By: Julie Macuga for VTDigger (Commentary), Sep. 19, 2018

Last week we heard of “armageddon” in Massachusetts — plumes of smoke blotting out the sky after a series of Colombia Gas’ natural gas lines exploded, causing 70 fires, the evacuation of thousands, injury of dozens, and death of an 18-year-old. Vermont Gas was very quick to dismiss the concerns of the public, which filled their call center after this tragedy and others plagued our region. A smart business move — I can grant them that; with a blanket statement of “newer is safer” and that they have no ties to Colombia Gas — both statements which are false — and VGS scurries back to their MO of secrecy and haphazard construction. Of course they offer condolences to those who were injured or killed last week, but they attempt to mislead the public, and fail to mention that they, like Colombia Gas, are under investigation.

Let’s start with “newer is safer.” An explosion on Sept. 10 in western Pennsylvania occurred on a gas line that was roughly a week into service. The Pipeline Safety Trust’s data shows us that pipelines built after 2010 are failing more than pipelines built at any time in the last century — the newer the pipe the more likely it is to leak or explode.

Vermont Gas conveniently failed to mention that its pipeline, gassed up just last year, is under investigation for eight categories of alleged safety and construction violations. The allegations, which come largely from VGS’ own documentation (or lack thereof), range from the depth of the pipe itself, to improper construction technique, to essential components that are undocumented or missing entirely.