Feds give needed waiver for Vermont Gas pipeline
ADDISON COUNTY — The federal agency responsible for regulating interstate energy projects has granted a waiver that gives New York and Vermont, the two states through which Phase II of Vermont Gas Systems’ Addison Rutland Natural Gas Project would run, authority to approve or reject the plan.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a ruling Sept. 26 that Phase II complies with the Natural Gas Act, which prohibits the construction of a natural gas pipeline in an area already served by natural gas.
The ruling effectively removes the federal government from oversight of the project, and instead cedes jurisdiction to its state counterparts — the Vermont Public Service Board and the New York Public Service Commission. FERC argued that between those two tribunals, all aspects of the project can be effectively regulated.
Vermont Gas first submitted Phase II for Public Service Board review in November 2013, a month before the company approved Phase I of the project. Last month, the board delayed technical hearings for that docket, in part because FERC had yet to make a ruling on jurisdiction and also because the board is considering whether to reexamine its approval of Phase I, after Vermont Gas in July announced a 40 percent cost hike for that project.
Hearings for Phase II were originally scheduled for October, but the board moved them to January. Based on how long the Phase I approval process took, the Public Service Board is unlikely to rule on Phase II until next spring.
The Vermont Public Interest Group, an opponent of the pipeline project, petitioned FERC to hold evidentiary hearings before making a ruling. The federal agency rejected that request.