In an effort to secure land rights for its natural gas pipeline to Addison County, Vermont Gas Systems bought a property along the planned pipeline route for $1.75 million. According to land records, that's nearly twice the property's assessed value.
The Monkton property belonged to Louise Peyser, who along with her daughter Melanie worked to fight the pipeline’s passage through the family property. Its assessed value in Monkton land records is $889,800. (This is not necessarily the same value an appraisal or sale would generate.)
In addition to paying nearly double the assessed value for the property, Vermont Gas announced last week that the pipeline itself is now expected to cost nearly twice the amount company officials previously said it would.
When the Vermont Public Service Board approved the project in December of 2013, officials estimated the pipeline’s cost to be $86.6 million. According to an estimate released June 21, the company now plans to pay 91 percent more than that — $165.6 million.
The Peyser property was one of a few properties that the company still needs permission to build through before it can complete the pipeline. Another property, Hinesburg’s Geprags Park, poses a continuing problem for the company’s plans to build a pipeline into Addison County. A group of citizens in Hinesburg is fighting the company’s eminent domain case before the Vermont Public Service Board.
Vermont Gas spokeswoman Beth Parent declined multiple requests for interviews for this story.
The company’s purchase of the Peyser property means the family will not face off against Vermont Gas at the Public Service Board in an eminent domain case.
Vermont Gas and the Department of Public Service, which represents the interests of Vermonters before the Public Service Board, agreed to a deal last year that limits the amount of pipeline costs that the company can build into customer rates.
The department’s commissioner, Chris Recchia, said Wednesday that his understanding of that deal is that costs related to paying far above market value for a property would not be covered by customers.
With any purchase like this, Recchia said in a voicemail, the department’s assessment of whether it could be included in rates is based on whether the spending is considered “prudent.”
“Obviously we need to think about the pros or cons of paying more than you should in order to gain time and save money elsewhere, so that’s the type of evaluation we would do,” he said.