What does “neighborhood watch” mean to you?

Dear Editor,

When people in a community are concerned that their neighborhood is being overrun by crime, they start a Neighborhood Watch. They do so to protect their families, their property values, and their way of life. Nobody ever accuses them of NIMBYism; it’s only logical. Nobody says, “Well, the criminals have to go somewhere, why not here?” But this is the criticism the proponents of this fracked gas pipeline argument are using.

However, we should all protect our communities from things that can harm us, whether they be drug dealers, or internationally-owned out-of state toxic projects that are unhealthy and unsafe for us, our families, our businesses, our way of life, and our future. It is our obligation as a citizenry to stand up and speak out. And here in Vermont we have an incredibly powerful “neighborhood watch,” and we will not let the heart of our state get overrun by Gaz Metro/Vermont Gas and International Paper, two international billion dollar corporations, whose short-sighted greedy industrialization threatens our families’ health and safety, our property values, our livelihoods, and our way of life as criminals and criminal activity do.

And we have a message for Governor Shumlin, who said in 2012, “We need to get off fossil fuels as quickly as we can, for our children and grandchildren.” And the same governor who said, about building pipelines: “We’re gonna say NO: Not on our watch. Turn it back. Stop the plan. Go renewable. Re-build with wind and solar and biomass. We can do this right.”

We ask you, Governor Shumlin, to listen to us now; this fracked gas pipeline is wrong and unfair for Vermont. Threatening and bullying landowners with eminent domain is wrong. Raising ratepayers’ rates to pay for a project that is already obsolete, misguided, with ballooning costs is wrong. Asking for a Certificate of Public Good before you’ve applied for all the permits is wrong. Building a pipeline to go underneath Lake Champlain to deliver fuel to another out-of-state corporation which has been contaminating our air and water for over 30 years is wrong. Locking the state into a new fossil fuel project for another 100 years is wrong. None of this is in the public good. Arresting a landowner who was knitting as she waited peaceably to speak with the CEO is outrageous and disrespectful. Having five police cars waiting outside the VGS offices for hours is wrong, and a waste of taxpayers’ money. Spending millions of dollars on media advertising with inaccurate information is wrong. Contaminating wells is wrong. Putting radon into people’s homes and lungs is wrong. Renewable energy is cleaner. Weatherization creates jobs and sustainability. Fossil fuels do not.

And what about your promise to Vermonters about the lake?

“A clean Lake Champlain is critical to our quality of life and our attractiveness to tourists, anglers, boaters and birders who share our love of our lake. . . . its cleanliness is as crucial to our economic vitality as it is to our culture and our health. Lake Champlain provides drinking water for more than 200,000 people, while the state’s reputation for environmental quality and lake stewardship reflects upon all of us. (State of the State address, Jan. 11, 2011)

We agree, Governor Shumlin, and your stewardship of our state reflects upon all of us. Who wants to move to, buy land, or live in a state no longer known for its independence, thrift, creativity, respect, and integrity? A state to be known in the future for selling out to Big Gas, raping and polluting the landscape with a fracked gas pipeline, where corporate greed and false promises rule? Where people have to watch their cherished land and landscape be stolen by Vermont Gas/Gaz Metro who tells lie after lie after lie?

We have a loud and clear message to Governor Shumlin, and the Addison County and the Rutland County governments: we are the people of Vermont, and we have a growing neighborhood watch. No fracked gas pipeline. Not on our watch.

Bethany Barry Menkart, Cornwall and Brandon, Vt.

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