Statehouse Headliners: Legislators fear Trump executive order may prevent natural gas pipeline ban

By Guy Page

President Donald Trump threw fossil fuel pipeline opponents in the Vermont Legislature a curve with an April 10 executive order to streamline pipeline permitting. Tuesday afternoon they gathered in the House Energy and Technology Committee to ask: will the executive order pre-empt H.51 and other bills intended to stop new natural gas pipelines?

Answer: Not now. Not next week. And probably not next year either, Luke Martland, director of Office of Legislative Council told concerned legislators, including Chair Tim Briglin, D-Thetford, Robin Chesnut-Tangerman, P-Middletown Springs, and Mike Yantachka, D-Charlotte.

Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership, the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare, and Physicians, Families & Friends for a Better Vermont.

On the one hand, “federal regulation trumps state law,” Martland said. On the other hand, the federal Clean Water Act lets states, in practice, delay or even stop a project. And, Trump’s executive order cannot replace the Clean Water Act passed by Congress. It also will likely be challenged in court.

“I think it’s very early in the process,” Martland said. “How do we predict the future? We have to see what happens. I don’t see this executive order having any impact over the next year or two.”

Martland’s carefully-framed answers did not appear to wholly satisfy lawmakers, who asked for clarification several times.

The executive order directs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to rewrite regulations that cover the states’ power to approve — or not approve — pipeline projects’ compliance with the federal Clean Water Act. The new regulations could not supersede the federal legislation, but are intended to speed and ease the permitting process. The executive action was spurred by the state of New York’s refusal to grant Clean Water Act permission to big natural gas pipeline projects.

H.51 and two other bills will be the subject of a public hearing at the State House in Room 11 5-7 pm Tuesday, April 23. Supporters of pipeline construction from New York to New England say the region needs added natural gas supply to maintain electrical grid reliability and heating fuel supply during cold snaps. In January 2018, the region endured a prolonged deep freeze that nearly overwhelmed the combined supply of natural gas, oil and coal, according to ISO-New England, the region’s power grid operator.

Opponents of pipeline construction say construction of new delivery systems — both instate and interstate — will lock Vermont into fossil-fuel heat for the rest of the century, and inhibit the state’s ability to reach its goal of 90 percent total renewable energy by 2050.

Statehouse Headliners is intended primarily to educate, not advocate. It is e-mailed to an ever-growing list of interested Vermonters, public officials and media. Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership; the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare; and Physicians, Families and Friends for a Better Vermont.

Image courtesy of Michael Bielawski/TNR
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7 thoughts on “Statehouse Headliners: Legislators fear Trump executive order may prevent natural gas pipeline ban

  1. Rutland County would benefit from natural gas pipelines for two reasons: Job growth, lower cost heating fuel, and cleaner burning home heat. It would be a tremendous boost to Rutland. Robin Chestnut-Tangerman represents part of Western Rutland County. He is not looking out for his constituents.

  2. The people on the joint Energy and Environment Committee generally do not have a clue regarding energy issues.
    They likely never analyzed and designed any energy systems.
    They invite like minded RE lobbyists to testify before their committee.
    Those lobbyists exactly know how to “play them”, I.e., tell them what they want to hear, they will suck it up, and spout it to the media for us.
    These kind of shenanigans have been going on since before the Shumlin/Klein era.
    GMP, a Canadian company, was stupid enough to take the bait and destroy 8 miles of our Lowell Mountain to have 75 to 100 ft wide access roads to get to 2000 ft, and place 21 Danish wind turbines, each about 400 ft tall, that are visible from at least 10 miles, and have ruined the lives of people who live within a mile.

    • “GMP, a Canadian company, was stupid enough to take the bait and destroy 8 miles of our Lowell Mountain to have 75 to 100 ft wide access roads to get to 2000 ft, and place 21 Danish wind turbines, each about 400 ft tall, that are visible from at least 10 miles, and have ruined the lives of people who live within a mile.”

      Copy and paste to Searsburg and Deerfield projects. Just to the south in Massachusetts will be found the same deal on the ridges of the Hoosac Range. Same back room politics.

  3. “Opponents of pipeline construction say construction of new delivery systems — both instate and interstate — will lock Vermont into fossil-fuel heat for the rest of the century, and inhibit the state’s ability to reach its goal of 90 percent total renewable energy by 2050.”

    Weelllll now, ain’t that just a shame. VT would have available a more reliable energy source at reasonable rates, there’d perhaps be fewer fields of mirrors and mountain top egg beaters to have to look at and listen to but the greenies and their profiteer cronies would be unhappy. boo hoo sniff

    But am I being prematurely optimistic? At least the idjits will be spending time conjuring ways to quash, diverting them some from their other mischief.

    • Amazing, isn’t it? There’s nothing quite like having NOTHING in place if you ever find yourself needing a back-up system. Let’s not build it, because we might use it. And forget nuclear power – that just sounds icky, and the pony-tailed crowd wouldn’t like it.

      Why haven’t they made it mandatory that all marijuana grow systems must use renewable energy?

  4. The Democrats in Vermont are like ostriches with their heads in the sand and in fact they’re also obstructionists.

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