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Aug 24, 15

Vermonters Shutdown Keystone XL Construction Site

From Rising Tide Vermont

Pipeline opponents have halted construction at a site along the route of the Addison-Rutland Natural Gas Pipeline project today, calling attention to the new construction contract between Vermont Gas and Michel’s, who is under scrutiny for flaws in their work on the southern leg of the Keystone XL. Michel’s employees continued to operate heavy machinery dangerously close to the peaceful protesters for over ten minutes before shutting down, endangering lives and violating OSHA regulation.

Over a dozen people entered a pipeline site along Route 289 in Essex, disrupting work and demanding Michel’s immediately cease operations and terminate its contract with Vermont Gas. Disruptions are expected to continue throughout the day.

“As a local builder, I want to see investment in construction that will serve Vermonters for decades to come,” said Chris Schroth, a carpenter and participant in today’s disruption. “Contracting with out-of-state companies known for their work on dangerous, destructive projects like the Keystone XL pipeline shows a disregard for the environmental and safety standards Vermonters hold dear.  We cannot continue to invest in fossil fuels, especially as we continue to see the impacts of climate change around the world.”

In 2013 Public Citizen reported that Michel’s was responsible for over 70 “anomalies” during the construction of 60 miles of the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline, including dents, insufficient welds, unintentional sags, and poor soil management. [1] Six months after the completion of the Keystone XL, Transcanada had to stop the flow of tar sands through the pipeline to repair Michel’s faulty work.

Vermont Gas announced its contract with Michel’s this July, amidst regulatory uncertainty as the Public Service Board deliberates whether it will reopen and possibly revoke permits for the pipeline. The permit came under scrutiny after Vermont Gas withheld information regarding several cost overruns since receiving their permit.

The new contract follows a suit against Vermont Gas from their  former contractor, Over & Under Piping, based in central New York state. The company,  which terminated its contract with Vermont Gas earlier this year after completing only 5.6 miles of the 42-mile long project, is suing for $11.2 million related to costs associated with a five-month delay in the start of construction. [2]

“We’d expect the Public Service Board to terminate this project immediately, due to Vermont Gas’ continued mismanagement and reliance on irresponsible contractors,” said Schroth. “But we’ve also seen the Board repeatedly ignore concerns of landowners, ratepayers and the public, and have little faith that they’ll do anything less than protect Vermont Gas’ ability to make profit at the expense of the climate.”

Schroth added that several groups opposing the pipeline will mobilize hundreds of Vermonters to prepare to take action this fall, should the Board allow Vermont Gas to continue with the project as planned.

“We know that hundreds of Vermonters – ratepayers, landowners, working families –  stand with us in our opposition to this climate-wrecking project, and in their willingness to stop it if the Board won’t,” he said


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