Contact: Katherine Quaid

VT Supreme Court Ruling

MEDIA RELEASE: Protect Geprags Park
Contact: Rachel Smolker: 802.482.2848 landline, or 802.735-7794 mobile. Email: rsmolker@riseup.net
Sept 22, 2017
The Vermont Supreme Court today ruled that Vermont Gas could construct their gas pipeline through a public park in Hinesburg. The case, an appeal of the PUC earlier decision to allow the pipeline through Geprags Park, was brought by citizens of Hinesburg, represented by Woolmington/Dumont, who argued that the Public Service Board did not have authority to grant Vermont Gas the right to an easement.
Rachel Smolker, an intervenor in the case stated: “ Of course we are dissappointed that the SC did not rule in our favor.  Geprags Park was bequeathed to Hinesburg by the Geprags family, specifically for recreational or educational purposes or a school  It seems to set a very dangerous precedent to allow land that has been donated by the grace of good will, with specific restrictions, to be sold off to a utility for their own profitmaking.  Who can feel confident to donate land if their wishes for its’ protection in the future are not respected?”
Theora Ward, a resident of Hinesburg stated: “ Geprags Park is a much beloved little park. While the court did not rule as we had hoped, our opposition did result in a much stronger agreement for the town of Hinesburg, including the requirement that they use horizontal directional drilling, rather than trenching to install the pipeline, and a more reasonable financial settlement. After all, Hinesburg is now hosting a major piece of fossil fuel infrastructure, which not only introduces a multitude of risks, it also imposes limitations on future development possibilities for the town.”
Lawrence Shelton, also an intervenor in the appeal, stated: “ The court argued that they have confidence in and defer to the DPS an PSB oversight and judgement. Yet it was specifically the lack of oversight that spurred a coalition of 7 Vermont organizations to submit a letter of concerns and request for intervention from the federal pipeline administration in 2016. Those communications detailed a series of concerns about construction problems and permit violations.  The fact is that citizens are having to do the job that DPS/PSB is supposed to do. We just hope the PSB (now called Public Utility Commission, under new leadership, will step up to bat and take meaningful action. 
Smolker concluded: “The court’s ruling will not stop us from fighting this pipeline. We have learned too much about how this pipeline was slapped into the ground in haste and without oversight, such that it now poses a serious safety risk to Vermonters. That is in addition to the well known climate impacts of methane gas leaks, and the damages that result from fracking.  This pipeline has a 40-50 year lifespan and has only just barely started to carry gas. We won’t stop fighting this any time soon.”  
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