Cornwall Polling Residents On Pipeline Opinions
What's your opinion of Phase II of the Addison natural gas pipeline that Vermont Gas Systems had proposed to run under Lake Champlain to Ticonderoga, NY? Cornwall residents are being asked just that, as the town attempts to gauge public sentiment on the project.
The Cornwall Select Board has sent a mailing to residents, which includes a post card that the town is asking be returned by Feb.1. The post card states:
"The Select Board seeks to know the sense of the Town regarding the Vermont Gas pipeline proposed to run through Cornwall to the International Paper plant in Ticonderoga, New York. We ask that you return this post card with one of the following boxes checked: "I am in favor of the International Paper Pipeline." "I am against the International Paper Pipeline, and understand that the Select Board may expend public funds to fight against it." "The Select Board will consider the results of this informal poll to inform future decisions."
While the select board is soliciting public opinion on the matter, the board has already come out publicly against Phase II of the pipeline project. In the "Selectboard News" column of Cornwall's Winter Newsletter, the board states, "On the 'dark side' we had to deal with a troublesome dog and even more troublesome gas pipeline company ..." The column goes on to state:
"The pipeline saga continues ... The Select Board continues to express Cornwall’s opposition to Vermont Gas Systems’ plan. We believe we are reflecting the overwhelming majority of opinion that you have expressed at Select Board meetings, the Town forum and in your petitions, letters, phone calls and personal conversations with Town officials. We are avoiding wasting taxpayer dollars while making certain that we are effectively represented in the State-mandated process just getting underway."
The Cornwall Select Board had written Gov. Peter Shumlin and asked him to intervene in the matter. And the column implied the board was not satisfied by his response.
"The Governor’s reply to our letter simply stated his preference to let the Department of Public Service and the Public Service Board processes determine the outcome. Sadly, he ignored our request to provide leadership to find a better solution."
The select board also reported it was not satisfied with communications from Vermont Gas.
"For their part the pipeline company has been remarkably unresponsive to our concerns and instead has chosen to spend a great deal of money on advertising, promotion and public relations. Only after filing their formal application with the State on 11/19 did they ask to meet with us to explore possible options."
When asked for a response to the board's statements, Vermont Gas spokesperson Stephen Wark commented: "We've worked hard to accommodate Cornwall's wishes, including complying with their town plan. But Phase II remains an important part of the plan to help Rutland cut their fuel bills in half with natural gas."
Wark called attention to what he said are the environmental benefits of the pipeline. "Providing the Ticonderoga paper mill with clean burning natural gas helps reduce regional greenhouse gas emissions," he said. "A vote against Phase II is a vote against lower emissions for the region."
Wark added that he questions the validity of a public opinion poll after town officers have taken such a vocal stance against the project.
"This is hardly a fair environment to sample opinions," he said. "Nonetheless, Vermont Gas remains committed to working with Cornwall."
A letter accompanying the post card stated that the Select Board "has thus far unanimously opposed the project," indicating its position could change, depending upon the outcome of the post card poll.