Environmental activists from Vermont and Quebec brought their fight against fossil fuel pipelines to a recent meeting of energy company shareholders in Montreal.
They’re concerned that a Canadian company’s increased investment in Vermont will lead to pipeline expansion here. The activists, however, were ejected from this week's meeting, and the initial stage of the acquisition was approved.
Julie Macuga, an "extreme energy field organizer" for 350Vermont, gathered up a protest banner and strode to the front of the corporate conference room.
“We have something to say before you continue — may we?” she asked. “We have a right to be here. We have shares.”
Macuga owns shares in Valener, a publicly held energy investment company that now owns an indirect stake in Vermont Gas and Green Mountain Power. In a complex deal that will eliminate public shareholders, Valener will be sold to Noverco, a Canadian gas and energy company.
Enbridge, one of North America’s biggest pipeline companies, then plans to boost its stake in Noverco, the parent company of Vermont Gas and Green Mountain Power.
Macuga and other shareholder activists attended the shareholders meeting this week in Montreal with a simple message.
“We want no more pipelines in Vermont," Macuga told the shareholders. "We don’t want Enbridge to build anything here."
The protesters tried to unfurl their banner warning about natural gas pipelines, but they were quickly hustled out. They tried to re-enter the room, but a woman rushed Macuga to the door. The activist captured the confrontation on Facebook live.
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“So I just got tackled a little bit, [the woman said] something about you’re not allowed to take photos,” Macuga told the camera. “Hurt a little bit, but I guess I’ll stay out here for a moment.”
In a phone interview from the meeting, Macuga said her concern is that Enbridge, the pipeline company, will use Vermont as a pathway to reach natural gas markets in southern New England.
“Our message is that we refuse to be complicit," she said. "We refuse to be a conduit for their import or export or whatever is they want to do, whatever it is they want to build."
Vermont Gas has said it has no plans to expand its pipeline in Vermont.
Valener shareholders overwhelmingly approved the initial stage of the deal, though the protest is one sign of escalating opposition to the acquisition by Enbridge. The Vermont Public Utility Commission also has to approve the change of ownership, and a group of 19 Vermont Gas and Green Mountain Power customers have now asked to intervene in that case.
The PUC plans to hold a hearing in late July on the ownership change.