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New Haven board approves Vermont Green Line

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Posted on April 14, 2016 |
By Gaen Murphree



NEW HAVEN — After a four-hour emergency meeting Tuesday night, the New Haven selectboard ratified a set of terms that could pave the way for building a big electric power converter station in town and pour millions of dollars into municipal coffers.

“We’re 99.5 percent there, maybe 99.9 percent there,” said Selectman Steve Dupoise, a member of the team negotiating with developers of the Vermont Green Line (VGL), which would bring wind and hydro power from upstate New York into the New England grid at the VELCO substation in New Haven.

“Many people have worked many hours and very hard at getting us to where we are,” he added.

According to Dupoise, the term sheet between New Haven and VGL representatives was finalized Tuesday before the selectboard meeting. The selectboard discussed that proposal, in executive session, from 7 to 11 p.m. and voted in favor, with only minor changes.

Selectboard Chair Kathy Barrett said she, Dupoise and John Roleau voted in favor of the proposal, Doug Tolles voted against it, and Jim Walsh abstained.

Directly after the late-night meeting, Dupoise contacted VGL representative Joe Rossignoli and forwarded him the just-ratified term sheet.

By 4 p.m. Wednesday, the official New Haven-VGL Term Sheet had been ratified by both parties and the selectboard met again, signed deal in hand.

Next steps in the seven-month-long negotiation saga?

“We have a vote and the outcome of the vote is up to the taxpayers,” said Dupoise.

At its Wednesday afternoon meeting, the selectboard set the date for the townwide Australian ballot vote on the project for Tuesday, May 24. Barrett said the board will need to meet again to approve the official warning.

Additionally the selectboard scheduled three informational meetings to precede the vote: the first, Saturday, April 23, at 1 p.m.; the second Tuesday, May 10, at 6:30 p.m.; the third the night before the vote, Monday, May 23, at 6:30 p.m.

All informational meetings will be at the New Haven Town Hall.

Highlights of the 13-page agreement include:

•  Payments of $1.4 million per year to the town for 40 years, with yearly 1 percent adjustments for inflation.

•  $4 million to build a new fire station and a new town garage.

•  Acceptable sound levels for the project set at “World Health Organization guidelines of 40 dBa broadband/35 dBa tonal at the exterior of any residence.”

•  A VGL Compensation Fund for designated abutters, with an initial amount of $1 million (see attachment four of the term sheet to see which specific properties are included).

“I think our negotiation team has done a fantastic job,” Barrett said. “There’s been give and take on both sides, and I think we have a very good outline of what we want.”

CONCERNS RAISED

Residents at New Haven’s annual town meeting on Feb. 29 spoke forcefully through a nonbinding vote that they wanted the decision on the VGL converter station to go to Australian ballot. Concerns have been raised about how the converter satiation will affect the New Haven landscape visually, and how much noise it will produce.

Rossignoli pledged that VGL would abide by the outcome of the town vote, that the VGL partnership would only approach the Public Service Board for its approval of the plan if New Haven supported the converter station. But he also indicated that as far as VGL was concerned the clock was ticking and if New Haven delayed too long, the VGL partnership would look elsewhere.

Soon thereafter, Middlebury made a bid to host the converter station, and the Middlebury-VGL negotiations have continued in parallel to the ones in New Haven.

Middlebury Director of Business Development Jamie Gaucher on Wednesday morning had not given up on the idea of his town hosting the converter station.

“I remain convinced that the Middlebury Industrial Park would be a great location for an industrial project like the suggested VGL converter station, and Middlebury remains very interested in working with the VGL team around options,” he said.

New Haven and representatives for the Vermont Green Line have been in negotiation since August 2015.

The VGL is a project of energy developer Anbaric Transmission and international energy company National Grid. The partnership wants to run 60 miles of underground high-voltage direct-current cable from upstate New York, under Lake Champlain, and then convert it back to AC power and plug into the electrical grid at the VELCO substation in New Haven. The power would be sold to Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

As described by VGL representatives, the converter station requires a site of roughly four to five acres and would be roughly the size of a football field and five stories high. Developers have estimated the value of the converter station at between $100 million to $150 million. The entire VGL project itself is estimated to cost roughly $650 million.

“I think we negotiated a very good deal, certainly the best thing that will ever probably happen to New Haven in my lifetime and maybe beyond,” said Dupoise. “That being said, as in any negotiations, there is give and take. Joe has people he has to answer to, including stockholders and whatever else, to negotiate the best possible deal that they can get. We have an obligation to the town to make the best possible deal we could get for the town.”

To read the 13-page term sheet in its entirety, see the attachment below. For more information about the Vermont Green Line, go to newhavenvt.com and to vermontgreenline.com.

Reporter Gaen Murphree is at [email protected]

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