The powerful climate-warming methane leaks. The grave danger to water supplies. The abundant, clean energy options we right here in Vermont.

There are plenty of reasons to oppose Vermont Gas’ plan to lock Vermonters in to a fracked gas pipeline.

Here, in their own voices, we’ll present Vermonters sharing their opposition to the fracked gas pipeline.

Conservation Law Foundation Brief to the Public Service Board

Excerpt from Conservation Law Foundation’s brief to the Public Service Board calling out the greenhouse gas impacts of the Fracked Gas Pipeline:

“As proposed, the Addison Natural Gas Project will increase greenhouse gas emissions over the life of the project. Based on the capacity of the facility and the reasonably expected leak rates, the project will result in increased emissions equivalent to 1.4 to 4.3 million short tons of CO2.”

Comment and Debate: Searching for true cost of natural gas

Burlington Free Press • August 12 2013

Jane Palmer lives in Monkton.

Cost is a subjective subject. Recently, Vermont Gas released a study they claim shows the “life cycle” analysis of “natural” gas really is a cleaner alternative than coal and oil, so we should build the Addison Natural Gas Pipeline and start saving greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions along with a bunch of money from having a cheaper fuel source. They hired a consultant company to do their study and they produced an inch-thick volume of tables and graphs supporting their claims.

Gas companies claim that “natural” gas burns cleaner than oil or coal so it’s better for the environment and the opponents say that if you figure in all the “fugitive” methane that is produced during the extraction, refinement and distribution (life cycle) of “natural” gas, the end result is worse than the other two fuels. There are lots of other factors to plug into these spreadsheets and cost analyses, but GHG emissions is the “evil du jour” right now.

(Next up might be the earthquakes caused by deep well injection practices, tainted aquifers or radon in “natural” gas… all of these factors should figure into the “life cycle” cost of “natural” gas, but I digress.)

This entire GHG controversy would not be a difficult one to settle if we could only see the gas that is escaping from gas wells, gas pipelines, compression stations and refineries.

If methane were purple or some other color that was visible to the naked eye, not only would we be able to put blame where it was due, we would also be able to get a grip on how much of the stuff is puffing up out of manmade gas infrastructure and either plug the holes and build better equipment, and/or stop sucking it up to the surface of our fair planet and leave it down in the bowels where it belongs.

But methane is invisible. Leaks go undetected until someone puts a special gas sniffer nearby and the wind isn’t blowing too hard that day. (There were two gas well blow-outs in the Gulf recently. Is anyone measuring the methane released there?) So we are back to our predictions and estimates and educated guesses.

Here are some “costs” that have not been brought up in VGS’ latest analysis:
Loss of property value. Along the 40-plus miles of Phase 1 of this pipeline there will be 261 acres of land that will be unusable for anything other than growing lawn (no trees, buildings etc.). If you figure in a safety setback (another disputed issue) the acreage increases exponentially.

The cost of the gazillions of gallons of water that they use to frack the wells. Potable water has a value and that should be figured into the cost of the production of each BTU that will be gained from this pipeline.

Loss of communities. What price should be put on the destruction of friendships and strain to relationships this industry is causing?

And if the process of systematically fracturing all of the shale layers that are miles below the entire surface of the earth will eventually have a detrimental and perhaps catastrophic impact on those that live above it, what will the cost of that be?

It all boils down to what I said in the beginning. Cost is subjective and what seems too high a price to some of us seems like a bargain to others. And since methane is invisible and the source can’t be visually detected — unless they are accompanied by the characteristic sound of the said gas escaping, we are unable pin the blame on anyone definitively.

Crea Lintilhac: Natural gas pipeline takes Vermont in the wrong direction

Crea Lintilhac, director of the Lintilhac Foundation in Shelburne, serves on the boards of the Conservation Law Foundation, the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, the Conservation and Research Foundation and numerous other science advisory boards.

No one can fault Don Gilbert, president of Vermont Gas Systems, from promoting his favorite fossil fuel, but his assumptions on the emissions and cost savings of a proposed gas pipeline are based on outdated information and not aligned with more recent science.

Vermont Gas Systems is in the planning and permitting stages of a major natural gas transmission pipeline expansion in Chittenden and Addison counties. The proposed pipeline project will extend from Colchester to Vergennes and Middlebury, then under Lake Champlain to Ticonderoga, N.Y., to serve the International Paper mill.

In recent weeks, opposition to the pipeline has increased as landowners, climate activists like Bill McKibben, and environmental groups like the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, Toxics Action Center and the Vermont Natural Resources Council became aware of the environmental and human health risks associated with hydraulic fracturing, gas consumption and high transmission pipelines.

The opposition is concerned that the gas in the pipeline is obtained through hydraulic fracturing, “fracking” an increasingly common form of extracting gas that blasts a high-pressure cocktail of sand, water and chemicals below the surface of the earth to crack open deposits of gas in shale formations.

In detailed testimony recently filed with the Vermont Public Service Board, the Conservation Law Foundation explained that the simplistic evaluation by Vermont Gas, that the gas pipeline expansion will reduce emissions, is simply wrong.

Testimony from Dr. Elizabeth Stanton shows that the emissions from the full natural gas life cycle of the project result in significant increases in global warming pollution. That’s because it is most likely Vermont Gas Systems’ gas supply would come from hydraulic fracturing wells producing methane emissions. Methane — a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2 — is particularly troubling because, molecule for molecule, methane has roughly 25 times the warming power of CO2 according to recent EPA estimates.

According to a 2011 Cornell study, gas obtained through fracking is worse than coal and oil in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.

In Dr. Stanton’s testimony, she says that in 2010, Vermonters paid over $600 million to import fossil fuel-based heating fuels; most of the money leaves the Vermont economy. She also says that “Expanding natural gas increases emissions more than three million tons over 100 years and brings environmental costs of an additional $76,000,000.”

The consumer is better protected from energy price swings and spikes by efficiency and conservation, not natural gas delivery. Natural gas is not cleaner energy.

Testimony by Dr. Jon Erickson, dean of the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Vermont, shows that by expanding the gas pipeline we would be locking in to fossil fuels at a time our climate and energy goals require moving in the opposite direction.

He states: “Any expansion of the delivery of natural gas to customers in Vermont has the potential to substitute for other nonrenewable, carbon-based fuels (such as fuel oil), but also has the potential to displace current and future uses of renewable energy (such as wood-based home heating or district heating).”

His testimony goes on to state: “Beyond greenhouse gas-related risk, the extraction of natural gas supplies is using increasingly environmentally damaging procedures such as hydro-fracking, a practice that Vermont has banned within State borders. Environmental regulation in other States and Canadian Provinces poses a risk to the long-term stability of natural gas supplies.”

Then there is another testimony from Jeffrey Wolfe, former CEO of groSolar, who says that

“Since similar energy cost savings for individuals are likely available through weatherization costing less than the per customer cost for the pipeline, this would be a way to lower energy bills for these customers. Weatherization and other energy efficiency measures results in very sure reduction and stabilization of energy bills.”

The consumer is better protected from energy price swings and spikes by efficiency and conservation, not natural gas delivery. Natural gas is not cleaner energy.

Since a major expansion of the pipeline could cause thousands of Vermonters to lock in with natural gas for generations rather than switch to a renewable alternative, I believe this huge investment in the pipeline infrastructure takes us in the wrong direction.