The Addison County Regional Planning Commission has voted in favor of running a natural gas pipeline from Middlebury to the International Paper mill in Ticonderoga, New York.
The 15-to-11 vote Wednesday night came five weeks after two towns that would be in the path of the pipeline, Cornwall and Shoreham, voted to oppose the project. Residents of Monkton also oppose the project.
The Vermont Gas proposed $70 million project would route natural gas to the International Paper mill in New York State. It would pass through Addison County and under Lake Champlain. Addison County Regional Planning Commission Executive Director Adam Lougee says the panel usually works in consensus, so this vote was very close and followed a long and thoughtful debate. “I’ve had four committees looking at this for six months. We’ve had Vermont Gas come and present to us twice. We’ve had people in opposition to the project come and present to us. The majority of the benefit of this project falls outside of Addison County and a lot of the burdens will be in the towns of Cornwall and Shoreham. So it took us a lot of time to work through that.”
A delegation from Essex County, New York attended Wednesday’s commission meeting. Ticonderoga Supervisor Bill Grinnell had filed documents outlining the importance of the pipeline to the mill and surrounding communities, both in New York and Vermont. He is pleased with the outcome of the vote. “Logic prevailed. When you can cut fuel emissions by 40, 50, 60 percent by changing fuel type, it’s kind-of a no-brainer.”
Grinnell says the commissioners recognized the economic repercussions of the project. “And not just the Ticonderoga area. There’s several million dollars a year that impact Vermont from IP. Plus the fact that Vermont is going to benefit from huge amounts of money from the fact that they now are going to have those gas lines that IP is going to pay for.”
Maren Vasatka is a Monkton, Vermont resident fighting an eminent domain notice that would enable Vermont Gas to run the pipeline across her property. She says the commission’s vote is all about money. “I’m really disappointed that the Regional Planning Commission voted that way. I believe that a lot of people voted for the economic factor and not along with the plan. The regional plan reads that the corridor is to be for use in-state only, not to be for utilities to be produced for out-of-state purposes.”
Vasatka also feels the concerns of landowners along the Phase Two corridor were not listened to. “So far in Monkton five of the six easements are less than $3,500. So when we’re taking about the millions of dollars that everybody is going to save, I think for the people that have to have this on their property, have to live with the uncertainty of the safety factors of it, have to live through the construction process, and have to bear the burden on their personal property values, that is nowhere near the money they’re talking about making.”
The vote by the Addison County Regional Planning Commission now goes to the Vermont Public Service Board, which has final oversight of the project. Public Service Board hearings on the proposal begin in September.