Opinion: Phase II project brings benefits

Vermont Gas has plans to expand their current natural gas pipelines to provide distribution to Middlebury, Vergennes, Ticonderoga, N.Y., and Rutland. The current project will be divided into two phases: phase l would extend the existing natural gas pipeline from Colchester to Middlebury; phase II would extend the pipeline in Middlebury across to Ticonderoga’s International Paper (IP). A branch of the transmission pipeline to IP will also be used to bring natural gas service to Rutland, Brandon, Pittsford and Proctor. International Paper will pay $62 million of the $64.4 million cost of the pipeline branch to the mill as well as pay $45 million toward the Middlebury-to-Rutland extension cost of $70 million. This is, in many ways, a positive step for the region.
Economic benefits exist for both prospective customers and those towns hosting the pipeline. As home heating agents the fuel price per million BTU of fuel oil and propane is $28.95 and $26.68 respectively, as compared to a per million BTU price for natural gas of $6.75. The average residential customer is looking to save up to $2,000 per year on their heating bill.
Further, pipeline projects have resulted in significant property tax revenues. In Jericho, for example, the eight-mile distribution pipeline constructed through the town in 2008 generated $36,000 in annual property tax revenue. International Paper is offering to shoulder the preponderance of the cost of the entire project to ensure its sustainability. Natural gas access will significantly reduce IP’s energy costs, and in turn support the paper mill’s 1,200 regional jobs, and business production, 20 percent of which comes from Vermont.
Natural gas is a cleaner fuel type during combustion, when comparing propane and heating oil combustion emissions of CO2, CH4 and NOX with natural gas, tests demonstrated significantly lower emissions when using natural gas. 
For example, the report on the amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the proposed Addison-Rutland phase II as determined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concludes that on a delivered fuel basis, natural gas is 23 percent lower in GHG emissions than No. 6 fuel presently used by International Paper. Further, conversion from oil to gas will result in significant on-site reductions of emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2), as well as probable reductions in nitrogen oxide.
In response to interference by the Addison County Regional Planning Commission one wonders if Article l, sec 8, clause 3 of the Constitution is germane. The court has held, “There has been left to the states wide scope for … regulation … provided it does not materially restrict the free flow of commerce across state lines, or interfere with it …” See: Southern Pacific Co. v. State of Arizona, 325 U.S. 761, 770-71 (1945). Arguably, were Vermont or any of its agencies or subsidiaries to materially interfere with the access of natural gas by International Paper it could raise Dormant Commerce Clause issues; but this being said, this is not the way; “let’s not go there.”
The economic, social and environmental advantages of the use of natural gas by the Vermont communities, as well as the commercial use by International Paper, can hardly be overstated. It is a great opportunity for the Vermont communities to take advantage of the reduced cost for the infrastructure, as well as lowering costs of their future energy needs, while reducing pollutants significantly. International Paper needs to stay competitive and environmentally updated by reducing energy costs, and reducing greenhouse gases; that affects all of us in the Champlain Biome. And last but not least, this area needs to preserve the good paying jobs that are here.
The future of the greater Champlain area should not be dependent on a zero-sum philosophy; instead the area can only survive as we develop a comprehensive attitude of deference to community and its commerce, operating farms, and wildlife systems functioning together. Of course this will not be easy, but no one can deny that this is self-evident if we are to foster thriving, unspoiled communities for ourselves and posterity.
As one looks at the history of the Champlain watershed, one soon sees that there is no shortage of sins when it comes to its past management, which brings us to the crucial juncture: to solve our present and future problems “we shall either hang together or surely we shall hang alone.”
Gary Cooke
Port Henry, N.Y.

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