Public Service Dept. backs Shumlin on support for VTGas pipeline

Opponents of the pipeline project raise a banner Wednesday, Photo by Andrew Stein/VTDigger

Opponents of a natural gas pipeline project raise a banner Tuesday at a hearing in Middlebury. Photo by Andrew Stein/VTDigger

Gov. Peter Shumlin this week reaffirmed his support of a natural gas pipeline into the heart of Addison County. His Public Service Department, which is charged with representing Vermonters in utility proceedings, is behind the governor and offering a few proposals of its own.

Shumlin’s comments came the day after hundreds of pipeline opponents took Vermont Gas Systems (VTGas) to task Tuesday for its proposed $86.6 million pipeline extension project, which if permitted would comprised of 41.2 miles of transmission line and 5.1 miles of local distribution lines. The project’s benefits, say Shumlin and Public Service Commissioner Chris Recchia, outweigh its costs.

The governor says natural gas is a better priced and “cleaner, greener” alternative to fuel oil and propane.

“I don’t think you’ll find a governor in the country who is more sympathetic to the argument that if we can turn off the switch tomorrow, never burn any more fossil fuels or coal, I’d be the first to sign up. Obviously, that’s not possible,” Shumlin said.

Pipeline opponents jammed a Public Service Board hearing in Middlebury on Tuesday to voice their concerns over the use of fracking technology to obtain the natural gas that will be delivered through the pipeline, among other things.

Leading up to the Public Service Board’s technical hearings in Montpelier next week, the Department of Public Service submitted a range of testimony on economic and environmental benefits associated with the project.

Under Shumlin, the department has often aligned itself with environmental groups, such as the Conservation Law Foundation and the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. But, in this case, the department is at odds with those organizations, both of which oppose VTGas’ southern expansion.

The Conservation Law Foundation provided an analysis to the Public Service Board earlier this year that showed how the natural gas line would increase greenhouse gas emissions in Vermont. VTGas provided expert analysis that found CLF’s analysis was inaccurate, and said the project would reduce greenhouse gases.

Public Service Department analyst Walter Poor wrote that both of these analyses had their shortcomings.

“Neither one of these studies represents a full life-cycle greenhouse gas analysis of the Project,” he said. “Moreover, the studies are constructed differently — relying on different assumptions and comparing different scenarios.”

He found that CLF’s expert witness compared the life cycle of gas to only a portion of the life cycles of other fuels and placed “an undue bias against the Project.” Poor also found that VTGas’s witness did not estimate the emissions estimates of the actual project and did not include propane in his analysis.

“The two analyses each incorporate portions of a full life-cycle analysis, but neither presents the full picture,” he wrote.

Poor indicated that he did not have the expertise or resources to perform a complete life-cycle analysis on his own, but he used CLF’s model to run an analysis that accounted for a range of greenhouse gas scenarios. He found that within that range, the natural gas pipeline would reduce emissions if it replaced fuel oil and propane burners.

“The Project provides significant net benefits to Vermont, even before the economic impacts of greenhouse gas emissions are quantified,” he wrote.

In addition to Poor’s environmental work, the department’s economic analysis concluded that the project would provide economic benefits to Vermont, even if liquefied or compressed natural gas were delivered to industrial users via other means.

Chris Recchia, commissioner of the Department of Public Service. State of Vermont photo

Chris Recchia, commissioner of the Department of Public Service. State of Vermont photo

Recchia said that while the department supports the concept of the pipeline extension, it wants the company to add to its proposal. Recchia wants VTGas to fund efficiency upgrades that the state has been struggling to finance for Vermonters, and he wants every community that the transmission line passes through to have an opportunity to draw from it.

“We want a connection put in at least each community through which the pipeline goes, as a means of ensuring that if the demand is there, that they could provide service to those towns without having to redo the pipeline,” he said.

Recchia also wants the natural gas infrastructure to be designed so that it can double as a network for transporting methane from biodigesters on Addison County farms to furnaces in homes and businesses for heating.

Andrew Stein

Leave a Reply

39 Comments on "Public Service Dept. backs Shumlin on support for VTGas pipeline"

1000

Comment Policy

VTDigger.org requires that all commenters identify themselves by their authentic first and last names. Initials, pseudonyms or screen names are not permissible.

No personal harassment, abuse, or hate speech is permitted. Be succinct and to the point. If your comment is over 500 words, consider sending a commentary instead.

We personally review and moderate every comment that is posted here. This takes a lot of time; please consider donating to keep the conversation productive and informative.

The purpose of this policy is to encourage a civil discourse among readers who are willing to stand behind their identities and their comments. VTDigger has created a safe zone for readers who wish to engage in a thoughtful discussion on a range of subjects. We hope you join the conversation.

Privacy policy
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Sandra Bettis
3 years 2 months ago

boo to shumlin and the psb – they might want to do a little more research.

Dave Stevens
3 years 2 months ago

Hey Sandra, If you read the entire article, the conservation Law Foundation’s witness “placed an undue bias against the project”. It was both sides that missed the mark. The left got it wrong, and the far left (the CLF) also got it wrong.

