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New York Town Seeks Input in Vermont Pipeline Review

Addison County Regional Planning Commission

Regulatory agencies in Vermont are reviewing a plan by Vermont Gas to bring natural gas to the International Paper plant in Ticonderoga Mill in New York.  Officials in Ticonderoga are asking the regional planning commission to consider their interests as that entity reviews the project.

The proposed Addison Rutland Natural Gas pipeline project would extend the line for 41 miles to Vergennes and Middlebury. The ultimate goal is to bring service to Rutland by 2020.   Phase Two of the project would route the pipeline under Lake Champlain to the International Paper mill in Ticonderoga.   Town of Ticonderoga Supervisor Bill Grinnell has submitted a letter and resolution to the Addison County Regional Planning Commission in support of the Phase Two plan. “The economy side of it is extremely important. I also think the environmental side of it is extremely important.”

The pipeline must be permitted by the Vermont Public Service Board. The Addison County Regional Planning Commission, according to Executive Director Adam Lougee, has the ability to intervene in the process, and has the duty to review big generation transmission projects that will impact the region. Lougee notes that several of the 21 member towns are opposed to the project.  “It’s hard for me to speak to how each of them will make up their mind. I expect that they will look at everything that’s presented to them, including the information that Mr. Grinnell gave us from Ticonderoga, and read the Addison County Regional Plan and use their best judgement.

Supervisor Grinnell believes concerns of New Yorkers have not been taken into account.  “It’s my understanding that according to Vermont law the planning board should actually make an effort to be sure that the surrounding communities have a good, sound input into the process. Even if they are from a different state. We are one of the surrounding communities.”

Grinnell has sent the commission resolutions of support from surrounding towns in New York and the Essex County Board of Supervisors. Vermont Gas Spokesman Stephen Wark says Ticonderoga and New York should be important voices in the dialogue.  “It allows us to reduce greenhouse emissions in the region by one million tons. That’s the equivalent of taking about 11,000 cars off the road. Secondly, it helps us build closer to Rutland sooner. They specifically are helping fund $45 million more towards infrastructure than we would have had without them. That amount builds the pipeline further south. It essentially pays for about a third of the cost to Rutland. So it’s a significant opportunity for Vermont and for New York.”

Vermont Public Interest Research Group Executive Director Paul Burns is opposed to the pipeline project in general, and says Phase Two is simply about bringing the natural gas to a single beneficiary in Ticonderoga. Burns says that makes it difficult to argue it’s in the best interest of Vermont.  “From a climate perspective, fracked gas is really no better than the oil that they’re burning in that facility right now. What I think you are seeing is potentially some benefits on the economic side of things. Obviously it costs less to International paper to burn this gas. Should the people of Vermont be forced to run this potentially dangerous fracked gas pipeline through their property when they don’t want it, just to serve the economic benefits of International Paper over in New York?”

In his letter to the Addison County Regional Planning Commission, Ticonderoga Supervisor Grinnell requested that the timeline for any vote be extended.  Adam Lougee noted that with the Public Service Board beginning proceedings on the issue, it must forward a decision to the state authority.  He expects a vote at the next full commission meeting April 9th.

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