MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — More than 200 people, including a small marching band, converged Monday on the Vermont Statehouse to protest the Vermont Gas Systems pipeline being built to serve the western part of the state.
The rally organized by the group Rising Tide Vermont featured 10-foot-tall puppets, people on stilts and banners saying "System Change, Not Climate Change."
"We are marching to demand the Shumlin administration ban new fossil fuel infrastructure and stop the fracked gas pipeline," said Rising Tide spokesman Jonathan Shapiro.
Shapiro said the group was not convinced the pipeline was a good idea by arguments from its supporters that, since natural gas is cleaner-burning than the heating oil commonly used now along the pipeline's route, the project actually could reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Protesters have grown more vocal in the months since the Public Service Board's December decision approving phase 1 of the project, which will send gas from northwestern Vermont south to Middlebury. The company also is planning phase 2 west to Ticonderoga, N.Y., and phase 3 farther south to Rutland.
The group said it also wanted to protest budget cuts requested by the Shumlin administration later Monday, some of which would affect human services programs. Shapiro said the human services cuts and rate increases needed to pay for the pipeline project would be a double-whammy for low-income Vermont Gas customers.
The event included a confrontation with police who told the protesters they weren't allowed to enter the Statehouse with musical instruments and signs. The group later left the Statehouse grounds and blocked State Street, one of Montpelier's two main thoroughfares, for a time.
Montpelier Police Sgt. William Jennings said police detoured traffic around the blockage and no arrests were made.