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Pipeline opponents protest at Vermont Gas - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Pipeline opponents protest at Vermont Gas

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Sara Mehalick Sara Mehalick
SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. -

It was supposed to be a peaceful protest, but that stand against fracking took a turn.

"I'm chained today because Vermont Gas has chained us to fossil fuels," said Sara Mehalick, a volunteer organizer for Rising Tide Vermont.

Vermont Gas says protestors trespassed, hung a sign from the building and pushed their way past an employee who was allegedly hit with a chain.

"We have customers that come in here, we have employees; they're just trying to do their job. What we saw today was an assault. Unacceptable," said Steve Wark of Vermont Gas.

Protestors deny any assault. They say were prepared to spend hours demonstrating outside the building. But Vermont Gas had had enough. Police arrived on the scene and protestors were asked to leave the property.

"Vermont Gas has asked us to leave but we're going to stay here until they withdraw all of their construction plans and all of their permit applications for the fracked gas pipeline," Mehalick said.

The company wants to extend its pipeline through Addison County south to Rutland and also westward under Lake Champlain to the International Paper Mill in Ticonderoga. Some are against the project, saying it could hurt the local landscape and that fracked gas hurts the environment. But some Vermonters support natural gas and see it as a cheaper source of energy.

"We know that over 80 percent of the people in the area want natural gas and these folks aren't the majority," Wark said.

Police were prepared to stay on the scene as long as protestors were on the property. They were also prepared to remove Mehalick at the request of Vermont Gas. And when that request was made, police moved in.

"We were initially told that she was going to vacate, but I guess she changed her mind," South Burlington Police Det. Ron Bliss said.

Mehalick, 31, of Plainfield, was taken into custody and cited for unlawful trespass. Police are still investigating the alleged assault.

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