MONKTON — All hands are on deck to oppose the section of Vermont Gas Systems’s proposed $72 million pipeline that would cut through the Monkton area. More than 100 citizens have signed a petition in opposition, the Monkton selectboard followed suit with a letter to the Vermont Public Service Board last Tuesday, and at a Wednesday night meeting the Addison County Regional Planning Commission also signaled its reservations.
“It’s not opposition to the pipeline per se,” said Monkton selectboard chair John Phillips. “It’s opposition to part of (VGS) chosen road.”
VGS has proposed extending a natural gas pipeline from Chittenden County to Middlebury, with possible extension in the future to Rutland and the paper mill in Ticonderoga, N.Y. The company estimates that the project, if permitted and built out as planned by 2015, would serve up to 2,100 residential and business customers in Middlebury. It would involve the laying of approximately 42 miles of new 12-inch-diameter pipeline from Vermont Gas’s existing mainline off Route 2 in Colchester to Middlebury’s Exchange Street. That route goes right through Monkton
The parties involved in this dispute say they support the building of the structure itself — with conditions. Adam Lougee, executive director of the regional planning commission, couldn’t be reached for comment. But Monkton resident Jennifer Baker, one of the leading opponents, said those conditions discussed at the regional planning commission meeting included changing the pipeline’s proposed route through Monkton.
VGS is expected to file a petition to move forward with constructing the pipeline with the state’s utility regulator, the Public Service Board (PSB) this week. Its proposed route for the pipeline runs along Pond Road and Monkton Road. However, an earlier version of VGS’s plan had called for the pipeline to run along a utilities corridor owned by Vermont Electric Power Company, known as Velco.
The utilities corridor does cut behind some properties, but would not require that residential streets and front lawns be dug up, said Baker, who lives along the currently proposed corridor.
“If we have to choose between having (the pipeline) 500 feet behind the house or 30 feet in front, we’d go the back way,” Baker said.
She added that VGS’s last minute change of plan from routing the pipeline along the Velco corridor has upset residents and left some feeling “duped.”
“A lot of people don’t understand the ramifications,” Baker said, noting that some assumed the scale of the pipeline would be similar to the one installed in Hinesburg last summer. “This is different. This is like the I-89 of pipelines coming through here. It’s not meant (to run along) residential streets.”
On Dec. 11, the Monkton selectboard sent a letter to the PSB stating the town’s opposition to the pipeline route and outlining several requests to protect citizens’ wells and property. These requests included that the gas pipeline right of way be set back a minimum of 300 feet from habitable structures and registered wells, and that the pipeline be buried 48 inches below the current grade.
The letter also noted that the route down Monkton Road would disrupt work the town was doing with the Vermont Agency of Transportation to construct an amphibian crossing for endangered species of salamanders.
Baker said many in Monkton just want the whole situation solved. If VGS delays its filing and moves its pipeline back onto the Velco route, she believes the entire situation would be defused.
“We want (Vermont Gas) to make the whole thing go away so we don’t have to spend the next two years of our lives fighting it,” she said. “There’s this huge inflating bubble of opposition. They could pop it instantly, and we could all go back to our lives."