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VT Law School Students Urge Scrutiny of Controversial Natural Gas Pipeline Proposal

April 28, 2011

SOUTH ROYALTON, VT -- Vermont Law School's Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic (ENRLC) is urging federal authorities to scrutinize a controversial proposed natural gas pipeline in ecologically sensitive areas across Puerto RicImage of Puero Rico rainforesto.

The ENRLC is serving as co-counsel in this matter to the Environmental Law Clinics at the Inter American University School of Law and the University of Puerto Rico School of Law, which represent a number of residents and organizations in Puerto Rico who are concerned about the potentially significant impacts of the Via Verde pipeline proposal.

A news conference was held this morning at the Inter American University School of Law in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

VLS officials available to comment are:
• Sheryl Dickey, an assistant professor and ENRLC staff attorney, at 802.831.1626 and sdickey@vermontlaw.edu
• ENRLC Fellow Michelle Walker at 802.831.1624 and mwalker@vermontlaw.edu
• Associate Professor Teresa Clemmer, director of the ENRLC, who attended the news conference, at tclemmer@vermontlaw.edu

The 92-mile pipeline would traverse the island of Puerto Rico, running through rainforests, natural reserves, coastal areas and other sensitive natural areas affecting dozens of endangered or threatened species in one of the most biologically diverse areas in the world. The total project area is about 1,672 acres of land and includes impacts to an estimated 369 acres of waters.

Image of hawksbill sea turtleStaff attorneys and student-clinicians at the three clinics submitted a comprehensive letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers asking the Corps to deny the dredge-and-fill permit for the project. The clinics said the applicant, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, has not submitted sufficient information for the Corps to conduct its review under the Clean Water Act. If the Power Authority submits the necessary information, the clinics want the Corps to formally consult the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service about the potentially significant impacts on federally listed endangered and threatened species, as required under the Endangered Species Act. The clinics also urged the Corps to prepare an environmental impact statement to fully inform government decision-makers and citizens about the potential consequences of the project, as required under the National Environmental Policy Act.

"The Corps must prepare an environmental impact statement given the high level of uncertainty regarding the totality of environmental impacts associated with the proposed pipeline and the public controversy surrounding the project," the clinics' letter said, adding that the Power Authority should consider other alternatives for reducing Puerto Rico's dependence on oil to produce electricity.

Read the clinics' comment letter to the Corps.

The final, signed version of the letter will soon be available on the ENRLC website.

CONTACT: John Cramer, Associate Director of Media Relations
Office: 802.831.1106, cell: 540.798.7099, jcramer@vermontlaw.edu

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