HINESBURG -- An activist group claimed responsibility Saturday for a protest at the home of the Vermont Gas Systems president, saying it wanted to highlight the threat of eminent domain over the construction of a gas pipeline extension.
In an email to Vermont media outlets, Green Mountain EarthFirst claimed they "temporarily seized" the property of Vermont Gas President Don Gilbert on Friday night and served a "people’s eminent domain notice."
Plans by Vermont Gas to extend a natural gas line from Burlington south to Middlebury and eventually to Rutland has sparked impassioned protests by some. A number of landowners along the line of the pipeline have refused to allow easements. The company is offering mediation and has said it hopes to avoid the use of eminent domain.
Hinesburg police Chief Frank Koss said about two dozen people entered Gilbert’s property after dark Friday, including some who went onto the porch. He said they left the property after police arrived. They refused to identify themselves, but police recorded the license plate numbers of the vehicles that carried the protesters.
Koss said he felt the protesters crossed the line.
"To me, this confrontation with him on his own property at night, that’s not freedom of speech," Koss said.
Vermont Gas spokesman Steve Wark said the protest at Gilbert’s home was a continuation of what he calls extreme behavior over the last several months.
"Members of these groups continue to show they cannot be trusted to communicate their viewpoints peacefully, honestly or respectfully," Wark said. "It’s unfortunate that they use extreme and disrespectful tactics to bully those who do not share their point of view.
Green Mountain Earthfirst said it does not support construction of any fossil fuel infrastructure.