Vermont Gas Systems

A Visual History Of The Vermont Gas Pipeline

The plan for the Vermont Gas Systems pipeline project has transformed dramatically over the two years since the company got its first approval from Vermont regulators more than two years ago.

It started as a three-stage development that would bring natural gas from Chittenden County under Lake Champlain to New York, and also south to Rutland; the company's latest plan is a much smaller 41-mile pipeline that ends in Middlebury.

Find an interactive timeline of the project here.

When Vermont’s utility regulators ruled this week that an August hearing related to the Vermont Gas pipeline will take place behind closed doors, the first question some people asked was, “What about Vermont’s open meeting law?”

Taylor Dobbs / VPR File

Vermont's utility regulators are holding a hearing next month in one of the final legal challenges to the Vermont Gas Systems pipeline project, and the public isn’t allowed to attend.

Vermont Gas Systems has been saying that the company's pipeline to Addison County will be finished and in service by the end of this year, but now its top executive is expressing doubts about that.

On Monday's Vermont Edition, Vermont Gas CEO Don Rendall said the pipeline will be completed "when we can resolve Geprags Park and have that piece of the puzzle available for us to connect the pipeline from the north and the south."

John Van Hoesen / VPR

Even as it's under construction, the natural gas pipeline in Addison County continues to draw criticism for its price tag and environmental impact. Monday on Vermont Edition, we talk with Don Rendall, the president and CEO of Vermont Gas, and with one of the pipeline’s top critics, AARP Vermont State Director Greg Marchildon.

Taylor Dobbs / VPR File

Officials at Vermont Gas Systems are trying to figure out what to do about the route of the company’s planned pipeline through a Hinesburg park after a scientist working for opponents found inaccuracies in the company’s application for an environmental permit.

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.

Vermont Gas Systems says the estimated cost of its controversial pipeline is going up nearly $12 million.

The company says based on a number of factors, estimated costs will rise to a total of more than $165 million.

The latest estimate is nearly double the original price tag of the pipeline to Middlebury.

Vermont Gas blames the lion’s share of the increase on construction costs, specifically the need to do more drilling and blasting than anticipated.

Taylor Dobbs / VPR

Vermont Gas systems is working on another season of construction of its Addison County natural gas pipeline, which company officials have long  said will be finished this year. Now, two legal challenges have caused company executives to lose confidence that the project will be completed by the end of this year and within its $154 million budget.

Taylor Dobbs / VPR

A group of Hinesburg residents got legal standing last week to fight Vermont Gas Systems on the company's effort to build a pipeline through a town park. They say the chosen route for the pipeline would be devastating for a rich ecosystem that includes state-designated wetlands.

Taylor Dobbs / VPR File

A group of protestors that call themselves the People’s Department of Environmental Justice showed up at Public Service Commissioner Chris Recchia’s home Wednesday morning and set up a fake hydraulic fracturing tower in his driveway.

Taylor Dobbs / VPR

Officials at the Department of Public Service were considering a policy earlier this year that would make negotiations between the department and utilities more open. Critics have said for years that deals made in private negotiations between utilities and the department are more beneficial for the companies than for their customers. The department disagrees.

The Department of Public Service and Vermont Gas Systems are calling on the Public Service Board to take action to prevent protestors from disrupting board proceedings, according to filings with the board Thursday.

Taylor Dobbs / VPR File

Vermont’s Public Service Board is considering closing the public out of some hearings related to the Vermont Gas Systems pipeline to Addison County, according to a board order.

Utility regulators may require Vermont Gas Systems to get a new permit for its natural gas pipeline to Addison County, according to an order issued last week.

Taylor Dobbs / VPR File

The latest cost update for the Vermont Gas Systems pipeline to Addison County shows the project is still on schedule, but rising costs have cut into the company’s financial cushion for the project. Vermont Gas officials also refuse to answer questions about a pipeline contractor that has “issues relating to … contract performance and claims,” according to Vermont Gas filings.

Regulators announced Friday afternoon that Vermont Gas will be allowed to continue to build its 41-mile pipeline from Chittenden County to Middlebury despite a nearly 80 percent increase of cost estimates for the project since its initial approval.

Taylor Dobbs / VPR

The fate of the $154 million Vermont Gas pipeline to Addison County will be decided in a matter of weeks, and regulators could order the company to stop building the pipeline because it mishandled cost estimates for the project.

Vermont Gas has already spent more than $80 million on the new pipeline, much of that while the future of the project was uncertain. That spending was a major risk, but a plan Vermont Gas quietly implemented last winter means its customers – not the corporation – could end up shouldering the cost of the project even if it gets canceled.

Here's how Vermont Gas did it.

Taylor Dobbs / VPR File

On both sides of the controversial Vermont Gas pipeline, advocates are framing a coming decision from Vermont's Public Service Board as the answer to some major questions facing the state: Will Vermonters invest millions of dollars ensuring continued reliance on fossil fuels for decades to come? Will residents outside Chittenden and Franklin counties get the benefits of natural gas – a cheaper, cleaner-burning alternative to the home heating oil used in much of Vermont?

Christophe Ena / AP

Gov. Peter Shumlin and his administration’s top environmental official are in Paris for international climate talks. But even with an ocean between Shumlin and his constituency, opponents of the Vermont Gas pipeline to Addison County found a way to interject.

The Vermont Public Service Board opened eminent domain proceedings this week against four landowners who haven't given Vermont Gas Systems permission to build its gas pipeline through their property.

Those proceedings are starting despite the fact that the board may revoke the company’s permit for the project within weeks.