Gas pipeline protestors identified - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Gas pipeline protestors identified

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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. - The group responsible for last week's protest at Vermont Gas is releasing the names of two protestors sought by South Burlington Police.

Site work has begun in Monkton for a natural gas pipeline to extend service to Addison and Rutland counties. Archeologists are looking for areas that may be culturally significant. If areas are found, Vermont Gas may have to drill under the area so as not to disturb the site. Neighbor Jane Palmer says the pipeline will run under her property 150 feet from her house and she is not happy.

"It's expanding fossil fuel infrastructure when we should not be doing that. If it is actually cheaper it’s going to undermine alternative energy," said Palmer.

It is the latest move in a contentious tangle between Vermont Gas, and pipeline opponents. Friday, an organizer of the group Rising Tide Vermont accused Vermont Gas of running a smear campaign against them following a protest in May.

"While other pipeline opponents dropped a banner from the roof of the building and locked down on the main entrance in an act of non-violent direct action," said Keith Brunner, Rising Tide Vermont.

South Burlington Police did not see it that way.

"There is no question they crossed the line," said Detective Ron Bliss, South Burlington Police Department.

Rising Tide identified the two men Friday morning who are facing trespassing charges and read a statement from them.

"Rising Tide members Will Bennington and Henry Harris coordinated the banner hang during the May 27 action," said Brunner. "Last Tuesday we went on Vermont Gas Systems roof and hung a banner...we did not break any laws and we are proud of what we did. The real criminal is Vt. Gas who continues to lie about the events of that day and violates the rights of communities from Alberta to Vermont."

Police are not convinced this information is correct.

"We were already looking at Mr. Harris, the second one we are not as sure as they are to admit it. We are going to make sure that it is him. Initial indications is it does not seem to be him, which would not surprise me, talking about smear campaigns," said Det. Bliss.

The company Friday issued this statement.

"Vermont Gas respects people's rights to protest but we can't allow our employees to be threatened or hurt."

Police also want to identify a third man wanted for assault during the protest. A Vermont Gas employee was injured. Officials say he was swinging a chain. It's another charge Rising Tide denies. They claim the injury was the employees fault.

Both Vermont Gas and police dispute that.

"Swinging a chain when other people are around is just an egregious act and it was an assault," said Det. Bliss.

The suspect has reportedly consulted with legal counsel. Police urge him to come forward to face the assault charge.

Related Stories:

Police seek protesters after Vt. Gas worker injured

Pipeline opponents protest at Vermont Gas

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