Letter to the editor: Bristol shouldn’t open its doors to natural gas

Vermont Gas Systems is not yet serving our community of Bristol with “natural” gas.
I understand that my selectboard has agreed to work with Vermont Gas Systems. Selectboard member, Michelle Perlee and town administrator Valerie Capels have the job of editing a licensing agreement with Vermont Gas Systems.
Let me reflect. What shall the next 20 years bring? Perhaps my genes will not predict my death within that time frame. Perhaps they will. After I die, those pipelines will still be in the ground. Who knows whether “natural” gas will continue to be used? I sure hope clean water will still be flowing in the water pipes. I sure hope that most of the energy the Bristol community uses will come from renewable resources.
But for now, I have no power over the choice my selectboard made five years ago. Who knows what will drive their decisions. Money? Choice? Trust?
Money? I will not be giving money to Vermont Gas Systems for a commodity that hails from Alberta, Canada.
Choice? I choose to conserve and keep my thermostat low and wear layers. (I know I am still part of the problem of emitting greenhouse gases. How do we heat our house? We use oil to run our furnace. We burn wood in our wood stove. We cook with propane. We have a heat pump for the room above the garage.)
Trust? Vermont Gas Systems is not worthy of my trust. Here is my defense.
(Much of what you are about to read was presented at the Bristol selectboard meeting on December 4, 2017.)
The phase 1 natural gas pipeline project through Addison County to Middlebury original cost prediction was about 86 million dollars. The final cost was about 165 million dollars. The Public Service Board has forced Vermont Gas Systems to put a cap of 134 million dollars on the project.
Vermont Gas Systems advertises “natural” gas as clean and affordable. According to a VTDigger article, dated 4/12/17, entitled, “New pipeline now in use, says Vermont Gas”, Mike Polhamus, stated “Vermont Gas customers will pay about 135 million dollars of that over time through their rates.” Is that a way for a consumer to save money?
Methane is not clean. It is a more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Read the “Scientific American” article, written in 2015, “How bad of a greenhouse gas is methane?” Read the “Science News” article, “EPA underestimates methane emissions” dated April 14, 2016.
Isn’t false advertising against the law?
“Natural” gas pipelines can leak. The last one that I found on-line, here in Vermont, was April 2, 2016. It happened in Milton. Evacuations happened. There was no explosion. As any fireman knows, the potential problems from a gas leak are very dangerous. Sometimes, in life, it is what we do not see, that can hurt us.
On December 11, 2017 a Williston business and a 12-unit apartment complex was evacuated because of high carbon monoxide levels. And you might ask what does this have to do with “natural” gas? Carbon monoxide is caused by fuels not burning completely. In this case, the furnaces were using “natural” gas as their fuel of choice. Vermont Gas Systems turned off the furnaces. The Williston Fire Department and Vermont Gas Systems are investigating the source of the problem.
The construction team hired by Vermont Gas Systems used to have signs below the transmission corridor. Those signs said, “Beware Induced Voltage.” I had to do a little research on that.
“A pipeline which shares a common corridor with AC transmission lines becomes energized by the magnetic and electric fields surrounding the power system in the air and soil. This AC interference can result in an electrical shock hazard for people touching the pipeline or metallic structures connected to the pipeline or simply standing nearby. Furthermore, damage to the pipeline coating, insulating flanges, rectifiers or even direct damage to the pipeline’s wall itself can occur.”
I understand that the integrity of the pipeline can be affected by this induced voltage.
Since Vermont Gas kept reporting that it was behind schedule, I wonder what conditions were placed upon their workers in the field. I read that workers were being forced to work 12-hour days, 6 days a week. I wonder if that is true. If so, I wonder about the quality of work being done by these workers.
In January 2014, police discovered a meth lab in the basement of two of the welders working on the V.G.S. new natural gas pipeline in Franklin County.
 Read the Vermont Gas Google Reviews. They are averaging 2.2 out of 5 stars.
As stated in the April 12 VTDigger article, the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is investigating “concerns regarding the safety and integrity of the Vermont Gas System Addison Natural Gas Project”. I do not know the results of this investigation.
Our wetlands have been negatively impacted by this pipeline.
On Nov. 21, this year, I attended a hearing at Mount Abraham High School. The hearing had to do with Vermont Gas Systems and whether they had violated rules regarding blasting and the depth of the pipeline.
I listened to citizens voice their concerns. Mr. Michael Hurlburt, of Monkton, explained how Vermont Gas Systems did not follow his request of burying the pipe at a certain depth, since it was his land they were passing through. He went out, with his brother, to measure. It was incorrect. Vermont Gas then complied with his request. Mr. Hurlburt also mentioned that water has now seeped into part of his former fields, since the pipe was laid in a very wet area. He can no longer use that part of his field. It is too wet for farming machinery. Vermont Gas Systems have not yet returned Mr. Hurlburt’s fields to their original state.
Read the article, “Pond Lane building owner names Vt. Gas, contractor in lawsuit”, written by John Flowers, on page 2A of the Addison Independent, dated Dec. 12, 2017. How is it that Vermont Gas Systems has not acted in a responsible fashion yet and reimbursed the insurance company that paid to have the 38 Pond Lane building cleaned up after flooding caused by Northeast Underground? The flooding occurred on Dec.22 2014. Northeast Underground was contracted out by Vermont Gas Systems.
The way I see it, Vermont Gas Systems has misled the public with faulty cost predictions, has falsely advertised, could potentially endanger my community with gas leaks, has at times hired workers who are not meeting a standard, has at times not served its customers in a responsible manner, has negatively effected our wetlands, has not worked in a forthright manner with some landowners, is being investigated for violations of rules regarding blasting and the pipeline depth, and has not paid some of its bills in a timely manner.
The Bristol selectboard has taken on a huge responsibility entrusting our community to work with Vermont Gas Systems.
Stay posted, Bristol citizens. Mark your calendars. Feb. 12, 2018 is the date. The time has not yet been announced. The selectboard will be holding “a public forum to gather citizen input on bringing natural gas to Bristol.” My understanding is that the selectboard wants feedback concerning what needs to be spelled out in the licensing agreement.
And you are probably wondering if this “Grinch” has anything positive to say during this season of open heartedness and good will. I am extremely grateful to live in the town of Bristol. My community is very precious.
I also have reflected upon Jesus whose birth many celebrate on Dec. 25. And some of you might believe that Jesus became the man who “went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers.” (Matthew 21:12)
Patricia Heather-Lea

Share this story:

More News
News Uncategorized

Fresh Air Fund youths returning to county

The Fresh Air Fund, initiated in 1877 to give kids from New York City the opportunity to e … (read more)

Obituaries Uncategorized

Mark A. Nelson of Bristol

BRISTOL — A memorial service for Mark A. Nelson of Bristol will be held 1 p.m. on Saturday … (read more)

Sports Uncategorized

High school athletes ready for fall playoffs this week

See when your favorite high school team is competing in the fall sports playoffs.

Share this story: