Middlebury selectboard to discuss pipeline Tuesday evening

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury selectboard on Tuesday, May 27, will discuss and potentially take a pro or con position on “Phase II” of the proposed Addison Rutland Natural Gas Project.
The Phase II project, pitched by Vermont Gas, involves a pipeline that would funnel natural gas from Middlebury, through Cornwall and Shoreham, under Lake Champlain, to the International Paper mill in Ticonderoga, N.Y. International Paper would bankroll the $70 million project as a means of receiving natural gas to power its mill, a facility that is currently dependent on more expensive fuel oil.
Residents of Cornwall and Shoreham passed resolutions in March opposing the Phase II project, based primarily on safety, property rights and environmental concerns. The Cornwall selectboard has officially declared its opposition to the plan, while the Shoreham board has remained neutral. Around 200 people turned out at a Vermont Public Service Board (PSB) hearing on May 7 in Shoreham and scores of area residents stated their views on the proposed project.
Now Middlebury officials are looking to share their views on the project in anticipation of an end-of-May deadline for affected communities to weigh in. The PSB is a quasi-judicial board that will decide whether to green-light Phase II; it has already OK’d the Phase I pipeline project that will bring natural gas from Colchester to Middlebury.
The Middlebury selectboard held a public meeting on April 29 to receive feedback from local landowners who would be directly affected by the Phase II project. The board has already conveyed to the PSB a list of Phase II concerns, including how the proposed pipeline would be buried under the Otter Creek, how infrastructure would be made safe from potential criminal activity, and whether Vermont Gas is willing to provide training and equipment to make sure the town is able to effectively respond to any accidents.
Selectboard Chairman Dean George said Thursday he anticipates primarily a board discussion on Phase II at the May 27 meeting. Board members will be invited to state their views on the plan. He is not sure whether the discussion will lead to the board taking a formal position on the proposal.
He said members of the public may also be allowed to provide additional input at the gathering.
Meanwhile, Vermont Gas has provided numbers on potential property tax revenues the town of Middlebury could derive from the Addison Rutland Natural Gas Project infrastructure. Those figures indicate that:
•  Phase I involves 0.34 miles of transmission pipeline that would generate a combined total of $13,422 in year one. Around $4,632 of that would be municipal tax revenues, with the remaining $8,789 being school taxes.
•  Phase II would involve 7.6 miles of pipeline generating a total of approximately $300,000 in property taxes in year one. Vermont Gas officials said $196,479 of that total would be school taxes, with the remaining $103,557 in municipal taxes.
It should be noted that the property tax revenues to the community would decline over the years based on depreciation of the pipeline infrastructure.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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