NEW HAVEN — Vermont State Police on Tuesday cited 12 people — including a member of the local clergy and a Middlebury town official — with unlawful trespass after they stood in the way of construction on a New Haven segment of the Addison County natural gas pipeline.
Organizers of the natural gas pipeline blockade said they took the action to show solidarity with efforts by Native Americans and allies in North and South Dakota who are trying to block construction of an oil pipeline there.
“The Dakota Access Pipeline would threaten the drinking water of over 8 million people as well as destroy land and sacred sites across” lands populated by the Lakota tribe, according to a release from a group called Rising Tide Vermont.
The Dakota Access Pipeline was in the news last week when a judge said construction could proceed and then the Obama Administration stopped building while further review of the project took place.
Those arrested in New Haven on Tuesday included the Rev. Barnaby Feder, 66, leader of the Champlain Valley Unitarian Universalist Society in Middlebury; and Jason Kaye, 33, chairman of the town of Middlebury’s energy committee.
Also cited for unlawful trespass were David Przepioski, 57, of Craftsbury; Nathan Palmer, 60, of Monkton; William Bennington, 38, of Plainfield (who was also cited for resisting arrest); Lisa Barrett, 71, of Huntington; June Daubner, 85, of Bristol; Alice Evans, 77, of Waitsfield; Barbara Miles, 73, of Bristol; Maeve McBride, 40, of South Burlington; Karen Bixler, 74, of Bethel; and Rodney Munroe, 61, of Chittenden.
The 12 individuals were among a group of 50 who entered property at 716 Hunt Road at a little after 9 a.m. Tuesday under direction of Rising Tide Vermont. There, the protesters surrounded excavating equipment related to the Vermont Gas Systems pipeline project, which will began construction last year and is due to be completed in 2017. Contractors working on the site left when the protesters arrived.
The protesters reportedly interfered with a roadway that Vermont Gas had built to allow the property owner’s cattle access to feed, according to VSP Det. Trooper Michael Notte.
When the property owner asked that the protesters be removed from his property, VSP gave them 30 minutes in which to leave or face police arrest, according to Notte. Twelve of the protesters elected to remain on site beyond the deadline and were thus cited, according to police.
The protestors delayed work on the pipeline for around three-and-a-half hours, according to police.
Kaye had protested the pipeline by locking himself to a piece of heavy equipment in Middlebury on July 29 to slow construction of the pipeline being laid from Colchester to Middlebury and Vergennes.
Feder provided the following comments about his reasons for participating in Tuesday’s protest:
“In my view, the Vermont Gas pipeline project dangles the prospect of short-term financial benefits for energy users, the illusion of energy security, and some debatable advantages over other hydrocarbon energy sources in front of Vermonters,” he said in his written response. “All it asks in return was our willingness to continue kidding ourselves about the severity of the dangers posed by climate change or, for those who are aware, to give up hope of making a difference. A similar soul-numbing bargain is being demanded of Americans by the Dakota oil pipeline, with the added obvious injustice of trampling on the rights and concerns expressed by Native Americans of the Lakota tribe.”
Feder noted the Rev. Peter Morales, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, recently called on UUs everywhere to join local protests in support of the Lakota.
“I did so, not in the belief getting arrested for criminal trespass at the construction site in New Haven would stop either pipeline, but because I have never seen social justice and environmental wisdom blossom in the long run without the willingness of far-sighted people to faithfully plant seeds of solidarity at times when it was inconvenient, unpopular or even dangerous,” he said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]