It is important to build bridges, but we need to make sure they get us where we need to go.
The project will cut through valuable wetlands and farmland in Addison County. Future plans include crossing Lake Champlain, moving Vermont closer to gas supplies from fracking that is ongoing now in New York and Pennsylvania.
Proponents of the project, including Middlebury College and Vermont Gas advance an overly simplistic evaluation suggesting more natural gas is needed in Vermont because it is cheaper and cleaner than the oil and propane it will replace. Others suggest natural gas is a bridge to cleaner supplies that are in our future.
All bridges are not created equal. Natural gas is still a fossil fuel. The proposed gas pipeline will be in place for fifty to a hundred years. In that timeframe we need to solidly break our addiction to fossil fuels – including natural gas.
So what part of the project is in place to make sure natural gas is actually a valuable bridge and not a new addiction? Nothing. And that is sad.
We can do better than throw up our hands and blindly accept expensive and environmentally damaging new pipelines at a time when we should be moving away from fossil fuels.
Here are some ideas to start moving Vermont in a cleaner direction when it comes to new pipelines:
- Provide a more sophisticated evaluation that answers where this pipeline is taking us in fifty years.
- Stop providing unqualified support. If this is a cleaner solution, make sure it lives up to its promise. Sensitive and valuable environmental resources should be off the table.
- Meet climate goals by dramatically increasing efficiency, prohibiting supplies from fracking and limiting the use and lifespan of any new pipeline.
If we build bridges, let’s make sure they get us to a place we want to be.