N.Y. officials ask Addison County planners to approve gas pipeline

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.

John Herrick

Comments

  1. Annette Smith :

    This editorial by Angelo Lynn of the Addison Independent from March is worth reading in the context of regional planning http://addisonindependent.com/?q=201403editorial-phase-ii-and-public-good.

    You have to wonder why we have regional planning commissions, when companies like Vermont Gas Systems come along with their already-made plans and expect everyone to agree with them, rather than working with planners who have knowledge of issues, mapping abilities, and representatives of each community who attend regular meetings.

    Corporations keep repeating the same mistakes and then wonder why there is opposition. Vermont Gas Systems is giving everyone a great example of how to do it wrong. Yet they do not learn from their mistakes and continue to bully rather than collaborate.

    But then VGS probably knows that a more collaborative process would further reveal the fraudulent and hypocritical energy policy where on the one hand we don’t have time to even talk about the issues around renewable energy because our hair is on fire with climate change and on the other hand we have to “drive” a natural gas pipeline to Rutland by way of International Paper in New York as quickly as possible. Insanity.

  2. Rebecca Foster :

    There’s something unseemly about New Yorkers clamoring for Vermont to construct a pipeline. Each time they do it, it lays bare just a little more the true intention of the project. The pipeline would build profit for the Canadian company Gaz Metro and the Tennessee-based multinational International Paper. Both are multi-billion-dollar enterprises. This is Vermont’s public good? Vermont is even contemplating enabling their profits at our expense? Will we protect our greatest assets or convert the heart of our agricultural land into an industrial corridor so that we can be just like…New Jersey? Think ahead, folks. Fossil fuels are fast becoming obsolete. IP should be looking toward cellulosic ethanol or some other inventive energy source from waste or renewable product. The Governor is concerned about addiction, he says. New Yorkers are like the addicts asking Vermont to not only supply them, not only become further addicted in the process, but while in a strung-out state losing the ability to plan for the future (by reducing fossil fuel use and using renewable energies). Naturally New Yorkers want this — it’s a short-term “fix” for their energy desires, and their only risk is the same one they impose on all of the planet’s people, the acceleration of climate change. Vermonters need to stay clean and think about their own future, not prostitute it for others’ profits.

    • Maren Vasatka :

      Rebecca always says it so eloquently and I couldn’t make her comments any better I can only add that I agree with everything she says. EVERYTHING!!

      I just hope others are listening to her.

    • Glenn Thompson :

      Rebecca Foster,

      “Fossil fuels are fast becoming obsolete.”

      Not if one is looking at raw data and projections! The world’s human population continues to grow and large countries like India and China continue to expand economically at a rapid pace!

      http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/fossil-fuel-use-continues-to-rise/

  3. Wayne Andrews :

    We are not in the Calvin Coolidge era where after the 28 flood he exclaimed “Vermonters can take care of their own” or something like that.
    Not only is today a multi-cultural world but each State in the Union has something unique to bring to the table. For one State to hold back at the expense of another is selfishness just like our Senators holding out to be the tie casting vote to see what they can get in return.
    So Ms. Smith, Vasatka and Foster try going back to your childhood and rethink what your parents and mentors taught you. It will be a better world if you try to work together.

    • Maren Vasatka :

      Wayne, While my parents did teach me to play well with others they also taught me to stand up for myself and not to be taken advantage of and it is that lesson I am reflecting on most here.

  4. Claire Broughton :

    Mr Andrews, are you a homeowner? If you are, you might feel much differently. Especially if they are coming through your property.

  5. Wayne Andrews :

    As indicated in many other posts about this topic I understand both sides and there needs to be compromise. BTW I own several homes over the years in many Vermont towns and I am appreciative to the utilities being nearby. Whats next? Objection to a wastewater treatment main going through your land to assist the neighbor?
    The reason being displayed here is just the reason eminent domain came into existence so a handful of sticks in the mud cannot halt progress and quite frankly the commentators here do not display middle of the row qualities.

    • Rebecca Foster :

      Nature does not compromise. Follow the science and you can see for yourself that climate change on our planet has begun. It is not a speculation for some far-off point in the future. It is here. http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/ar5/pr_wg2/140330_pr_wgII_spm_en.pdf, for example. Anyone is entitled to “not believe” in climate change, just as anyone is free to believe the world is flat, but that doesn’t make it so.

