Vermont Gas Systems proposes to use electric transmission right of way for pipeline

Vermont Gas building
Vermont Gas headquarters in South Burlington. VTD/Josh Larkin

The state’s natural gas utility is looking for a place to put a pipeline expansion into Addison County, and an existing easement owned by the Vermont Electric Power Co. looks like a good bet.

Vermont Gas Systems received state approval last fall to create a fund that would allow it to keep $4.4 million annually to pay for an expansion into the Middlebury and Vergennes areas.

Earlier this month, the gas utility approached VELCO’s operating committee with the proposal to locate the $60-million expansion route along the electric transmission corridor south of Route 89 between Taft Corners and New Haven.

Steve Wark, director of communications for Vermont Gas Systems, said the communications with VELCO are preliminary. The gas utility plans to file for a permit at the end of this year or early in 2012, Wark said.

“There’s a lot of opportunity in that area that’s already been used,” Wark said. “It’s also a wide corridor so it provides for future opportunities.”

The pipeline from Chittenden County would run about 45 miles, Wark said. The corridor lies between Route 7 and Route 116 from the Burlington area south into Addison County.

Vermont Gas is owned by Canadian utility Gaz Metro, which would also own the state’s two largest distribution utilities if a proposed merger goes through. VELCO is owned by the state’s distribution utilities in relation to their share of the retail electric load.

A proposed merger between Green Mountain Power and Central Vermont Public Service, under the umbrella of Gaz Metro, would give the Canadian utility control of the transmission grid, absent protections required by the Public Service Board.

Wark said additional collaboration between VELCO and Vermont Gas Systems is speculative.

The gas company plans to expand into Rutland and ultimately to the American system near Lake George, N.Y.

Wark said one benefit of using the existing corridor is it would use an existing right-of-way and have less impact than creating a new pathway. The pathway does cross numerous wetlands, archaeological sites and sensitive areas, according to a presentation from the VELCO Operating Committee’s March 15 meeting.

He said the company still needs approval from VELCO and the underlying landowners. Construction of the project would be years out.

“We need to study it from an environmental and engineering perspective to make sure its constructable,” Wark said.

Kerrick Johnson, vice president of external affairs for VELCO, said the proposed gas pipeline and the merger are separate issues at the moment.

“We are in the process of having discussions with Vermont Gas Systems about whether and under what circumstances it would work for them to use our right of way,” Johnson said.

Johnson said in other states there is collaboration and co-location of gas and electric facilities.

“Our interests are ensuring current and long-term public safety, system reliability and efficient costs of services,” Johnson said.

If the gas utility can finds a way to use VELCO’s rights of way in a way that works for them and their customers, the utility might support it, Johnson said.

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Alan Panebaker

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  • Michael Reddy


    GazMetro owns GMP and Vermont Gas Systems and is OWNED BY Enbridge, “Canada’s largest transporter of crude oil, with approximately 24,613 kilometres (15,294 miles) of crude pipeline.” (from their website)

    When they takeover CVPS and VELCO (with the consent of Shumlin and the Elizabeth Miller), they will be perfectly positioned to fulfill Enbridge’s STATED goal. VELCO rights of way will become ENBRIDGE PIPELINES. Endbridge’s website makes it pretty clear:

    “Enbridge’s pipeline systems are located in strategically important geographical areas, giving us an unparalleled ability to EXPAND and EXTEND (emphasis mine) our energy delivery networks throughout North America. We are the leading pipeline operator in both Canada’s oil sands region, the second largest resource play in the world with an estimated 170 billion barrels of proven recoverable reserves, and the rapidly growing Bakken formation in Canada and the United States. We are currently expanding our pipeline capacity in both regions.

    “We are currently engaged in the largest capital program in our 60-year history—investing $12 billion to EXPAND our North American pipeline and terminal network primarily to support broadening access of oil sands production to U.S. refining markets.”


    • Brian Buckley

      Valid point. There’s a seven days article from just before the new year that explains how Enbridge recently recommissioned the “trailblazer pipeline” which goes east from the tar sands area to Montreal (though I’ve not been able to find a exact description of this pipeline on Enbridge’s site), then through Vermont to Portland, Maine. The use of transmission grid right of ways by Gazmetro for building pipelines South to the New England/New York area was the missing link in the seven days story.

  • Bryan Bouchard

    VT Gas should be required to finish areas of Chittenden County that have no gas before they are allowed to expand to other areas. Route 7 in Milton isn’t even fully charged.

  • Aaron Allen

    VT Gas and any other utility which lays gas pipelines in ex-
    tant electricity transmission Rights-Of-Way shud be careful
    to assure that a blowout doesn’t toss steel pipe up into the
    overhead power conductors…Cud cause arcing and then BOOM!
    A nasty big fire that’s hard to extinguish unless the gasco.
    has quick-shutoff valves and can close them quickly by remot
    e control…Don’t forget to stake [post/mark] the gaslines:
    High pressure natural gas is nothing one wants to dig up!..
    Aaron Allen /fmr. native…

  • Craig Kneeland

    Why not install a gas fired electrical generator in Chittenden County and deliver the energy down to Middlebury on those new electrical transmission lines? Piping the gas to Middlebury then sending the electric power back North on electric lines makes little practical sense.