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Town of Middlebury eyes pipeline conditions

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury selectboard on Oct. 8 will vote on a draft memorandum of understanding with Vermont Gas that spells out the conditions under which the board could endorse the company’s proposed natural gas pipeline extension from Colchester to Middlebury.
The board on Monday got an initial glimpse of the memo, prepared by the town’s attorneys, according to Middlebury Selectman Victor Nuovo.
“It is simply a reaffirmation of the conditions we originally stated,” Nuovo said of the document.
The Addison County Regional Planning Commission has already approved such a memo with Vermont Gas relating to the company’s $70 million plan to extend a natural gas pipeline 43 miles into Middlebury and Vergennes. Dozens of people weighed in on the project on Tuesday during the Vermont Public Service Board’s final public hearing on the project, held at Middlebury Union Middle School (see related story, Page 1A).
Middlebury’s proposed memo has nothing to do with a separate Vermont Gas plan to further extend the pipeline from Middlebury to the International Paper mill in Ticonderoga, N.Y. That “phase two” project has generated much controversy, particularly from residents in Cornwall and Shoreham.
Middlebury, in the draft memo, promises its support of the phase one project if Vermont Gas, among other things, agrees to:
•  Surround the Middlebury-based gate station with a 7-foot, perimeter fence with a locked gate.
•  Ensures that sensitive equipment be housed in a building that is likewise locked.
•  Provides agreed-upon screening for the gate station.
•  Takes measures to mitigate traffic impacts, including (if necessary) limiting hours of construction to keep traffic impacts temporary and localized.
•  Restores landscaping to the satisfaction of the landowners to the extent feasible for the transmission mainline and distribution lines and work with landowners on a case-by-case basis to seek alternate locations for trees removed in the pipeline corridor during construction.
•  Provides training to first responders and local firefighters regarding potential safety issues regarding the natural gas pipeline.
•  Delivers a public awareness campaign about the pipeline prior to it being put into use.
Middlebury reserves full rights of participation in any separate or additional permit proceedings associated with the project, including but not limited to natural resource permit proceedings, and reserves the right to request such additional conditions or safeguards as it may deem to be in Middlebury’s interest, according to the memo.
If the memo is approved by both parties, it will be filed as part of the record the Public Service Board will review in making its decision on the pipeline.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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