Media Note: Word of Gas Pipeline Opposition Spreads to New York | Off Message

Media Note: Word of Gas Pipeline Opposition Spreads to New York

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It's been in the Vermont headlines for months: Many residents on this side of Lake Champlain oppose a Vermont Gas project to build a pipe south to Addison County — not to mention the company's Phase 2 plan to extend the pipe under the lake to the International Paper plant in Ticonderoga, New York. 

Hundreds turned out for a rowdy Public Service Board hearing in Middlebury last month. Homemade signs — now weathered, but still visible — dot Route 74 in Cornwall and Shoreham; others direct passersby to grassroots websites such as "keepcornwallsafe.com" and "keepshorehamsafe.com." 

But it seems to have been a strongly worded letter of opposition from the Cornwall selectboard to Governor Peter Shumlin that finally got the attention of New York. An article headlined "Some Vermonters oppose IP pipeline" ran in yesterday's edition of the Plattsburgh Press-Republican. The Albany Business Review subsequently picked up the news for a brief notice in today's morning edition, billing their item "Gasline for upstate NY factory faces opposition from another state."

Both headlines inadvertently reinforce the criticsm locals have leveled against the project from the get-go: that the proposed pipeline would primarily benefit IP, which employs roughly 600, not the Vermont towns it passes through. 

IP says the pipeline would save the paper factory $15 million in operating costs — and contends those savings are necessary to keep the plant financially viable. Cornwall selectboard chair Bruce Hiland fiercely rejects that assertion, pointing to IP's rosy pitch to investors as proof of the company's financial health.

This is all old news for most Vermonters. The new question is: As word of Vermont's opposition spreads west, will New Yorkers change the tenor of the pipeline debate? We don't want to give too much credence to online comments, but so far the reaction is, well, predictable:

"Makes you wonder if there's a movement in VT to go back to candlelight and outhouses!"

File photo by Kathryn Flagg.

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