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Cuneo family accuses Vermont Gas of violating pipeline pact

Observer photo courtesy of Kari Cuneo  Heavy construction equipment has been on the Cuneo property in Williston.
Observer photo courtesy of Kari Cuneo
Heavy construction equipment has been on the Cuneo property in Williston.

By Morgan True for Vermont Digger

The attorney for a family who settled with Vermont Gas Systems to avoid having its land taken by eminent domain says the utility violated that agreement last week by starting construction-related activities without giving proper notice.

James Dumont represents a number of people with property on the Addison Rutland Natural Gas Project pipeline route. His clients Terence and Kari Cuneo reached a settlement to sell their Williston property to Vermont Gas earlier this year.

The deal allowed the family to stay in their home, but contained a notification provision that was supposed to give them time to leave and stay elsewhere while construction is completed. The agreement also allows them to return after construction while they search for a new home.

The occupancy agreement says the Cuneos would be given 48 hours’ notice of any preconstruction work, which is defined in the agreement as “surveying, rock-probing, geotechnical boring, tree clearing, staking for (right of way) delineation, and other activities to prepare for construction.”

It also states that notice would be required for the use of any heavy vehicles “greater than the mass of a standard pickup truck” and that notice was to be provided by phone call and email to them and their attorney.

No construction was supposed to happen before Saturday, according to the agreement. The agreement was intended to ensure the safety of the family, because one of the Cuneos’ children walks to school across the pipeline route, Dumont said.

That’s why it came as an unwelcome surprise Thursday when a bulldozer and excavator were brought onto the property, digging out and flattening the pipeline route and leaving earth piled to one side, according to Dumont.

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