Group seizes’ home of Vermont Gas president
The Associated Press | August 31,2014
HINESBURG — An activist group claimed responsibility Saturday for a protest at the home of the Vermont Gas Systems president, saying it wanted to highlight the threat of forced property seizures for construction of a gas pipeline.
In an email to Vermont media, Green Mountain EarthFirst claimed it “temporarily seized” the property of Vermont Gas President Don Gilbert on Friday night and served a “people’s eminent domain notice.”
Eminent domain is the legal doctrine used by utilities and the government to seize private property for the good of the public.
Plans by Vermont Gas to extend a natural gas line from Burlington south to Middlebury and eventually to Rutland has sparked impassioned protests. A number of landowners along the line of the pipeline have refused to allow right-of-way easements.
The company is offering mediation and has said it hopes to avoid using eminent domain to take property by force.
Hinesburg Police Chief Frank Koss said about two dozen people entered Gilbert’s property after dark Friday, and some who went onto his porch. He said they left the property after police arrived.
The protesters refused to identify themselves, but police recorded their license plate numbers.
Koss did not say whether any charges would be filed, but said the protesters crossed the line.
“To me, this confrontation with him on his own property at night — that’s not freedom of speech,” he said.
Vermont Gas spokesman Steve Wark said the protest at Gilbert’s home was a continuation of what he calls extreme behavior over the last several months.
“Members of these groups continue to show they cannot be trusted to communicate their viewpoints peacefully, honestly or respectfully,” Wark said Saturday.
“It’s unfortunate that they use extreme and disrespectful tactics to bully those who do not share their point of view,” he said.
Green Mountain Earthfirst said it does not support construction of any fossil fuel infrastructure.