Natural gas will be boon to Rutland
Editors note: The following was signed by four members of the Vermont House from Rutland, Peter Fagan, Herb Russell, Larry Cupoli and Doug Gage.
Rutlanders want money-saving warmth for our homes, our air to remain clean, and we want a new source of tax revenue that has the potential to lower our property taxes. Vermont Gas has provided these benefits to customers in Chittenden and Franklin counties for close to 50 years. It’s time that Rutland and Addison counties had the same choice the Burlington area enjoys.
As an example of how natural gas can benefit a community, natural gas service was recently extended to Jericho where more than 67 percent of eligible customers made the switch from heating oil or propane to natural gas. As a result of their switch to natural gas, Jericho homes and businesses are saving $1.2 million dollars annually in heating costs and the town of Jericho receives $36,000 in annual tax revenue from Vermont Gas. Imagine our homes and businesses enjoying those benefits. We can with natural gas.
With an investment of more than $70 million dollars, Vermont Gas Systems proposes to extend natural gas service another 17 miles south of Middlebury by 2015. (They are currently in the regulatory process to build the natural gas line to Middlebury.) Importantly for Rutland, this proposed extension, known as Phase II of the Addison/ Rutland natural gas expansion project, will make the extension to Rutland viable and will make the benefits mentioned above available to Rutland 15 years sooner than is otherwise possible.
The environmental benefits will help keep our air clean. Approximately 34 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in Vermont come from heating buildings and homes. Using natural gas can reduce emissions by 23 percent.
We need jobs for Rutland, and natural gas can help to create and retain them. Companies looking to relocate to this area ask about natural gas availability. The lack of availability continues to be a reason for employers to locate elsewhere. At current prices, natural gas is more than 40 percent less expensive than heating oil and 50 percent less expensive than propane. Cabot Cheese in Middlebury is projecting to save $3 million per year with a conversion to natural gas.
Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of GE, recently told his Rutland employees, “We’ve got a lot of business, so you’re going to be busy.” Natural gas can help keep GE and other companies busy. Busy businesses keep and create more and better-paying jobs while investing in our community and benefiting us all.
With natural gas, Rutland Regional Medical Center could save money to benefit the hospital, our health care professionals and ultimately our community. Rutland schools would have lower heating bills, thus saving taxpayer money. All this, and Vermont Gas would pay property taxes to Rutland for the pipeline serving us.
Residential customers will save, too. The average homeowner burning 800 gallons of fuel oil a year could save more than $1,200 per year. Additionally, low income households save an additional 20 percent thanks to Vermont Gas Systems’ heating assistance program. It is estimated that 14,000 homes in Rutland County could heat with natural gas, saving a combined $1.8 million annually.
We support responsible renewable energy development, and we’re excited about Rutland’s solar city initiative. But Rutland needs and deserves reliable, less expensive, cleaner energy to heat our homes and businesses now. This is why the Vermont long-range energy plan, developed by Governor Shumlin’s administration, foresees a long-range transition in which natural gas plays an important role for heating, electricity and transportation. Governor Shumlin addressed a Rutland Chamber of Commerce breakfast early in 2013 during which he expressed his strong support of natural gas to Rutland as an economic driver. After his appearance at the breakfast, the Rutland County legislative delegation sent the governor a letter extending our support and assistance to achieve the vision of natural gas to Rutland. We thank the governor and his administration for supporting Rutland.
Extending service to the Rutland area by 2020, 15 years sooner than is currently projected, is vital to improve economic prosperity in Rutland and to our neighbors who will be able to find and keep jobs and enjoy living in our beautiful city.
Peter Fagan, Herb Russell, Larry Cupoli and Doug Gage are House members representing Rutland.