Monkton residents push back over pipeline plans - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Monkton residents push back over pipeline plans

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Maren Vasatka has spent the past 33 years building, perfecting and making memories in her Monkton home. Now, she is worried a proposed gas pipeline could change that.

"Since the first meeting with Vermont Gas back in November of 2012, we have waited a total of 362 days for Vermont gas to respond to our offers and questions… and they have waited for us for 32 days. Who is negotiating in good faith?" Vasatka said.

Vasatka, along with four other Monkton homeowners, told the media they're concerned about Vermont Gas' plans to build a 41-mile pipeline down the Western side of the state. Phase one of the project, connecting Colchester to Middlebury, just won state approval.

Vermont Gas could use eminent domain, taking some land. Negotiations are tense, and the homeowners feel their concerns are being ignored.

"Why should I give someone the right to totally take away my happiness, my enjoyment of my home away and it is not in my opinion for my public good," said Selina Peyser, a pipeline opponent.

Vermont Gas says that this pipeline will benefit the community, saving homeowners money and reducing carbon footprints. And Vermont Gas says the project is completely safe, with thicker, stronger pipes that will be checked regularly for corrosion.

"Safety is our number one goal. And we want to make sure we serve them in the safest best way possible. We want to be a good neighbor to them and we want to make sure they feel comfortable as our customers," said Steve Wark of Vermont Gas.

The company says it doesn't want to resort to eminent domain. Wark says he sympathizes with these families and knows how much they value their homes. That is why he wants to work to find a solution.

"There's a lot of emotion involved in this and that's very understandable. We're new to the area. We haven't been in Addison County. We've been almost exclusively in Chittenden and Franklin counties for almost 50 years, where incidentally, we've never had this problem before. We've never had to use eminent domain," Wark said.

And Vasatka hopes it won't happen to her property.

"A lot of it is about protecting ourselves and protecting our property," she said.

What Vermont Gas' argument comes down to is that the public good outweighs the disruption that a few families may face. Those families say they're being bullied. And for now, negotiations remain at a standstill.

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