Gas pipeline to serve city by 2015, but not all homes to be served

VERGENNES — Representatives of Vermont Gas Systems Inc. told Vergennes aldermen on Jan. 29 that natural gas — which they said is a cheaper form of energy than oil, propane and electric heat — will be available to most, but not all, city residents by 2015.
By then, Vermont Gas Vice President Tim Lyons said, the company should have its Certificate of Public Good from the Vermont Public Service Board (essentially a state permit), will have worked with Vergennes officials to get rights-of-way along city streets to run pipelines, surveyed residents and marketed the product to them, and built the delivery system in Vergennes.
Lyons repeated the company’s oft-stated claim that natural gas is a cleaner, less costly fuel: He stated that it is now 43 percent cheaper than oil, and that the equipment used to burn it does not require annual maintenance.
The Vermont Gas pipelines, he said, will serve “the majority of the Vergennes community.”
However, because the delivery system is by pipeline, not truck, the fuel has never been available to all customers, Lyons said. According to the firm’s presentation, the economics work best when Vermont Gas serves concentrations of smaller lots.
A preliminary city map that Vermont Gas presented to the Public Service Board did not include, for example, the Panton Road trailer park operated by the Addison County Community Trust or a stretch of High Street between Comfort Hill and MacDonough Drive.
City Manager Mel Hawley said he believed the High Street omission was just a paperwork error, but thought Vermont Gas should consider extending service to the 73 homes in the trailer park.
Some at the meeting, including one park resident and Alderwoman Ziggy Comeau, a Panton Road resident who lives near the park, thought the company was not being fair.
“I just feel there are people who are going to be discriminated against,” Comeau said.
Lyons said the map was a first draft, and that the company would review everything as the project proceeded. But he made no promises.
“Our commitment is we’ll go back and look at all these,” Lyons said. “But there is an economic limitation … It’s going to drive up the rates if we serve un-economic projects.”
Lyons said the company pays for the first 100 feet of pipeline to homes and smaller businesses, and that favorable lease deals that include no up-front costs are available for those who want to convert their existing furnaces or boilers to burn natural gas. 

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