Man occupies tree to prevent pipeline work

MONKTON — Rising Tide activist Sam Jessup last Wednesday morning scaled a tree in Monkton in the path of the pipeline under construction in an effort to stop the building of the Addison Natural Gas Project.

Jessup, 31, a timber frame carpenter from Montpelier, scaled 60 feet up an evergreen and anchored his tree-sit platform to the hydraulic arm of a dynamite blasting rig that is part of ongoing construction for Vermont Gas Systems’ 41-mile pipeline from Colchester to Middlebury and Vergennes.

Reached by phone Thursday, 60 feet off the ground, Jessup explained his protest.

“I’m anchored to a piece of blasting equipment that’s being used to prepare the Vermont Gas pipeline easement for laying pipe this summer, and anchored to that equipment means that they can’t use it and they can’t go forward with construction,” he said. “The reason that that’s important is because the process for the construction of this pipeline has been pretty unaccountable to the public. And there’s been a lot of outcry around that.”

Jessup continued, “So we’ve come to a point where we have to put our bodies in the way of these machines in order to get it stopped. These pipelines are bad for local communities (and they) represent a kind of energy policy that is absolutely unsustainable, incorrect, immoral. And we’ve got to stop it.”

Jessup said he’s “planning to be here until they take me out of the tree.”

Vermont Gas received permits to build the pipeline several years ago, and the Public Service Board reaffirmed its decision on the pipeline just this past January.

Vermont Gas hopes to complete the $154 million pipeline by the end of the year. Pipeline workers have been seen at various locations throughout Addison County cutting brush and trees, digging trenches and running pipeline underground using a special horizontal drilling machine.

Jessup’s protest followed a similar action in April by Addie Herbert, who sat in a tree in Monkton along the construction path of the natural gas pipeline for two weeks. The Burlington resident was cited for criminal trespassing after she climbed down from the white pine, according to Rising Tide.

As of press time Friday, Jessup was still continuing his action.

Reporter Gaen Murphree is at gaenm@addisonindependent.com.

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