The Trans Vermont Gas Pipeline...
Light a candle for Geprag Park...
The hearings for Geprags Park easement appeal were held yesterday morning. Rob Woolmington represented the Hinesburg intervenors.
There were probably ten or so police cruisers awaiting the masses of protestors FYI :) why are they are so nervous?
I have spoken with/debriefed with our lawyers, and various folks over the past day - and with almost no exception, people have been in agreement with my assessment which I therefore share with you here, in case you were unable to attend and are curious, or if you still imagine the fight over phase one is “done”.
The mood in the room yesterday was nothing like the PSB hearings. Our argument was in a nutshell basically that the PSB doesnt have authority without legislative approval to grant easement on public land due to prior public use doctrine, which is “well established” law. This is a very strong argument and is relevant to bigger, more long term issues and concerns about land use decisions, legal precedent and process. Strategically it is a brilliant approach. VGS argued that the easement was “necessary” in order to meet the "public good” of the project, and that their pipeline would have “no impact” on the park since it is installed w HDD, so would not impair or conflict with the current public use of the park.
The judges asked very pointed and telling questions indicating they had really done their homework and understood the issues at hand and were not just in the pocket of VGS. They asked a few questions indicating that they were not at ease with VGS claim that a high transmission gas pipeline would have “no material impact” on the park. And asked how “necessity” can be assessed as “the shortest distance between two points” (north and south end of Geprags) - when the routing decisions should have been considered and evaluated earlier and prior to such constraint. One asked whether there was a consideration of cumulative impact from colocating utilities. Some questions brought out specifics of the easement agreement that spell out the various ways that the park could or would in fact be “materially impacted” by the easement, including emergency access in event of incident, and constraints on uses of the park in future, among other.
We are told that there is no telling when a ruling on the appeal will be made, but because this is such a high profile case, it may be that they do not take too long. There is also of course no telling what the outcome will be - how the judges will rule. To protect our tender bruised souls we need to prepare for the worst.
But it seems like we also need to prepare for the possibility that we will in fact win.
Keep those embers glowing.