ADDISON COUNTY — Vermont Gas Systems today, Oct. 3, announced plans to advance its proposed “Phase II” pipeline segment from Middlebury to the International Paper Co. in Ticonderoga, N.Y. Officials from Vermont Gas anticipate filing a formal petition with the Vermont Public Service Board around Nov. 19.
In anticipation of its filing, Vermont Gas submitted advance notice to the planning commissions and selectboards of communities in which the project will be located. The letter, which serves as early notice of plans to proceed, is a step required by the state’s regulatory process. The filing outlines details of Phase II of the Addison Natural Gas Project that would flow under portions of the towns of Middlebury, Cornwall, Shoreham and Lake Champlain, before arriving at the International Paper (IP) mill in Ticonderoga.
Phase II would have to follow a Phase I project already being reviewed by the Public Service Board. That project — blasted by a majority of participants at a Sept. 10 PSB hearing in Middlebury — calls for a natural gas pipeline to be constructed from Colchester to Middlebury, beginning with the town’s Exchange Street (industrial park) area next year.
The second phase of the project would establish the infrastructure to eventually bring natural gas service to Rutland — sooner than otherwise possible, company officials say — by leveraging revenues from IP. The paper company has agreed to underwrite the costs of Phase II, a project that could save IP millions of dollars in annual fuel oil expenses.
But the project has been sharply criticized by many Cornwall and Shoreham landowners and officials who have objected to the notion of a pipeline carrying a volatile gas bisecting their communities largely for the benefit of one large corporate user. Vermont Gas has said it would provide connections to select homeowners and businesses in the most densely populated pockets through which the pipeline would traverse.
Environmental groups have also assailed both phases of the project, citing the likelihood of the pipeline carrying gas released through hydraulic fracturing.
Don Gilbert, president and CEO of Vermont Gas, focused on what he considered the benefits of the project in a company press release announcing the Phase II application plans.
“Natural gas has played a key role in the economic opportunities and environmental improvements in Chittenden and Franklin counties, and it is expected to bring $200 million in energy savings to Addison County communities over the next 20 years, while reducing emissions by 300,000 tons,” Gilbert said in the press release. “These economic and environmental benefits continue to grow significantly if natural gas service is extended to Rutland. That is why many Addison and Rutland county residents, employers and community organizations have expressed their support for natural gas and the economic and environmental benefits to their communities.”
The Oct. 3 letter to stakeholders describes the project and provides information on the regulatory process and the anticipated timeline.
The letter was sent to all regional planning commissions and municipal legislative bodies in accordance with rules governing the regulatory process, according to Vermont Gas spokesman Steve Wark. The letter also describes the rights of the local and regional planning commissions to comment on the project plans and to participate in the Public Service Board process.
For more information about the Addison Natural Gas Project, visit www.addisonnaturalgas.com