our quality of life. The website for DPS states: “We work to advance all Vermonters’ quality of life, economy and security through implementation of our statewide energy…goals.” I do not believe this pipeline is an enhancement to our lives, nor do I believe it will remain economically better or cleaner than a sustainable energy source, nor do I believe it is safe for the environment.
The quality of life in Vermont includes the beauty, safety and health of the environment. We live here because we take joy in seeing the deer out the window when we have our morning coffee and because we revel in seeing the moon shadows on the snow in winter. We live here because there are no billboards and we work to keep sprawl at bay.
We live here because of the boldness of spirit to go against the grain of the world around us. We live here because there’s a chance that we can keep our waters clean, our soils rich and our air pure. The spirit of Vermont is not found in policy or numbers. This quality must necessarily be represented in all our advocates in Montpelier.
We are at a time in human history that requires courage, innovation and boldness. This is something that Vermont is primed to do. Going along with policy at a time when a bolder vision is required will not cut it.
Lillian Prior Snow

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