Residents unhappy with gas pipeline route
By Lucia Suarez
STAFF WRITER | January 13,2013
MONKTON — Tensions were high, but Monkton residents remained calm as they voiced their growing displeasure with the proposed natural gas pipeline expansion project that could run through the middle of town.
“My well will be impacted; it’s directly in the path of the pipeline,” said resident Mike Bayer. “We get nothing. We don’t get the benefits to lower fuel costs. That is a giant problem. You will make a lot of damage to a lot of people to make money somewhere else.”
Upwards of 80 people gathered at the Monkton fire station Thursday night to meet with representatives from Vermont Gas Systems in a meeting that company officials hope will start the dialogue to resolve issues.
“I want to start off on the right note,” said Stephen Wark, director of communications with the company. “I want to apologize. We have come up with a situation that has not worked for Monkton.”
The Burlington-based company has proposed laying a gas pipeline through several towns in Chittenden and Addison counties. The $72 million project, known as the Addison Natural Gas Project, would connect the pipeline that enters Vermont at Highgate and extend it south to Middlebury and eventually Rutland.
The pipeline will also enable the company to provide more than half of the gas to International Paper Co., in Ticonderoga, N.Y.
The company initially intended to use the Vermont Electric Power Company (VELCO) right-of-way corridor, but now alternate routes may be used that include going through town. This did not sit well with residents.
“I am appalled by your lack of sensitivity to the impact you’re going to bring,” one resident told company officials at the meeting.
Though some residents seemed to appreciate the company’s apology, others felt it was already too late in the game — especially since the project was filed with the Public Service Board last month.
Monkton resident Renee McGuinness went so far as serving Vermont Gas with a series of notices of no trespass from several residents.
“These notices against trespass are our statement that we’re not willing to cooperate until you move the route,” she said. “Vermont Gas has not shown any consideration or respect.”
Vermont Gas is also facing resistance from residents in Hinesburg, who also do not want the pipeline close to their homes, schools or drinking water wells, and want another alternative route, whether in the town or bypassing the town.
Elsewhere, other municipalities have shown their support for the pipeline’s expansion. Last month Middlebury officials signed a letter supporting the project that, according to the company, would save approximately 2,100 eligible residential and business customers in Middlebury a combined $5 million per year on fuel oil.
In Rutland City, the Board of Aldermen are considering a resolution in support of the project.
“I think it would bring huge benefits to the city and the area,” said Mayor Christopher Louras, who proposed the resolution Monday. “We could create jobs and retain jobs if it’s here.”
He added, “It’s important that we sign on with a letter of support to the Public Service Board.”
At the end of Thursday’s meeting in Monkton, Don Gilbert, president and CEO of Vermont Gas Systems, said he found the public meeting to be helpful and apologized to residents for his company’s apparent lack of communication.
“We needed to hear this. We made a mistake in this case,” he said. “We want to work with you. We are committed to working with you.”
Gilbert said the company is meeting with state regulators later this month to discuss rerouting the project and hopes to have representatives from Monkton at the table.
“We need your help,” he said.