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Vt. Gas joins tree planting as pipeline comes online

The Intervale Center of Burlington, Vermont Gas and the Friends of the Winooski River joined forces last week to plant about 200 trees along the Allen Brook in Williston.

The tree plantings will stabilize the brook’s embankments, prevent erosion and protect fish habitat. They are part of the Intervale Conservation Nursury’s program to plant thousands of native trees and shrubs across the state this year to improve water quality.

About 20 Vermont Gas employees took part in the planting.

“We are grateful for the generosity of time and resources from the employees at Vermont Gas,” said Travis Marcotte, executive director of the Intervale Center. “Together, with our volunteers and sponsors, we’re improving watersheds in our region and restoring vital habitat for plants and animals alike.”

Last year, the Intervale Center planted about 15,000 trees in the area with the help of Vermont Gas volunteers.

“At Vermont Gas, our teams work hard every day to help our customers reduce their carbon footprint through efficiency and fuel conversion,” said Rebecca Towne, vice president of organizational strategy at Vermont Gas. “Our mission is to create cleaner choices today for a brighter future tomorrow. We are thrilled to be able to further that mission with local hands-on projects like this tree planting to help immediately improve water quality and sequester carbon to mitigate climate change.”

Vermont Gas spent much of the past three years at odds with environmental groups and climate change activists opposed to the South Burlington company’s expansion of natural gas service from Chittenden County to Addison County. The company announced the completion of the 41-mile extension, which includes piping that runs through Williston, in April.

“This has been an incredibly challenging project,” Vermont Gas CEO Don Rendall said when a final connection was made in Hinesburg on April 12. “We are very thankful to the communities and landowners who have supported us along the way … Our customers, the communities we serve and our state’s economy are all stronger with a cleaner and more affordable energy choice.”

On the eve of the pipeline opening, environmental groups reaffirmed their opposition, sending letters on April 10 to Gov. Phil Scott and the federal Pipeline Hazardous Material Safety Administration.

The letters allege “serious and chronic safety issues surrounding construction of the Vermont Gas pipeline.”

“The pipeline has been constructed in haste and without consistent and effective regulatory oversight. Those living near the pipeline are now at risk of harm from a potential pipeline failure, leak or explosion,” the letter states.

A petition has been submitted with the Public Service Board to reconsider Vermont Gas’ Certificate of Public Good for the project.

“The more we learn about it, the more it is clear that this project was very poorly constructed without meeting even the most basic minimum federal safety requirements,” Hinesburg resident Rachel Smolker said in a press release “This casts serious doubt on the safety and integrity of the pipeline. Vermonters … will bear the consequences of the long-term safety risks to life and property, which now lie buried out of site in our yards and through our communities.”