#7: Part of the Solution (Part 2)

What would you do for the issue you care about the most? Make a website and a documentary? That’s why you’re here. Get arrested? Maybe not so much, but there are people that would. Live alone for two weeks on trespassed property during a snowy Vermont April—in a tree? What issue is so important for somebody to do that?

The Addison Natural Gas Project: a pipeline crossing Vermont which will carry natural gas to be used as fuel for businesses and homes. It has been disputed locally and statewide for years, but Vermont Gas Systems is currently completing the pipeline. You have probably heard it. You may have even seen signs in your hometown making bold claims such as “Stop the Fracked Gas Pipeline”. But if you’re like I was just one month ago, you likely don’t know much about the issue at all.

Stage 1 of the pipeline will run from Colchester to Middlebury, and Stage 2 will go from Middlebury to Rutland. It will distribute natural gas, a fossil fuel that produces fewer emissions than coal, oil, and propane. Vermont Gas Systems, or VGS, says that it will save the community $173 million over the next 20 years. Climate advocacy groups like Rising Tide Vermont and VPIRG, however, say that natural gas isn’t actually a clean form of energy, especially when it has been obtained through the environmentally detrimental process of “fracking”. They claim that while natural gas may be an improvement from the energy we have now, it still isn’t a good long-term solution for Vermont.

So why do people care so much about one big pipe? It boils down to two major issues: the environment and public involvement. And these two largest conflicts are also the reasons that this pipeline is so important. They are the two greater themes that transcend one big pipe and translate into one big world.

First of all, the pipeline presents environmental concerns and questions. Is natural gas a sustainable and environmentally friendly source of fuel? Does the process of fracking that gas harm the environment enough that we shouldn’t do it? Does the pipeline preserve Vermont’s ecosystems? Many people feel that it could define the future of both Vermont’s environment and Vermont’s energy.

Secondly, the dispute has raised the question of public opinion. Organizations and communities have come together to protest the pipeline, but they are concerned that their voices haven’t been heard. Vermont’s Public Service Board has issued a Certificate of Public Good to VGS and town select boards have approved construction, so representatives of the people have gotten a say. But protesters believe there is a gap between the public and their representatives, and that the government hasn’t been listening.

The question is this: how much should they listen? To what extent should the pipeline be regulated by public opinion, and where do we have to compromise? In a piece on VPR, Bill Schubart said, “If consensus meant that all parties had to agree before any action was taken, we’d never see progress.” The truth is that it will be nearly impossible to reach full consensus on the pipeline. Not every town can have their own regulations; not every person can make the decision on their own. But we can narrow the gap between the people and the government, so that the government is truly reflecting individual opinions. I believe that communication and compromise are necessary, and I want to figure out how to make them happen.

The natural gas pipeline demonstrates the intersection between public involvement and protecting the environment, an intersection that is critical in protecting Earth. Finding the best energy solution, preserving our ecosystems, and making sure the people have a say are steps we have to take. The Addison Natural Gas Project may be just one big pipe in one small state, but Vermont is part of the world and the pipeline is one of many. Just look at the North Dakota Access Pipeline, the Keystone XL Pipeline. The story is the same. I want to help change it.

I am pursuing this issue because I am passionate about people and the environment. I believe that the human race must protect the Earth. We can start in Vermont. Like Taylor Ricketts said, “Climate change is the biggest problem we face, maybe the biggest problem we’ve ever faced. But there’s no silver bullet to fix it. It’s gonna be a million individual solutions from all over the place.” By evaluating the pipeline with me, you can be part of the solution.

My Slides


Featured Image by Shannon Peters

Greta Hardy-Mittell

8 Responses to “#7: Part of the Solution (Part 2)

  • Greta,

    First, having read your previous blog posts, I’m already kind of hooked on this topic. It’s such an interesting local case study on how complicated and messy it can be to try and balance environmental and economic concerns. For me, the complexity and the messiness of the issue is the compelling piece. I’m not as interested in choosing sides or picking a winner here as much as understanding the process and learning from it. My impression in reading your pitch is that, in the end, you tend to sympathize more with those opposing the pipeline. (No problem there, I’m on that side as well.) However, for the purposes of this project do you want to look at the issue through that lens, or stay more neutral in presenting the story, but then use it to instruct those fighting climate change on how better to fight battles going forward. In other words, tell the story in a neutral tone and then lay out lessons learned that can be applied (hopefully, with more success) in the future, like when the final stage to Rutland gets underway. For me, it would be compelling to hear a dispassionate retelling of the story and then have some takeaways that could be useful for future conflicts between economics and the environment and between governmental processes and public opinion.

