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Shoreham school to host hearing on pipeline this Wednesday

SHOREHAM — The Vermont Public Service Board (PSB) on Wednesday, May 7, will hold its first of two public hearings on Vermont Gas Systems’ “Phase II” pipeline project that would carry natural gas from Middlebury to the International Paper mill in Ticonderoga, N.Y.
The public hearing will begin at 7 p.m. in the Shoreham Elementary School gym at 130 School St. The PSB will accept testimony both for and against the proposed project. The board will consider that testimony as it determines whether to grant a certificate of public good to the proposal.
Some area residents have questioned the siting of the meeting at Shoreham Elementary, believing it might not accommodate the large numbers of people likely to turn out for the event. An overflow crowd of more than 500 people turned out at the Middlebury Union Middle School gym at the Sept. 10, 2013, PSB hearing on Vermont Gas’s Phase I pipeline proposal. The Shoreham Elementary gym has the capacity to seat around 160 people, according to school officials.
Sue Hudson, clerk to the PSB, said efforts to secure the MUMS gym for May 7 were unsuccessful. The PSB has scheduled a second hearing for Thursday, June 12, at the Middlebury Union High School auditorium.
Vermont Gas has already received PSB approval for the Phase I plan, calling for a natural gas pipeline extension from Colchester to Middlebury and Vergennes, with eventual service to portions of other communities on or near the route. Company officials hope to be serving Middlebury’s Exchange Street business by the end of this year or early next year.
Phase II has been designed primarily with one large consumer in mind: The International Paper mill in Ticonderoga, an industry that is looking to save a substantial amount of money on its fuel bill. Natural gas is currently around half the cost of the No. 6 fuel oil that IP is using to power its boilers. International Paper would bankroll the estimated $70 million cost of Phase II pipeline.
Vermont Gas officials have said that the Phase II project will save its ratepayers $45 million and allow the company to reach Rutland by 2020 — fifteen years sooner than had originally been forecasted.
The project has received support from some Addison County businesses and homeowners who are anticipating fuel bill savings through natural gas. But the pipeline has drawn sharp opposition from many citizens and environmental groups who say the project will infringe on property rights, pose potential dangers, delay the region’s conversion to green energy systems, and result in the importation of a fuel derived from hydraulic fracturing.
The communities of Cornwall and Shoreham passed resolutions on Town Meeting Day opposing the Phase II project. Some of the affected property owners in those two towns have vowed to fight the pipeline project through the courts.
People who want to speak at the May 7 PSB hearing will need to register — providing their name and town of residence — at Shoreham Elementary beginning at 6 p.m., according to Hudson.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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