As Vermont Gas Systems seeks approval for a 40 mile pipeline project, the company faces stubborn opposition from one town along the route.
Officials in the town of Monkton hope to negotiate an agreement with Vermont Gas that would provide additional concessions for the community.
The Monkton selectboard has met several times to discuss a legal agreement with Vermont Gas that would offer the town’s support for the project and provide local benefits. These include hook-ups to a distribution line to provide gas service to about 100 potential customers in town.
But selectboard chairman John Phillips says there’s no agreement yet on the document called a memorandum of understanding, or MOU. He wants the selectboard to meet again Wednesday night to go over possible new terms.
“The MOU in fact did in fact in its preamble call for endorsement of the project. We’re going to look at that and we’re going to fine tune the couple of other areas in the MOU, if we can, if we can get Vermont Gas to approve the changes,” he said.
Last week, the Monkton board rejected the MOU by a 3 to 2 vote.
Phillips is a supporter of the pipeline, and said the town could get tax revenue as well as a new source of fuel for some residents. But he said other towns along the proposed path of the pipeline would see more economic gain.
“The direct benefit to Monkton is probably less than it would be to, say, a town like Middlebury that has not only a denser cluster of housing, but also probably industry that could hook into it, too, and the college,” he said.
A major stumbling block in getting the selectboard to approve the MOU was the language that said the town endorsed the project.
Jane Palmer, a pipeline opponent, said the selectboard should not give its stamp of approval.
“They want to strike the best deal for the town, and I understand that,” she said. “But signing that MOU … represents to the Public Service Board that the town of Monkton is in support of this. So it kind of sells the landowners down the river, because they can’t fight the Public Service Board if the Public Service Board says, ‘well the town is supporting it.’”
Palmer said she’s concerned that the line would run through some of the best land on her family’s property. She said the pipeline should be located in the right of way of an existing VELCO transmission line.
“Bringing this pipeline, this 50 foot thing, right through the middle of our garden, right through our little pond that we have, right near our little orchard, taking out about 10 trees… between us and the road,” she said. “If you looked down on it from an airplane, you’d say why?”
Vermont Gas spokesman Steve Wark said Monkton’s support would be very welcome but is not absolutely necessary.
“As we go forward we will try to work with Monkton to try to address the issues that have come up as a result of the last meeting. That said, the Public Service Board will ultimately decide if this project is in the public good, how and where this project will be built. We believe we are very close,” he said.
The Public Service Board has set a Friday deadline for parties to submit their legal filings in the case.
Wark said other towns along the route – Middlebury, Vergennes and Bristol – have offered letters in support of the project. He said the town of Hinesburg has requested that the gas line follow the VELCO corridor.