Gas pipeline: a less messy choice
As co-owners of Kennedy Brothers in Vergennes, we have been looking forward to reducing our greenhouse gas footprint by replacing outdated oil-fueled furnaces with smaller, cleaner, and more efficient gas furnaces. This will also provide much-needed savings to our tenants, which are all locally owned small businesses. Thus, we attended the public hearing in Middlebury on Tuesday, Sept. 10.
It was disappointing to hear so many statements that just made no sense ecologically. It was also annoying that almost no supporters got to speak because the opponents listed themselves as supporting the pipeline on the sign-up-to-speak forms. We are as concerned about climate change as much as the opponents to this project, but we see natural gas as the better solution.
Ever since people began using fire, we have abused the environment for our energy needs. Nothing has changed, except there are a lot more people doing it today and we have more sources of energy. No energy source is perfect. Wind farms are despised by otherwise green people because they spoil the views. Hydropower dams rivers. Solar panels require mining materials and dirty chemical processes to manufacture, and many don’t like the look of fields of solar panels. Nuclear has radioactive waste issues. Oil is messy (many oil spills and dirty drilling process) and generates greenhouse gases, as does natural gas, wood, coal and biomass. Nothing is perfect.
Whether it is people denuding mountainsides of trees for firewood, or BP spilling oil in the Gulf of Mexico, or the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster, humankind’s use of energy negatively impacts the environment. So it all comes down to one question: What do we choose in order to minimize the mess we make? Because people aren’t giving up their heat, cooking and lighting, not to mention driving. That is the question the Public Service Board needs to keep in mind as it decides on the certificate of public good for the Colchester-to-Middlebury pipeline.
The pipeline into Middlebury will not make this worse. It will be better since gas for heat can be burned at very high efficiency, compared to oil, and is cleaner burning as well. It is also lower cost, which will benefit all the people who can access the gas, as well as businesses. It will not increase the damage to the environment. It will likely reduce negative impacts, and I expect evidence showing that will be provided at the technical hearings the PSB will conduct next week.
All the comments at the PSB meeting in Middlebury about adding to our greenhouse problem make no sense. This replaces one fuel (mostly oil) with more efficient and cleaner gas. It doesn’t lock anyone into gas for the next 100 years either. That is just absurd. It will only be used as long as it makes sense. When we develop new clean energy sources that replace oil and gas, then the gas line will go into disuse.
All the comments on scarring the land make no sense either. Once the construction is complete, it will have much, much, much, less of an impact than a road. It is not taking any land. It will be under land that can continue to raise corn or hay or graze cows. One must wonder where the people at this meeting are getting their misinformation. The few pressure control stations and distribution points will be above ground and in out of the way areas.
As for safety, most people in the United States are served by underground gas lines, and have been for decades. It is an exceedingly rare day when someone dies because of a gas explosion. Worrying about the safety of underground pipelines is like worrying about electric lines falling on you as you walk down the street. Almost never happens.
People are messy. Once again, to emphasize the decision under consideration by the Public Service Board: What mess do we choose to make?
In our view a natural gas pipeline is the smaller mess, and provides lower cost energy for the people and businesses of Addison County.
Robert Feuerstein and Lillian Kennedy are co-owners of Kennedy Brothers in Vergennes.