Residents Feel Pipeline Pressure

Published 02/19 2014 05:56PM

Updated 02/19 2014 07:33PM

MONKTON, Vt. - Monkton resident Maren Vasatka and other neighbors gathered Wednesday after receiving what they call threats from Vermont Gas. According to Vasatka, a letter from the company, “says that we must take the deal they are offering us, or 'Vermont Gas must begin the legal process of eminent domain.'"

"We don't have the funds to enter into extensive legal battles with the deep pockets of Vermont Gas," she added.

Homeowners say the company has not been negotiating in good faith, and for months has failed to answer critical questions about how their property will be impacted by the pipeline. Vermont Gas disagrees.

"We provided all the information and we've answered the questions to the extent that we can," Steve Wark of Vermont Gas said.

In some cases the pipeline will be just seventy-five feet from homes.

"Putting in perspective, this is a small transmission line, five feet underground in a preexisting corridor that they will never see, and will never impact the use of the land," he continued.

Still, residents say that will crush property values.

"We worked all of our lives to be able to leave something to our children, why should I give the right to a corporation to diminish all that,” Monkton resident Selina Peyser said.

The concern goes beyond property values and financial compensation. Safety has long been an issue as well. The recent drug related-arrests of two sub-contractors working on a separate pipeline project in Franklin County did nothing to reduce the fear.

“We didn't feel comfortable that for two years anybody could come on our property at any time, we didn't feel safe with that,” Vasatka said.

Vermont Gas admits the contractors made "big mistakes" in Franklin County, but says it has drug screening procedures in place to avoid future trouble.

"We will take every step that we need to to ensure that landowners are held harmless during the construction time," Wark says.

Vermont Gas says the Franklin County project is on hold while independent safety inspections are done. It should be done by summer, but will not delay the Addison County expansion.

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