A New York economic development group is urging Vermont officials to support Vermont Gas Systems’ natural gas pipeline expansion to the International Paper mill in Ticonderoga, N.Y.
The North Country Regional Economic Development Council last week passed a resolution encouraging Vermont planners to approve the second phase of a proposed pipeline expansion because it would cut heating costs and bring cleaner fuel to the plant. The town of Ticonderoga has also approved the pipeline.
The Addison County Regional Planning Commission will decide whether to approve Vermont Gas’ pipeline expansion from Middlebury to New York on Wednesday. The commission has previously backed the company’s proposal to build phase one, a 41-mile, $86 million pipeline to connect Colchester to Middlebury.
The company has said the project would bring natural gas to Rutland 15 years sooner if the pipeline goes to Ticonderoga. The paper mill will contribute $45 million toward the project – money the company says would otherwise come from Vermont customers.
Environmental groups oppose the expansion plan because Vermont Gas obtains some of its supply from the process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which is considered more damaging to the environment than other sourcing means. Vermont was the first state in the nation to ban the process of fracking, though there are no developed wells in the state.
Gov. Peter Shumlin supports the pipeline expansion. Rising Tide Vermont, an environmental group opposing the project, has planned a rally at the Statehouse on Wednesday to urge the governor to change his position. The rally will begin at 4:30 p.m.
Several landowners along the pipeline route still have not reached land agreements with the company. The Department of Public Service, which represents ratepayers, has asked Vermont Gas to “restart” negotiations with landowners with their own in-house land agents after several Monkton landowners were shocked to receive letters threatening to seize the property through eminent domain.
Jane Palmer, a Monkton resident who has been coordinating the town’s opposition to the pipeline after receiving an eminent domain letter, sent a letter to the governor Tuesday urging him to change his position on the issue.
“We all know there will never be 100% consensus … but the people in Addison County have spoken. You just don’t seem to be listening,” the letter states.
The Vermont Public Service Board last year approved the company’s first phase of the pipeline extension. The second phase plan is pending before the board and an environmental group has asked the board to dismiss the case because they say it lacks jurisdiction over interstate projects.
The towns of Cornwall and Shoreham, which are located in the path of the second phase of the project, oppose the pipeline expansion plan. The Cornwall selectboard has urged the regional planning commission to oppose the pipeline because the project does not comply with the region’s energy plan, the selectboard says.