Lawmakers voice concerns about fracked gas pipeline

In an open letter to Gov. Peter Shumlin, Senators Chris Bray and Claire Ayer of Addison County and Rep. Willem Jewett of Ripton to Gov.raised serious concerns about the proposed fracked gas pipeline to International Paper in New York.

The letter calls for no permit to be issued for the pipeline “unless and until the state provides clear and convincing answers to the serious concerns [they] raise,” and is one of the strongest statements yet by Vermont elected officials on the serious problems associated with building new fossil fuel infrastructure and this proposal specifically.

The legislators’ letter is well crafted, and if you’re interested in taking a look, you can read it here. Their long list of concerns with the proposed pipeline include:

Climate Change Impacts.

They call for a thorough analysis of the lifecycle carbon pollution of the pipeline, including “methane leakage attributable to natural gas production, delivery and use.”

Alternative Technologies.

Calling out the fact that cold climate heat pumps have been ignored in analyzing the project, they point out “Efficiency Vermont’s recent analysis of various fuel types shows such heat pumps provide heat at virtually the same cost as natural gas, but without the sort of 70-year natural gas pipeline infrastructure investment that may produce massive stranded costs within a decade or two.”

Natural Gas as a Bridge Fuel.

Pointing out that the idea of gas as a “bridge fuel” is only plausible in terms of electric generation (which this pipeline is not), they aptly state “Phases 1 and 2 represent not the development of a bridge fuel to move us forward, but more accurately a monumental, $200 million commitment — paid for largely by Vermonters — to remain where we are, consuming fossil fuels.”

Reliability of the Application’s Economic Analysis.

Citing the “staggering”, $35 million cost overrun on Phase 1, they call on the Public Service Department to “do a rigorous inspection and analysis of the Phase 1 overruns, and then apply what it learns to evaluating the proposed budget for Phase 2.” They conclude, if “the Phase 2 budget were increased by 40%, would the project still be financially viable? Or might we be saddling all current and future GM/VGS ratepayers with decades of higher costs to pay for a project that’s an economic loser?”

Cost Benefit Analysis.

The letter states they “have difficulty in seeing a ‘public benefit’ that merits awarding a CPG” given the benefits go mostly to two private, out of state corporations and the costs are borne mostly by “the towns and landowners of Cornwall and Shoreham required to host the pipeline.”

Constitutional Issues.

The letter notes that the “public use of a pipeline that delivers 99% of its product not to Vermonters, but to a single, private, out-of-state customer” is dubious and raises constitutional issues that may be grounds for rejection, and at a minimum mean eminent domain should not be an option in Phase 2 of the project.

Alternative Financing.

Questioning the alleged need for the spur to International Paper, they say “the source and availability of project funds seems ill-defined, self-serving, and subjective, rather than clearly defined, public-minded, and objective.”

Sen. Bray, Sen. Ayer and Rep. Jewett are standing up for their constituents in the best tradition of elected leaders in Vermont. And you can join VPIRG in thanking them for the hard work they’re putting into this issue by clicking here.


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