January 31, 2000 (reprinted August 17, 2001)
by Annette Smith (Executive Director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, Inc.)

The following piece was published in the Bennington Banner on December 4, 1999, and Burlington Free Press on January 10, 2000. The photo about which the piece was written was no longer on Governor Howard Dean's web page as of January 31, 2000.

Recently I came across an excellent article about the current status of Merchant Power Plants in an industry publication, Power Magazine. Friends suggested I send it to the governor so he could broaden his perspective about the natural gas power plants proposed for southwestern Vermont, and wondered if the governor, Howard Dean, had an e-mail address since thearticle was on-line.

So I looked at the governor's web page, his virtual office. As I scrolled down the page, an exquisite photograph of Vermont came into view.

The dairy farm in the foreground, church and village in the middle, a low cloud revealing tended fields beneath a wooded hillside in the background. The caption reads "Time stands still might even forget when it's time to go home." At the bottom it says "VERMONT".

It didn't take me long to recognize the setting: Danby Four Corners, just a few miles from where I live. There's the church, without a steeple, and next to it is the quonset hut for kids to roller skate. There's the horseback riding stable, and the Danby Four Corners Store, which has the best selection of work boots around, and just about everything else, too, including Martin guitars.

A mile or so behind the photographer, out of the picture, is the proposed natural gas pipeline route through Danby, following a power line so overgrown with underbrush even I have to look closely to find it. The 100-foot clear-cut they propose would be highly visible.

Just past the forested hillside shown at the top of the picture is the acreage owned by OMYA, a private Swiss mining company that plans to clear-cut the trees, strip back the soil and uncover the rich deposit of calcium carbonate. Over the next few decades, OMYA intends to dig a big hole in the hillside shown on the governor's web page.

Rumors about OMYA's intentions to start an open pit strip mining operation have been circulating in the valley for years. They have been buying up the mountainside for decades. I heard they might pave my winding dirt road and truck the calcium carbonate out that way, or go north through Tinmouth, or run slurry in a pipeline down to Route 7 and put it on rail cars.

No, time is not standing still in this photograph of the perfect Vermont. The dairy farm in the foreground is for sale. Our privacy has been invaded by the "progress" of a natural gas pipeline. Our peace and quiet could be shattered by years of blasting and trucking because global economic development favors the exploitation of our natural resources for the benefit of an international, multi-billion dollar company over the lives of the people who live here.

There is a pipeline route drawn on my border, on a remote hillside above my spring water supply, and the possibility that my other border will become a truck route. A few weeks ago I was discussing this situation with a wise elder and asked him what he thought I should do. He said, "I know you don't want to hear this, but maybe you need to relocate."

"You might even forget when it's time to go home," says the governor's web page. I wonder if the governor knows what picture is on his web page. It is my home.

But it's your home too, if you love Vermont. What picture do you want to see for the future of Vermont?

Copyright © 2001 by Vermonters for a Clean Environment, Inc.
789 Baker Brook Road, Danby, VT 05739
(802) 446-2094 ||