    A couple other notes on your pitch; first, wasn’t there someone who stayed in a tree for a few weeks in order to prevent pipeline construction. If so, that might make for a compelling vignette to start off your pitch. Also, I think your section on public opinion lacks some details. As I understand it, Vermont Gas sought and got approval from state government, the Public Service Board, and local town selectboards to build the pipeline. That might lead one to conclude that through their representatives, the people did have a say, but that the decisions made by representatives are not approved of by everyone. This ties back to the messiness that, for me, makes this story compelling. Did the process fail? Is it flawed? Do the protesters have a right to contest the decisions?

    It’s a lot of questions for you, but that’s a good thing. It means you have a compelling story that you’ve got me interested in learning more about.

    Erik

    • Erik,

      THANK YOU for this detailed response! I’m glad you’re hooked and I hope other people are too (I certainly am).

      Yes, I am leaning towards the side opposed to the pipeline, but I definitely want to present an objective stance of both sides like you said! I think it’s so important to present a fair view of both sides before stating your opinion, especially as someone who as grown up with parents who do really spin the stories they tell me. Even though I agree with them on pretty much every political or social issue, I would have preferred to get all the facts and then come to those opinions on my own. That’s my goal here, and I’ll revise my pitch accordingly!

      Thanks for your other suggestions, too. I do think I can make my pitch more detailed, especially on the public opinion section. Do you think I can do that while still keeping my pitch concise and interesting? That’s another broader question about the pitch I have: is it too long/too short/just right, and is it compelling enough? i.e. would you be hooked if you hadn’t read the other posts?

      Greta

      • Greta,

        If you incorporate some of the information that both Shel and I shared with you, that should make the sections on public opinion and the Vermont Gas perspective more detailed and equivalent to what you already have from the perspective of those opposed. It shouldn’t add a lot more to the length because I imagine you would be replacing or revising some sections.

        I also think the length is about right, though it’s a bit hard to judge a pitch by reading it on the screen. What I would say is if you have a lot of slides that need explanation it may run a bit long. As long as the slides are images or bullet points that reinforce your pitch, you should be in good shape. If you are stopping to explain slides, it will likely be too long.

        Erik

  • Shel Sax
    4 years ago

    Hi Greta,
    I, too, very much like the way that you’ve framed your pitch. I think you bring up several issues of import. The one that came to my mind is the apparent lack of a voice of local communities in the pipeline process – it being determined more at the state and state agency level.
    Here’s a link to ‘Regulation of Interstate and Intrastate Gas and Hazardous Liquids’ from the Conference on State Legislatures:

    (http://www.ncsl.org/research/energy/state-gas-pipelines-federal-and-state-responsibili.aspx).

    One of the dilemmas here is how to give the local citizenry a voice and at the same time develop a state-wide (or even country-wide) framework to ensure safety, public health and the delivery of liquid natural gas. If every town and locality could come up with their own guidelines and regulations, it would likely be a patchwork of incoherent regulations and each town would have effective veto power over any project. So, there is an interesting trade-off here.

    As for the pipeline itself, it is easy to say I want to protect the earth and am against the pipeline. People need energy and in northern climes, it needs to be reliable, easily stored and accessible. Many of the renewables (hydro, wind, solar) have storage and delivery issues, at least until better technology improves batteries and storage technologies. So, how do we supply needed energy with the least environmental damage? I think that’s something you’ll need to be able to answer to folks arguing in favor of the pipeline.

    Here’s a useful appendix to the Dept. of Energy’s Natural Gas Infrastructure report.
    http://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2015/06/f22/Appendix%20B-%20Natural%20Gas_1.pdf
    That provides a lot of summary information about natural gas, pipelines and their role in meeting the energy needs of the country. Of particular relevance to your work:

    “Climate and Environmental Implications. The growth in gas-fired power generation can reduce carbon dioxide and criteria pollutant emissions from power generation. Methane emissions contributed to roughly 10 percent of gross greenhouse gas emissions (on a carbon dioxide-equivalent basis) from U.S. anthropogenic Appendix B: Natural Gas Page | 2 sources; nearly one-quarter of which (or 2.5 percent of total U.S. carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions) were emitted by natural gas systems.a More than two-thirds of those natural gas-related emissions of methane emissions from natural gas systems are from natural gas transmission, storage, processing, and distribution”

    In any case, I’m impressed with the way that you started from a very dispersed set of ideas for a project and then honed in on the pipeline, and the energy and thoughtfulness with which you’re approaching the issue. Good luck with your pitch!
    Shel

