I regret not being able to join my fellow defenders of the Lowell ridgeline at their last open house. Even though I am always forced to witness the devastation of the once-thriving ridgetop, I always find myself in good company at these gatherings.
In the debate over the GMP/CVPS merger, much is being said about the $21 million that ratepayers were forced to lend CVPS to keep it from going bankrupt. It should be no surprise that GMP and its parent company GAZ METRO, with the blessing of the Governor and the Department of Public Service, have no intention of giving ratepayers any return on their “loan.” This piece of the political puzzle, though more visible than other parts, may not be the worst part of it. Perhaps even more troubling in this proposed merger is the fact that GMP will supply and control 75 percent of Vermont’s electricity needs. The way GMP is handling the CVPS ratepayers’ payback should be an indication of how they will treat ratepayers in the future.
In the upcoming trial of the six “trespassing protesters,” the State wants the judge to block the defense’s attempt to use GMP’s disputed property claim as part of its defense. A settlement of this land dispute could be very problematic for GMP. GMP could be viewed as the encroacher on the very land where the protesters were arrested. GMP could not buy its way out of this problem. No amount of money will repair the damage done to the Nelson property or the rest of the Lowell ridgeline.
The Public Service Board, during its deliberations over the Certificate of Public Good, indicated that GMP should settle this dispute before construction began. This issue should have been settled a long time ago. Judge Maley chose to sit on it. If the current judge rejects the argument that the protesters were on contested property at the time of their arrest, who knows when it will come up again.
It should be noted that bringing this property dispute to the forefront was one of the main intents of the protest in the first place. As the destruction continues on the Lowell ridgeline, environmental protections, personal property rights and civil liberties are also being trampled into the ground.
Newport Center, Vt.
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