Opinion: Natural gas pipeline is a cost-effective, timely solution

Extending natural gas to the International Paper mill in Ticonderoga will save Vermonters $45 million of the cost to deliver natural gas to Rutland by 2020 — 15 years sooner than would otherwise be possible — and help strengthen the regional economy and improve air quality.
It’s true, however, that in Vermont, the best routes rarely lead us in a completely straight path to the ultimate destination. Unfortunately, realizing the substantial local and regional economic and environmental benefits of the Addison-Rutland Natural Gas Project is no different.
Vermont Gas has applied to Vermont’s regulators for a Certificate of Public Good (CPG) for Phase II of the Addison-Rutland Natural Gas Project, with transmission and distribution lines running underneath parts of Middlebury, Cornwall and Shoreham to the International Paper plant in Ticonderoga, N.Y. The ultimate goal of this route, in addition to serving these towns, has always been to deliver the advantages of more affordable and cleaner natural gas as quickly as possible to more Vermonters and, in particular, the residents and businesses of Rutland County.
There are a number of reasons why this path is the best way to serve the public good with more affordable, cleaner and safe natural gas.
•  Forty-five million dollars. International Paper will pay to build the underground line that will bring natural gas to its plant, and revenue from sales of natural gas to International Paper will contribute $45 million to bringing natural gas to Rutland. That’s $45 million that otherwise would come out of the pockets of existing ratepayers in Chittenden and Franklin counties and future ratepayers in Addison and Rutland counties.
•  Fifteen years. Without serving International Paper, it is not viable to deliver natural gas to Rutland County until at least 2035. Rutland County already has waited for decades to level the playing field with Chittenden and Franklin counties — and the rest of the nation — with the natural gas these areas have enjoyed for many years. The sooner we move forward, the sooner homeowners and businesses will be able to start cutting their energy bills in half.
•  Regional air quality. Natural gas reduces greenhouse gas emissions by almost 25 percent. By bringing natural gas to International Paper, the Addison-Rutland Natural Gas Project will have a huge impact on air quality in our region. IP will go from burning so-called “bunker fuel” to cleaner natural gas. Over 20 years, converting just this one plant to natural gas will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in our region by an astounding 1.2 million tons and cut sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions. That’s the equivalent of taking almost 12,000 cars off the road. Part of our Champlain Valley, the plant is also a critical regional employer.
•  Routes. For many months, Vermont Gas has worked with towns on the proposed route to identify the best one for the underground lines. Communities made it clear they did not support routing infrastructure along Route 74 and Route 30. We worked with local community representatives and developed a route that minimized landowner impacts to farmland in such a way that the land can still be actively farmed.
Vermont Gas’ route conforms to all town plans and is designed to have a minimal and temporary impact on the land — and no long-term impact on the viewscape or viability of these working farmlands. In reality, energy will always flow through towns like Cornwall and Shoreham — it’s just a choice between more affordable, cleaner natural gas piped below ground, or propane and fuel oil trucked daily on routes like 74 and 30.
•  Economic fairness. Rutland County deserves a chance at the same economic opportunities Chittenden and Franklin counties have had for nearly 50 years, and that communities in northern Addison County will soon have with Phase 1. That’s where the Addison-Rutland Natural Gas Project comes in.
While roads in Vermont may meander, and the best routes are sometimes not the most direct ones, Vermont does have a very clear path towards discerning the public good — the Public Service Board. 
Rutland and Addison counties need the substantial economic and environmental benefits of natural gas, and the Addison-Rutland Natural Gas Project is the best way to achieve those goals within an affordable and reasonable timeframe. Let the Public Service Board decide.
Stephen J. Wark
Director of Communications
Vermont Gas Systems Inc.
South Burlington

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