Bristol selectboard says ‘no’ to vote on Vt. Gas in town

BRISTOL — The Bristol selectboard on April 2 rejected a petition containing more than 200 signatures that requested a special referendum on the town’s pending license agreement with Vermont Gas.
Selectboard members said they believed the decision on the license belonged with the board.
“I commend everybody for being passionate about this and doing the footwork, but I feel like people have voted us in to make these tough decisions,” said board member Michelle Perlee.
Newly elected selectboard chair Peter Coffey pointed out that the board has “the statutory authority to make decisions about utilities.”
Selectman Joel Bouvier made it clear Monday night that despite ongoing opposition the agreement was, and always had been, a done deal.
“This decision was really made in 2012 for this board,” he said. “It was that December meeting in 2012, when our representative for the (Addison County Regional Planning Commission) came to the board and said, ‘We need a letter from you that says you support Vermont Gas coming to Addison County — that you won’t fight it.’”
Two current selectboard members — Bouvier and John “Peeker” Heffernan — were part of the 2012 board that signed the requested letter.
Bouvier compared the license agreement, which would green-light the infrastructure required for natural gas service in Bristol, to a pregnancy.
“To me it’s kind of like we’re deciding how to have our baby now, whether we’re going to have it by home birth or in the hospital. That’s what this thing is. We know we’re going to have this. Now we’ve just got to decide how we’re going to have it,” he said.
Such petitions for a referendum are not unheard of. Last year New Haven residents sought a town vote on a proposed high-capacity power line. The selectboard, though empowered by law to make utility decisions independent of voter opinions, authorized a nonbinding survey. “We would like to know the sentiment of the town,” then selectboard chair Kathy Barrett said.
In an April 3 social media post titled “How Will Bristol Residents Get to Vote on the Gas Pipeline?” Sally Burrell, who had submitted the petition, said she believed there were still unanswered questions regarding the proposed natural gas pipeline.
“Bristol draws people and business for its close-knit community feel and natural beauty,” she said. “Companies that embrace a triple bottom line (people, profit, planet) use social responsibility, economic value and environmental impact to guide policy decisions. Those businesses make good neighbors.”
Reach Christopher Ross at [email protected].

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