This section is updated and written by organizers from Protect Geprags Park. Please consider a donation to help this grassroots group pay legal fees associated with this volunteer work that is crucial to stopping the pipeline!
We are an all-volunteer group who came together in 2016 to oppose the construction of the Vermont Gas Systems fracked-gas pipeline through our hometown park in Hinesburg, Vermont.
As the 41-mile long pipeline pushed down the state, Vermonters came forward with stories of broken landowner agreements, of negligent environmental analysis, of lives put at risk during installation, and of safety threats buried with the pipeline.
Members of Protect Geprags Park began to study thousands of pages in the public record. These documents detail a history of problems compounded across all years of construction. We submitted two extensive compilations of concerns to the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the State of Vermont. As the voices of Vermonters rose, both federal and state investigations were opened.
Our push now is for the most independent and comprehensive safety review possible. This high-pressure pipeline runs through villages, near homes and along roads. It crosses working farmland and cuts through wetlands and dozens of streams. For miles it follows the high voltage electric corridor, which in itself is precedent-setting in Vermont and comes with complex, embedded risks.
Alleged violations include a degradation of the safety requirements specified in the VT Certificate of Public Good as well as the breaking of MINIMUM federal safety regulations across all years of construction. Among the problems: coating failures in unknown numbers along the Addison Natural Gas Pipeline (coatings are the first line of defense against corrosion); trash/metal/glass buried in the backfill; pipe buried without the specified support; repair materials which themselves were flawed; shallow depth of cover; lack of effective quality assurance protocols and worker training; and missing or flawed records of inspection that inhibit comprehensive risk analysis and long-term monitoring.
Fracked gas buildout is escalating across North America. The potency of this fuel makes it worse in the short term than even burning coal. The life systems of the Earth and a habitable climate are at stake as time runs out for change… Meanwhile the land and the lives and health of the people where the gas is fracked are being devastated. PGP is determined to confront fossil gas buildout in our own state, and thereby to stand for the protection of the climate, the Earth, and the land and people everywhere.
For over five years, Vermonters have fought a fracked gas pipeline that will threaten landowners, increase rates for customers, and release methane into the atmosphere. It will also lock Vermont into fossil fuel use for the foreseeable future–the pipeline isn’t a bridge to a liveable future; it’s a gangplank to climate catastrophe. Fracking is so destructive and morally reprehensible that it has been banned in Vermont, so how can we support bringing in fracked gas from outside Vermont?
Vermont Gas CEO, Don Rendall, recently expressed “warm wishes from Vermont Gas” in a holiday advert to residents of Addison County, referring to gas as “safe, affordable and clean”. Which it simply is not.
Citizens continue to challenge Vermont Gas ANGP pipeline project as a very real threat to public safety. It is a threat to our safety because of the climate impacts – since natural gas is methane, a more potent greenhouse gas even than carbon. But further, problems with construction practices have left Vermont with a pipeline that threatens to leak or even explode.
A current case before the Public Utility Commission (PUC), is focused on shallow depth of cover in a New Haven swamp, and failure to comply with permitting requirements for notification of blasting. VGS filed for a “nonsubtantial change” to their certificate of public good (CPG) permit, admitting they had not buried the pipe deep enough in the swamp. We argued that the New Haven swamp might not be the only place where the pipe was not buried deep enough.
Organizers also argued that the issue of pipe supports, padding and backfill (rock-free material placed under, around and over the pipeline to support and protect it) is intimately correlated with depth, since the trench must accommodate those, as well as the pipe itself. That opens the door in this case a bit further in important ways.
The long view: what we see as we look back and forward over the years of this fight: Governor Shumlin insisted on this project, perhaps even against the best interests of VGS – the project was far bigger than anything they had done before. DPS, the PUC went along and Vermont government did everything in its’ power to ensure the pipeline was constructed, even in spite of strong, persistent, powerful public opposition from the start. The fight dragged on over years, and became increasingly ugly as it became ever more blatantly obvious how misguided the project is – with cost overruns, new understanding of fracking and methane, shifting energy markets, lack of demand for gas, and growing awareness of serious problems with construction. DPS and the PUC were in too deep and did not see a way out, they were committed, they continued to support the project and disregard the public, even going so far as to attempt to bar public access to hearings.
The PUC now has a new chair, Anthony Roisman. With new faces in the agencies, a startling cumulative history of opposition, and a growing mountain of evidence of serious public safety risks resulting from VGS recklessness and failed DPS oversight, the ground has perhaps shifted a bit. We are working to submit all that we have learned to the PUC and further documenting facts by taking more, (and expensive!) depositions. Some, especially VGS and the failed DPS regulators may heartily wish to sweep this whole horrendous mess under the rug, let bygones be bygones, and keep fingers crossed that there will not be a terrible pipeline incident in Vermont. But we are not going along with that. We believe that persistence is paying off, and that the safety of our friends and neighbors and our beautiful state of Vermont is worth fighting for.
Donate here and find more information on Protect Geprags Park on their website!
You can find a map of all the pipeline projects here. We have supported and mobilized for national pipeline protests in the past and are gearing up to take action this spring against the passing of the Keystone XL pipeline.
Despite overwhelming public opposition, state authorities in Nebraska – backed by Trump and the fossil fuel industry – just gave TransCanada a permit to build the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline – but it’s not the route they wanted.
We’ve promised to protect and commit to traveling to the pipeline route to engage in peaceful, creative resistance to Keystone XL when the call is put out by frontline communities to help stop this Black Snake. You can learn more and sign up by clicking the button below!