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.

A natural gas pipeline from Chittenden County to Addison County is going to cost $35 million more than the company building it had previously estimated. But state regulators knew about the cost overrun for months without disclosing the news publicly. And one consumer protection group says the Department of Public Service should have done more to defend ratepayers.

Vermont Gas Systems initially said it could extend its natural gas pipeline into the Middlebury area for about $86 million. The price tag was compelling enough to win regulatory approval.

Taylor Dobbs / VPR File Photo

Addison County lawmakers have some big concerns about the Vermont Gas Systems proposed natural gas pipeline expansion project – so big that in a jointly-written letter, three of them urged the Public Service Board not to approve Phase II of the pipeline until the concerns are met. Phase II extends the pipeline from Middlebury to the International Paper mill in Ticonderoga, New York.

Vermont Gas Systems has added something new to its delivery system last week, the company announced. Last week, renewable natural gas imported from Quebec became part of the company’s portfolio.

Unlike “traditional” natural gas, which is extracted from the earth (often through the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing), renewable natural gas is readily available - the byproduct of decomposition of organic material. It’s most commonly found at landfills and in areas where manure is stored on large farms.

Taylor Dobbs / VPR/file

When Vermont Gas announced on July 3 that its pipeline from Colchester to Middlebury was going to cost 40 percent more than expected, opponents weren’t happy.

The harshest critics called it a “bait and switch” and asked regulators to revoke the company’s Certificate of Public Good approving the project.

Vermont Gas spokesman Steve Wark now says company officials knew as early as March that the project costs were on the rise, and he says the company probably should have told regulators sooner.

Vermont Gas Systems is again alerting regulators about cost increases related to the natural gas pipeline the company hopes will bring service to Rutland.

On Friday, less than a month after telling the Vermont Public Service Board about a $35 million cost increase in Phase 1 of the project, the company is telling the board that Phase 2 will also be above the cost the company originally planned on - to the tune of $10 million.

Taylor Dobbs / VPR

A group of protestors associated with Rising Tide Vermont briefly stopped work at a Vermont Gas Systems pipe yard in Williston Wednesday morning.

The group, singing protest songs and chanting, marched across a field and through the pipe yard before staging a sit-in at the entrance to the site, blocking vehicles from coming in or leaving.

Unlike at previous protests, like a “knit-in” that led to one arrest, the protestors fled as soon as a Vermont Gas official approached them. It was a coordinated effort to evade being served notifications of trespass.

The Vermont Public Service Board ordered Vermont Gas Systems to stop digging for its pipeline near power lines owned by the Vermont Electric Power Company, citing environmental and health concerns.

Vermont Gas approached the Public Service Board after the state Agency of Natural Resources alerted the company to the possibility that soil contaminated with Pentachlorophenol (PCP) could be disturbed by pipeline construction.

A group of opponents of the Vermont Gas Systems pipeline say the cost of Vermont Gas Systems’ pipeline from Colchester to Addison County is no longer justifiable in light of a recently announced cost increase.

When regulators approved Phase 1 of Vermont Gas Systems’ pipeline project last year, they didn’t have accurate information about the cost of the project, the Conservation Law Foundation says.

Now, the environmental group is asking the Public Service Board to put a stop to the project until it can reconsider the approval with new numbers in mind.

Vermont Gas Systems has revised its plan for a pipeline from Chittenden County south to the Middlebury area, increasing the estimated cost of the project by $35 million – just over 40 percent.

Major changes in the cost of a utility project must be reported to the Vermont Public Service Board, which oversees utilities in the state. In its report to the board, Vermont Gas said construction for the project would be more than 50 percent more expensive than the company’s original estimates.

Taylor Dobbs / VPR

One woman was arrested and four others were served trespass warnings at a “knit-in” protest at Vermont Gas Systems’ headquarters in South Burlington Wednesday.

Jane Palmer of Monkton was arrested for trespassing when she refused to stop knitting and leave the building at the close of business at 5 p.m.

Palmer and four other protesters staged the homespun demonstration in the lobby of Vermont Gas Systems offices in opposition to the company’s plans to extend a natural gas pipeline through Addison County.

Vermont Gas Systems has cleared all the necessary regulatory hurdles to move forward with staging for the construction of its controversial natural gas pipeline.

Spokesman Steve Wark confirmed Tuesday that the company received a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) to set up staging for Phase 1 of its pipeline, which extends from Chittenden County to Middlebury.

Update: The Army Corps of Engineers granted Vermont Gas Systems the permit in question, allowing the company to begin construction. Read the full story here.

The Vermont Public Service Board Tuesday denied a request by Vermont Gas Systems that would have allowed the company to proceed with project staging for its pipeline without the requisite permits.

Taylor Dobbs / VPR

Demonstrators went to Vermont Gas Systems headquarters Tuesday morning in an effort to stop the company’s planned natural gas pipeline that would extend service south from Chittenden County.

The demonstrators, organized by Rising Tide Vermont, entered the Vermont Gas building in South Burlington and hung a banner from its roof. One protester, Sara Mehalick, chained herself to the front door of the building.

Angela Evancie / VPR

The Addison County Regional Planning Commission has voted in favor of Phase II of the Vermont Gas Pipeline.

At a meeting in Middlebury Wednesday night, the commission voted 15 to 11 that the Addison-Rutland Natural Gas Project, which would pipe gas from Middlebury to the International Paper Mill in Ticonderoga, New York, conforms with "applicable provisions" of the Addison County Regional Plan.

Angela Evancie / VPR

Addison County sent a strong message of opposition to Phase II of the Vermont Gas pipeline at Town Meetings held on Monday and Tuesday.

At Cornwall's Town Meeting on Monday evening, voters passed a non-binding resolution to oppose the Addison-Rutland Natural Gas Project, 126-16.

Also on Monday, residents in Shoreham also approved a non-binding resolution to oppose Phase II of the pipeline, 63-38.

And Monkton voters strongly denounced the pipeline on Tuesday, with three speakers delivering prepared remarks against the project and no one speaking in support.

Voters in Vergennes voted Tuesday to support the expansion of a natural gas pipeline into their city.

Vermont Gas has asked the Public Service Board for approval to expand an existing pipeline from Chittenden to Addison County to provide service to Vergennes and Middlebury.

The Vergennes City Council voiced support for the project after a council vote last year. This week's referendum was triggered by a citizen petition asking whether city residents supported the council’s endorsement.

Mayor Bill Benton said 75 signatures were required to trigger a city-wide vote.

Vermont Gas Systems plans to offer its energy efficiency program to all consumers in its service territory even if they don’t use natural gas for fuel.

The utility announced the expansion on Tuesday at an event in Addison County. Sen. Chris Bray, D-Addison, said he came up with the idea this summer in response to the gas company’s proposal to extend its pipeline through Addison County and eventually to Rutland.

AP/Toby Talbot, File

11/11/13 at Noon and 7 P.M.:  Vermont Gas Systems is planning a major project to provide natural gas to Addison County and beyond. Phase 2 of the project would lay pipes under Lake Champlain to serve the International Paper plant in Ticonderoga, New York. 

Vermont Gas Systems announced a 5.86 percent rate reduction today after the state’s Public Service Board approved the change.

Vermont Gas spokesman Steve Wark said the reduction, which went into effect Nov. 1, is driven by cheaper supply out of Canada.

“This reduction comes as a result of lower transmission costs up in the TransCanadian pipeline system,” Wark said.

Wark said this month’s reduction is the company’s 16th since 2008 and keeps the price of natural gas around half the going rates for oil and propane.