Matt Fisken
3 years 2 months ago
Just to be clear, a single person, Walter Poor who works for the DPS/PSD said “an undue bias against the Project.” This is one of those instances where it would be interesting to know EXACTLY what the rest of that quote was (with all due respect for Andrew Stein’s reporting). I think it is unwise to assume that Mr. Poor nor any of the folks who work at DPS do not have some kind of bias as well, based on the positions the Department has already taken, specifically regarding natural gas, in the CEP. No one wants to be the… Read more »
walter judge
3 years 2 months ago

Or, you might just want to rethink your opinion.

Townsend Peters
3 years 2 months ago

Or there is no proper life cycle cost analysis before the PSB and it must deny.

Walter Judge
3 years 2 months ago

Is there a rule or law that says the PSB M-U-S-T deny a project just because its life cycle cost analysis has “shortcomings” in the view of one DPS analyst?

3 years 2 months ago

The pipeline is not going through his garden or near his house or organic farm. Last I knew the Governor does not own the private property of others. Neither does the government. This is not Canada. New York said No. Testimony refused to be heard or mocked. The fracking gas it will demand illegal. Oh, and did I say, the route proposed by Canadian owned Vermont Gaz is on Vermonters private property?

Rolf Mueller
3 years 2 months ago

“He(Walter Poor)found that within that range, the natural gas pipeline would reduce emissions if it replaced fuel oil and propane burners.”
Aha, if it replaced the burners.
How much emissions are created replacing the burners?
And what is the cost replacing them?
And how long will the price of natural gas be low?
I bet once everyone changed their burners to natural gas the price will go up.

Sandra Bettis
3 years 2 months ago

the problem is the way that they get the natural gas – look up ‘fracking’.

Moshe Braner
3 years 2 months ago
Yup, currently natural gas is sold for about one half of the cost of “production” via fracking. The price therefore is guaranteed to at least double, in the next few years, once the financial bubble (flipping frack leases) pops. Note that the price of natural gas in other continents (Europe, SE Asia) is 3 to 5 times as high as here – and as soon as they build the terminals to export it from this continent that’s who we’ll be bidding against. Also note that when the price of natural gas will increase, so will the price of electricity. The… Read more »
3 years 2 months ago

Moshe,

The EIA has significant access to production data and cost, much more than you and I. Therefore it is best to consult its annual reports, instead of taking numbers from somewhat dubious sources that may have other motives.

NG prices are not artificially low. There is an abundance of gas, because of new drilling methods invented in the US.

NG prices will rise at most at the rate of inflation, according to a recent EIA report.

EIA World Energy Projections 2013
http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/ieo/more_highlights.cfm

Walter Judge
3 years 2 months ago

Ms. Gerdt, do you use electricity? Have you ever driven a car on a road? Have you ever taken a railroad? Do you use water? Cable? Telephone? All those utilities and services run through private property that was taken legally under the U.S. constitution. Your “private property” argument against the pipeline is irrelevant. Go back and check your 9th grade civics book.

And where do you get that fracked gas is “illegal”? Under what law is it illegal?

3 years 2 months ago

Mr. Judge, I use power and have the agreement in my deed. Rural electrification. We get power. In the case of Canadian owned Vermont gaz, they want property owners to host the route Canadians chose to be transmission lines. Landowners could not simply hook up. The goal of Vermont gaz is to get Gaz to the paper mill in NY.NY said no. Our local selectman sold out certain landowners to keep it out of their yards. Vermonters voted against fracked gas. Another futile effort by the little people.

walter judge
3 years 2 months ago

Vermonters never voted against fracked gas. I asked you to identify the bill. You haven’t.

walter judge
3 years 2 months ago

Correction: Ms. Bettis also claimed that Vermonters voted “against fracked gas.” I asked her, and now I ask you, to identify the bill in which Vermont voted “against fracked gas.”

3 years 2 months ago

Are you from aroung here Mr. Judge? http://vtdigger.wpengine.com/2012/05/04/vermont-first-state-in-nation-to-ban-fracking-for-oil-and-gas/
Thanks to Vermont digger and google I found the link in just under 1 second.

Kathy Nelson
3 years 2 months ago
Mr. Stein writes, “Gov. Peter Shumlin this week reaffirmed his support of a natural gas pipeline into the heart of Addison County. His Public Service Department, which is charged with representing Vermonters in utility proceedings, is behind the governor and offering a few proposals of its own” I believe the key words here are “His Public Service Department”. Not, THE Public Service Department, the champions of public concerns over corporate and political interests, but the enthusiastic supporters of an elitist governor and his corporate cronies. Let’s rename this group of overpaid state employees The Governor’s Corporate Service Department (GCSD). Shumlin… Read more »
Matt Fisken
3 years 2 months ago
I’m affraid Mr. Poor’s testimony muddies the water. He states: “[N]either one of these studies [conducted by Dr. Stanton on behalf of CLF and … by Mr. Bluestein on behalf of VGS] represents a full lifecycle greenhouse gas analysis of the Project.” after stating: “I have neither the resources nor the independent expertise to conduct a full lifecycle greenhouse gas analysis of the Project from the ground up. Therefore, I am relying on the greenhouse gas analyses conducted by VGS and CLF to set the parameters for the reasonable range of greenhouse gas emissions that should be associated with the… Read more »
walter judge
3 years 2 months ago

Your bad attitude towards the Public Service Board is totally unwarranted. It’s blaming the ump when you lose. The PSB consists of decent, honest people who are just doing their jobs. They apply the policies and rules that YOUR elected legislators have given them, to the facts at hand.

