Natural Gas opponents rude bullies

To the Editor:

Vermont prides itself on polite discourse and, generally, we have great respect for each other and the processes we use to resolve difficult issues like utility projects. We recognize that there has to be an objective way to determine what efforts are in the best economic and environmental interest of our state -- a way to separate the central facts from the passion of the extremes.

Unfortunately, with most projects there is a group of very vocal opponents, who are inflexible, even fanatical, in their views and for whom no amount of fairness or fact will be persuasive.

For this vocal minority -- and they are a tiny fraction of the general population -- if you don't share their extreme views you are no longer a neighbor with a different opinion, you are the enemy. That's not just unfortunate, it's also uncivil and inconsistent with their ultimate objectives.

As the discussion of delivering natural gas service to Rutland County moves forward -- a more affordable and cleaner option that has existed in Chittenden County for nearly 50 years -- we've seen this behavior repeat itself. Most recently, we've seen angry and disrespectful opponents -- mostly from VPIRG and Rising Tide -- scold supporters as well as the neutral Public Service Board that regulates utilities and weighs the facts. They are also following through on threatened "uncivil" disobedience by trespassing and defacing private property at a Vermont Gas facility in South Burlington. Vermonters deserve rigorous debate without the vandalism and threat of violence.

The behavior of opponents is unfortunate and inconsistent with the value Vermonters place on civil and respectful dialogue. If Vermonters want to learn more about the proposal to expand natural gas service in Addison and Rutland counties -- or if they want to express their support for that project -- they shouldn't be bullied, intimidated or threatened by opponents. That's not the Vermont way.

Bradford Broyles

Mendon, Vt.

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