Spotted on Route 74: Landowners Protesting the Pipeline
As the lone member of Seven Days' Addison County bureau (I live in Shoreham), I spend a fair amount of time schlepping back and forth along Route 74, the two-lane highway that runs from Cornwall through Shoreham to Lake Champlain. In recent days and weeks, it's been impossible to ignore the growing number of homemade signs sprouting along the roadside.
The sentiment is clear: Neighbors here are not pleased about the possibility of a natural gas pipeline cutting through this neck of the woods.
The proposed pipeline would carry natural gas — some of which is derived from the controversial drilling technique known as "fracking" — from Middlebury to the International Paper plant in Ticonderoga. Vermont Gas is pushing the pipeline as part of its effort to expand its natural gas network. The company currently serves customers in Franklin and Chittenden counties, and plans to expand south to Middlebury and across the lake.
The pipeline proposal has incited protests from neighbors and environmentalists alike; neighbors are raising concerns about health, safety and environmental impacts, while environmentalists are pointing out the hypocrisy of Vermont's willingness to expand natural gas access after becoming the first state in the nation to ban fracking.
The so-called "Phase II" project (the section of the pipeline that would run to Ticonderoga, which would be funded by International Paper) is still in the early stages of planning. Vermont Gas identified five possible routes for the pipeline, which they narrowed down to two "feasible" options; both would run through Cornwall and Shoreham before cutting under Lake Champlain. The company's timeline calls for selecting a route this spring, securing the necessary permits next year, and constructing the pipeline in 2015. The planning group that is hashing out the Phase II leg will meet next on Thursday, April 25, at 7:30 a.m. at the Addison County Regional Planning Commission.
What do Vermont landowners have to say so far about all of this? The signs speak for themselves. Here's a recent sampling: