Middlebury sets meeting to discuss pipeline plan

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury selectboard this past Tuesday set an agenda for an April 29 public information meeting the town of Middlebury will be hosting about the Phase II Addison-Rutland Natural Gas Project.
That meeting will focus on the proposed construction of a natural gas pipeline from Middlebury through Cornwall and Shoreham and under Lake Champlain to the International Paper Co. in Ticonderoga, N.Y.
The Vermont Public Service Board is reviewing the $70 million project, which is being pitched by Vermont Gas and would be underwritten by International Paper.
Selectboard members said the meeting is intended to give Middlebury landowners along the proposed pipeline route, as well as Middlebury residents in general, a chance to hear updated information about the project and ask questions and express concerns.
The selectboard will consider input from the meeting as it discusses potential action it might take during the PSB’s review of the Vermont Gas application. But although the meeting will be open to all, town officials will be seeking input from Middlebury residents. The Phase II pipeline has drawn particular criticism from Cornwall and Shoreham residents; both those communities passed Town Meeting Day resolutions opposing the project.
Middlebury resident Ross Conrad has opposed the pipeline. He said he appreciated the intent of the April 29 meeting, with the proviso that residents be informed of future opportunities to comment on the project in more general terms.
“I think it’s a good idea,” he said of the meeting.
The gathering will also feature an update on the already approved Phase I natural gas pipeline from Colchester to Middlebury and an overview of Phase II by Vermont Gas officials. Louise Porter, chief counsel for the Vermont Department of Public Service, has also been asked to participate. The DPS represents Vermonters’ interests in proposals that are reviewed by the Public Service Board.
Selectwoman Susan Shashok helped plan the meeting agenda.
“We want to have the focus on the landowner,” she said, as opposed to other issues like hydraulic fracturing.
“It’s about trying to keep (the meeting) level, informative and to maximize our opportunity.”
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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