      Yes, I agree Mr. Andrews, all people on the planet should work together — work together to prevent the collapse of civilization. How one acts on being a good neighbor depends on how one defines the problem to start, and how broadly one defines a neighborhood. The folks in Alberta, whence comes Gaz Metro’s methane, are our neighbors, for the practical reason that what goes into the atmosphere there is part of our atmosphere, too.

      The problem as defined by me? I see a need to protect the future for my kids and all kids of the world; there is self-interest in that no different than the self-interest embedded in a desire to live, I accept that charge. By virtue of extending long-lasting fossil fuel infrastructure, this pipeline is a bad investment, making matters worse, not better, for the world. But what is enraging is that the beneficiaries of this pipeline would be almost exclusively two multi-billion-dollar companies. They would make more bundles while the world burns.

      Seems to me, as one wise Vermonter said at the meeting tonight, that these two profit-makers should be the good neighbors and listen to the people of Cornwall and Shoreham that voted against the pipeline. Since they are not wanted, they should politely leave.

      Or does neighborliness only work one way?

  6. Mary Martin :

    Let’s think about this for a moment. Why would Essex County Regional Economic Development Council of New York and the town of Ticonderoga, pass a resolution having to do with Addison County Regional Planning Commission of Vermont?

    Are they trying to be good neighbors and help us out with a decisions that would only benefit 2 businesses, Gaz Metro and International Paper. (Neither one in Vermont)

    This is just a bullying tactic. They are being pressured by International Paper to put the squeeze on us.

    This is not how good neighbors or good corporate citizens behave. They want to use us to fuel one of the largest polluters in our region. A paper mill that not that long ago wanted to burn tires to fuel their plant. A paper mill that has created a sludge bed of pollution in Lake Champlain. We have been victims of their crimes against us and the environment for far too long.

    They want to run a pipeline under the lake. What could possibly go wrong with that idea? Oh maybe, disruption of that toxic sludge or a blow out of their pipe.

    Reasonable people can disagree on reasonable issues. There is nothing even close to be reasonable in what they are asking of us. No, not asking, trying to bully us into hosting an archaic fossil fuel infrastructure so they can pad their coffers.

    IP is financially sound. They can get gas elsewhere if that’s the route the want to take.

    Here’s some neighborly advice for you, if you’d just tend to your own business, you’d have enough to do.

  7. Claire Broughton :

    I would do wastewater in a second for a neighbor. There isn’t any hazards, like a pipeline. Always had utilities. If your a true Vermonter, then you would be more concerned about the enviorment.

  8. Jeff Noordsy :

    I can’t be reading this correctly, can I?! The North Country Regional Economic Development Council is endorsing a pipeline project in Vermont? Do they know that Plattsburgh, along with 210 other NY communities has passed a resolution banning fracking and related activities?

    http://www.pressrepublican.com/0100_news/x1387899943/City-of-Plattsburgh-takes-stand-on-hydrofracking?zc_p=0

    One of the prohibitions.

    • Construction of pipelines whose primary purpose is to transport natural gas from hydraulic-fracturing operations.

    Yet they dare to suggest that communities in Vermont who oppose the project are somehow in the wrong? Really? They could not run this pipeline through their own state without vehement opposition but it’s fine to run it through Vermont? This is so incredibly hypocritical I cannot even believe what I am reading.

    Tonight’s vote has nothing to do with IP and nothing to do with Rutland. The delegates of the Addison County Regional Planning Commission are simply being asked to weigh in on whether or not Phase Two (and Phase Two alone) conforms to the current regional plan. It clearly does not. No amount of hand wringing, obfuscation, sleight of hand, etc. can change that simple fact.

    It is the future job of the Public Service Board to determine if Phase Two is in the public good. It is the job of tonight’s voters to determine if Phase Two complies with the Regional Plan. There’s a clear distinction. Don’t let anyone muddy the waters.

  9. Hilton Dier :

    Note that the Energy Information Agency, the folks who keep making “blue skies and rainbow unicorns forever” predictions about fossil fuel supplies (that they inevitably have to revise downwards) predict that combined conventional and unconventional gas supplies will stop increasing around 2018. They predict a few years of plateau and then a dropoff. When the EIA says the party is over in four years you can start collecting the beer cups now.

    The frackers are experiencing the Red Queen effect – they are drilling as fast as they can to keep supplies where they are. Foreign investors, who have been providing the lion’s share of funding for the shale gas plays, are running away. No money, no drilling, no future.

    The gas pipeline will be in place just in time for the price jump. If I lived in Addison County there is no way I would hook up to the gas line.

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