Kathy Nelson
3 years 2 months ago
Mr. Judge, you are wrong to deny that the Public Service Board is blameless and innocent. They awarded Eolian Renewable Energy, wind developer marauders currently assaulting Brighton, Newark and Ferdinand, a permit for MET towers even after that bunch of nits failed three times to notify adjoining landowners of the project so that those people could have their chance to intervene. The permit was held up for fourteen months as one foul-up after another was revealed, by the public, and the failings of the PSB hearing officer came to light. The PSB could have easily, and legally, refused Eolian the… Read more »
Dave Stevens
3 years 2 months ago

Yeah Kathy, take a breath. Walter is correct, Your hostilities toward the PSB are unwarranted. Just because you disagree with their decisions doesn’t mean the process is broken.

Annette Smith
3 years 2 months ago
Do you have direct experience with the PSB that causes you to say that? The PSB process requires three rounds of pre-filed testimony, three rounds of discovery, lawyers and expert witnesses. There is a strong record in the last 7 years of so of the PSB routinely ignoring all witnesses except those presented by the applicant. The PSB and their defenders like to claim that people who complain about the PSB are just expressing “sour grapes” because they did not win. That is not the case. The record is clear in too many instances. This is playing out in the… Read more »
Walter Judge
3 years 2 months ago

Whatever you say.

Sandra Bettis
3 years 2 months ago

vermonters did vote against fracked gas – but the state uses td bank to invest their money (td bank supports fracked gas) and now the psb supports fracked gas – it doesn’t seem to matter how we vote….

walter judge
3 years 2 months ago

No, Ms. Bettis, Vermont never voted “against fracked gas.” Ever. Perhaps you could identify the bill and when it was signed by the Governor?

Sandra Bettis
3 years 2 months ago

the legislature voted against it in the last session.

Sandra Bettis
3 years 2 months ago
Sandra Bettis
3 years 2 months ago
walter judge
3 years 2 months ago

Ms. Bettis (and Ms. Gerdt), please read the very bill you cite. Vermont voted to ban fracking in Vermont. It never voted “against fracked gas.”

If you’re somehow saying that Vermont ever said that we can’t use “fracked gas” in Vermont, you’re wrong.

Angela Bennett
3 years 2 months ago

YES! It does matter how you vote! I’m not exactly a new Vermonter; my family has very deep roots here in Addison County. However, I have not voted in Vermont. Yet.

I WILL BE voting AGAINST Shumlin during the next election! And, I will be helping to campaign against him.

Sandra Bettis
3 years 2 months ago

well, i’m pretty sure that whoever runs against shumlin will be an even worse prospect….

Sandra Bettis
3 years 2 months ago
Sandra Bettis
3 years 2 months ago
Walter Judge
3 years 2 months ago
“Are you from aroung here Mr. Judge? http://vtdigger.wpengine.com/2012/05/04/vermont-first-state-in-nation-to-ban-fracking-for-oil-and-gas/ Thanks to Vermont digger and google I found the link in just under 1 second. – See more at: http://vtdigger.wpengine.com/2013/09/13/public-service-dept-backs-shumlin-on-support-for-vtgas-pipeline/#comment-69755” Ms. Gerdt, you sarcastically ask if “I am from around here.” Yes, of course I know about this bill. But please see my response to Ms. Bettis at 7:54 am when she cited the same bill. Have you bothered to actually read the bill? This bill banned the act of fracking in Vermont. It did not ban fracked gas. I hope you and Ms. Bettis are not correcting students’ SAT exams.
Matt Fisken
3 years 2 months ago

Of course the continued importation of fracked gas into Vermont will not be reduced through legislative or regulator action. The question is, between the CEP and the fracking ban, does Vermont become a gigantic hypocrite by increasing the flow of this non-renewable fossil fuel that is destroying groundwater elsewhere so that a few thousand Vermonters are provided ANOTHER choice to heat their homes, cook their food and dry their clothes?

Mr. Judge, your firm’s history of representing VTGas/GasMetro/GMP makes it hard to take your comments on this subject seriously.

Walter Judge
3 years 2 months ago

“Mr. Judge, your firm’s history of representing VTGas/GasMetro/GMP makes it hard to take your comments on this subject seriously.”

Ah. You can’t take comments seriously from anyone who has some interest in the process? If that is the case, then by definition you also cannot take seriously the alleged environmental concerns of people whose property is affected by the pipeline.

– See more at: http://vtdigger.wpengine.com/2013/09/13/public-service-dept-backs-shumlin-on-support-for-vtgas-pipeline/#sthash.aHRDSwwF.dpuf

wpDiscuz
Thanks for reporting an error with the story, "Public Service Dept. backs Shumlin on support for VTGas pipeline"