Pipeline opponents, supporters testify in Shoreham

SHOREHAM — More than 170 people flooded the Shoreham Elementary School gym on Wednesday evening to weigh in on a controversial plan to extend a natural gas pipeline from Middlebury to the International Paper Co. mill in Ticonderoga, N.Y., with most of the speakers urging state regulators to deny a permit for a $70 million project for environmental and public safety reasons.
Wednesday’s gathering was one of two public hearings that the Vermont Public Service Board (PSB) will convene to receive testimony on Vermont Gas Systems’ proposed Addison-Rutland Natural Gas Project “Phase II” pipeline that would extend from Middlebury, through Cornwall and Shoreham, under Lake Champlain, to the IP mill.
The towns of Cornwall and Shoreham passed Town Meeting Day resolutions opposing the project, which would pave the way for IP to replace its No. 6 fuel oil energy source with cheaper and less environmentally damaging natural gas. The project would also provide natural gas service to some select, densely populated portions of Cornwall and Shoreham.
More than 60 people signed up to speak at the PSB hearing in Shoreham. The vast majority of speakers urged the board to reject the Phase II plan, arguing, among other things, that the project would largely benefit two out-of-state companies (IP and Vermont Gas, the latter of which is based in South Burlington and which is owned by Gaz Metro of Montreal) while potentially placing area residents and Lake Champlain in environmental peril if the pipeline were to rupture.
Also testifying were some New York State economic development officials who touted the Phase II pipeline as a way of providing more financial stability to IP and the more than 600 jobs it provides in the North Country. Some Shoreham residents also spoke favorably about the pipeline, saying natural gas could encourage business growth in the village while allowing some homeowners to save some money on their heating fuel bills.
The May 12 issue of the Independent will feature a comprehensive wrap-up and photos of Wednesday’s meeting.

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