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.

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.

Taylor Dobbs / VPR File Photo

The Vermont Gas Systems pipeline is embroiled in a public controversy as well as a complex and slow-moving regulatory battle. Environmentalists are engaged in a public campaign to defeat the project, claiming that the state should be advancing renewable energy infrastructure, not fossil fuel infrastructure.

Exterior of the Vermont Gas building.
Taylor Dobbs / VPR File

Vermont’s utility regulators have announced a new round of hearings in the case of the Vermont Gas Systems pipeline to Addison County. But the timeline of the hearings has the potential to void an agreement between the state and the gas company that's designed to limit the pipeline's impact to ratepayers.

John Dillon / VPR File

Hundreds joined a Saturday demonstration against the Vermont Gas Systems Addison County pipeline outside the state office building that houses Vermont’s utility regulators. A leader in the group says about 20 protestors camped out Saturday and Sunday nights before three were arrested Monday morning.

Taylor Dobbs / VPR

In July of 2014, Maren Vasatka sat with a few other women in the lobby of Vermont Gas Systems’ South Burlington headquarters and started to knit. Vasatka and others in her "knit-in" group promised to stay in the company's lobby until company officials would meet them.

The women were frustrated with how the company was dealing with landowners like themselves along the route of its Addison County pipeline project.

Taylor Dobbs / VPR File

The Vermont Public Service Board held a hearing Thursday morning about a new agreement between Vermont Gas Systems and the Shumlin administration.

Critics of the Vermont Gas pipeline say the agreement to limit the pipeline's cost to ratepayers is being thrown into the process at the last minute to influence the board. 

Exterior of the Vermont Gas building.
Taylor Dobbs / VPR File

Vermont Gas Systems and the state’s Department of Public Service announced an agreement today that puts a limit on how much of the cost of its Addison County pipeline Vermont Gas is allowed to pass to ratepayers.

Under the agreement, Vermont Gas is allowed to recover $134 million of the project’s estimated $154 million cost from ratepayers.

Vermont Gas Systems has proposed a 3 percent rate decrease for customers which, if approved, will go into effect Nov. 1.

CEO Don Rendall said Monday that the decrease is the 12th the company has filed for since 2012, and it comes even as the company continues to build a major pipeline into Addison County.

The Public Service Board has hit Vermont Gas Systems with a $100,000 fine for failing to report cost overruns in a timely fashion.

The board concluded that Vermont Gas Systems waited at least six months to report a 41 percent cost overrun in its controversial Addison County pipeline project.

Angela Evancie / VPR File

A new survey from the AARP shows major gaps in public knowledge about the Vermont Gas Systems pipeline to Addison County. It also raises questions about whether the public feels the state department tasked with representing ratepayers has met those obligations.

The Addison County Regional Planning Commission has voted to reaffirm its support of the Vermont Gas Systems pipeline being built into the county.

The 23 to nine vote shows a majority of commissioners are not concerned enough with last year’s cost increases to petition the Vermont Public Service Board to reopen regulatory proceedings.

Click here to read the Addison County Regional Planning Commission's July 1, 2015 minutes.

Taylor Dobbs / VPR File

Vermont utility regulators are taking another look at the Vermont Gas Systems project designed to bring a gas pipeline into Addison County. 

Exterior of the Vermont Gas building.
Taylor Dobbs / VPR File

When Vermont Gas canceled the second phase of its pipeline project in February, opponents of the proposed project called it a victory: no pipeline would be going under Lake Champlain to New York.

Some of the same people were disappointed when the Vermont Public Service Board last week dismissed the case without prejudice, meaning Vermont Gas can reapply for the permit.

Regulators have decided not to go forward with eminent domain proceedings related to two properties in Monkton because of continuing uncertainty about the future of the Vermont Gas Systems pipeline to Addison County.

Exterior of the Vermont Gas building.
Taylor Dobbs / VPR File

Vermont Gas Systems has a powerful new opponent in its efforts to build a controversial natural gas pipeline into Addison County. The Vermont chapter of the AARP filed testimony from a Louisiana economist who said his calculations show the project will result in a net loss of almost $200 million over 20 years to the state’s economy.

NG Advantage / Courtesy Photo

Vermont Gas Systems canceled plans in February to run a pipeline under Lake Champlain to an International Paper mill in Ticonderoga, N.Y., but the company’s product is still going to power the plant when it switches to natural gas next month.