Regional Planning Commission opts not to change pipeline endorsement

MIDDLEBURY — The Addison County Regional Planning Commission (ACRPC) on Wednesday, June 11, narrowly rejected a request from the town of Cornwall that the panel rescind its earlier vote indicating a majority opinion that Vermont Gas’s proposed Phase II pipeline could comply with the county’s regional plan.
It was on April 9 that the ACRPC board voted 15-11 that the proposed natural gas pipeline from Middlebury to Ticonderoga, N.Y., could pass muster with the Addison County Regional Plan. The board took the vote in light of the Vermont Public Service Board’s ongoing review of the pipeline plan, which would also flow through the towns of Cornwall and Shoreham and under Lake Champlain on its way to the International Paper mill.
Cornwall’s ACRPC delegation of Holly Noordsy, Jim Duclos and alternates Stan Grzyb and Colin Kriwox introduced the motion to rescind the April 9 vote on behalf of their local selectboard.
On Wednesday, the board voted 13-10 against the motion.
“I was pleased that the motion got to the floor in spite of spirited efforts to block the vote by any means possible,” Noordsy said in an email Friday morning. “I was of course disappointed that the motion did not pass but the very close 13-10 result again showed a commission sharply divided.”
The pipeline plan has drawn heavy opposition from affected property owners, environmentalists and various town officials. The communities of Cornwall and Shoreham both passed Town Meeting Day resolutions opposing the $70 million project, which would be underwritten by IP.
Opponents have pointed to the energy section of the Addison County Regional Plan, which takes a position against the construction or expansion of “large-scale energy or transmission facilities” that serve the primary purpose of funneling energy to markets outside of the Addison region. Opponents have also argued that Ticonderoga, N.Y., should not be considered part of the “Addison region.”
But a slight majority of ACRPC board members on April 9 said they believed the Addison region extends beyond the county’s borders. Proponents also contended that the county should not oppose a project that would offer lower-cost natural gas to Addison County businesses and homes; a few homes in Cornwall and Shoreham may be able to tap into the pipeline.
Cornwall’s motion drew substantive debate for quite awhile at the June 11 ACRPC meeting. Adam Lougee, executive director of the ACRPC, said board members on both sides were given an opportunity to speak before the closely drawn vote.
Noordsy gave her reflections on the reasons for the split on the commission.
“Most concerning … is the continued inability or unwillingness of some delegates to distinguish between Phase I and Phase II of the project and the lingering misconception that the vote was somehow about whether a given delegate ‘supported’ the project,” she wrote. “Delegates were not charged to vote on support or non-support but rather to determine whether or not the Phase II project conforms to the regional plan, which I believe it clearly does not.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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