  • Shel,

    You bring up a fantastic point with the regulations and protocols, one that I hadn’t thought of enough. It’s true that we need a concrete and constant way of approving projects such as pipelines, and I’ve enjoyed looking through the documents you sent in order to see what those currently are. I guess I need to define what I mean by “public involvement” and HOW I really hope the people get a voice. It’s not as simple as I had thought, and not as one-sided. In fact, I often side the opposite way when it comes to renewable energy. All the issues about people wanting to control whether they get solar panels or wind in their area make me annoyed, because I have a narrow lens of seeing renewable energy as inherently good, so I think it should go up. But really, it’s very similar to the pipeline, and some people see the pipeline the way I see solar: it has an environmental benefit AND an economic benefit, so of course it should go up, no matter what other people say. Now I see that it’s not so concrete. Conversely, some people see solar the way I see the pipeline: it has some benefits, but overall it’s going to involve a lot of construction and degrade the natural environment and private land, so it should be prevented. So why am I/why are others in favor of one but not the other? WOW this is complicated and fascinating.

    Anyways, maybe what I want in terms of change in public voice (and what the non-profits want? I don’t know) is not for the every single town to have its own system, but for the state government and select boards to reflect their/the people’s opinion. How do we make that happen? I don’t really know, so that’s a question to drive me.

    And that ties into your point about finding the best energy solution. Not only do these all have environmental downsides (although I personally believe 100% that wind and solar are the best sources of energy for our future, not quite so much with hydro), they all are also opposed by the public in some form. I just remembered something one of my parents said way back in the initial interviews: no matter what source of energy anybody comes up with, somebody will be opposed to it. So what is best environmentally, and what is best popularly? And where is the intersection between the two/how much does one determine the other?

    Thank you for inspiring all this higher thinking, and reading my responses which have increasingly become mini blog posts! Actually, if you do read this one, would you mind telling me which areas of my thinking you think have promise and/or should be included in my pitch? Thanks again!

    Greta

  • Greta,
    I feel like I had the same problem as you! I was sitting down trying to write and nothing came, especially for my slides I had/having trouble to find pictures to put in it. I look at your slide show and I really liked how it was laid out. The reason why was because it had lists and also some pictures. I had not thought of putting in lists, in my slide show! One idea I have is maybe adding a few more pictures. I know (at least for my topic) it is really hard to find pictures for it. Though, if you find any interesting ones I think you should consider putting them in.

    As far as your pitch, it was very good! I think that even though you had trouble you ended up making a clear pitch. Your topic is different from mine, your is like a debate. So, I can see how it would be hard to try to persuade people to join you. I think that you have done a good job. For your topic I think you just need to get people curious about it. So far what you have is really good, I think.
    I was wondering if you have decided witch side you are on for this topic? Or are u just looking into this topic and finding more information about this topic?
    I am excited to hear your pitch!
    Petra

    • Petra,
      Thanks for the advice!
      I think I am on the side against the pipeline, but actually, I’m working on having that NOT influence my pitch and my project, at least the beginning of it. I want to present an objective view that lays out all of the perspectives, and then say what action I think we should take from there.
      I’m excited to see you tomorrow!
      Greta

  • Shel Sax
    4 years ago

    Hi again Greta,
    I’m going to leave it to you to decide the points of your pipeline analysis and argument that you want to emphasize in the pitch. I would like to offer a couple of different ways of thinking about it though.
    First, resources. Here are a couple of links that you may find useful.

    How to create an elevator pitch (business oriented but you’ll get the main suggestions):
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/chicceo/2013/02/05/how-to-create-an-elevator-pitch/#7129e93072a3

    Creating your elevator pitch:
    https://campuspress.yale.edu/cnspy/2016/05/25/creating-your-elevator-pitch/

    And some tips on effective PowerPoint presentation:
    Creating an effective PowerPoint presentation:
    http://mason.gmu.edu/~montecin/powerpoint.html

    Designing Effective PowerPoint presentation, a quick guide:
    https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/686/01/

    As for the pitch itself, ask yourself what are the most important 3 things that you want your audience to understand. What points will you emphasize in your argument to convince them (be prepared to answer questions on counter-arguments). What do you want them to think about after they’ve left the room.

    Another way to think of it might be as a short music recital. What mood do you want to strike? What’s the rhythm and pace of your presentation? Does your presentation build to emphasize your theme? Does it come to a satisfying conclusion?

    Hope this is of some help. – Shel

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