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Monkton voters gather for town meeting. Photo: Sarah Harris
Monkton voters gather for town meeting. Photo: Sarah Harris

Monkton, VT voters oppose gas pipeline

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Tuesday was town meeting day in Vermont. Residents across the state gathered to vote on routine business, like school budgets and taxes. But hot button issues were also on the agenda in some towns this year. In Monkton, residents are riled up about a proposed natural gas pipeline.

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Sarah Harris
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The cafeteria at Monkton Central School was standing room only Tuesday morning. Voters filled the chairs and lined the walls.  

They chimed in about additions to the fire station and a new library, but it was the proposed natural gas pipeline that really got them on their feet.

"This pipeline makes use of Monkton only as a convenient corridor," said resident Ivor Huges, reading a speech he prepared for the day. "So while there will be gas beneath our feet we in Monkton will derive no benefit from this significant cheaper heating fuel."

An anti-gas pipeline sign in Monkton. Photo: Sarah Harris
An anti-gas pipeline sign in Monkton. Photo: Sarah Harris
Kristin Ferrell is a social studies teacher at Mt Abraham Union High School.  She brought her students to town meeting to see local democracy in action.

And she asked the select board whether Vermont Gas had the right to seize private property.

The proposed natural gas pipeline has been controversial in Addison county since Vermont Gas first unveiled its initial route late last year. 

Residents were worried about safety, the environment, and property values.

So they decided to parse those issues in town meeting.

They voted on two articles: whether to form a legal fund to represent the town of Monkton before the Public Service Board as the pipeline goes forward, and whether to advise the select board to not issues permits for pipeline construction until residents’ concerns were satisfied. No one spoke in favor of the pipeline.

"What became evident was that the select board was reluctant to really push on the issue without a mandate from the people of the town," said Jennifer Baker, an opponent of the pipeline who helped write two articles. 

"I thought the best forum for letting the select board know whether or not the town would back them would be to use town meeting for that."

 Residents voted almost unanimously for the two articles.

Ken Wheeling is the town moderator. He says the people of Monkton spoke loud and clear.

"I think the house really supported the principle that Monkton and its officials really get on the stick and oppose the pipeline."

In response to complaints from Monkton residents, Vermont Gas has crafted another route. The public service board will hold a hearing about the pipeline on March 21.

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