Protester Chains Self to Natural Gas Construction Site

Essex Natural Gas Protest

A natural gas pipeline project drew protesters Thursday in Essex, Vermont.

A member of the group Rising Tide Vermont locked herself to part of a construction site where Vermont Gas is preparing to expand service from the Burlington area south to Middlebury.

After more than four hours, efforts to remove the protester by cutting through a section of pipe had begun. At that point, the protester voluntarily released the locks inside a sheath worn over her arms, Essex Police said.

Johanna Anderson, 28, of Plainfield, Vermont, was taken into custody by the Essex Police Department. Anderson is expected to face charges of disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, trespassing, and unlawful mischief, police said.

Essex Police said a total of 12 protesters were trespassing at the construction site, before all but Anderson were provided an area close to the construction site to conduct the protest. The protest was peaceful, Essex Police noted.

"We're all at risk of seeing the devastating impacts of climate change, and we need to decrease our reliance on fossil fuels, not increase it," said Ryan Gillard of Rising Tide Vermont.

Gillard alleged the pipeline expansion to Middlebury will disrupt the environment and lead to further consumption of fossil fuels.

Vermont Gas predicted the pipeline will bring economic benefits, in the form of lower heating bills, to many homeowners who choose to switch to natural gas service.

"We get phone calls and emails every day from folks all around the state asking when are we coming," said Vermont Gas spokesperson Beth Parent. "There is a need for this. Natural gas is more affordable, it's cleaner than oil and propane, and we want to offer that choice to even more Vermonters."

The $154-million pipeline expansion project is expected to be complete by late 2016.

Next week, Vermont's Public Service Board will hold hearings about whether it should re-evaluate the existing certificate of public good for the pipeline expansion, which has been plagued by cost overruns.

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