Vermont Gas, Shoreham board reach an understanding on pipeline

SHOREHAM — Vermont Gas Systems and the Shoreham selectboard announced on Thursday that they had agreed on a Memorandum of Understanding related to the Addison-Rutland Natural Gas Project, a natural gas pipeline that would run through the town.
The agreement sets conditions about how and where the natural gas transmission line can be built and mandates emergency training and safety measures.
In the MOU, Vermont Gas also promises to create a $100,000 community fund to be used for education, feasibility studies, retrofitting municipal buildings for natural gas, and subsidizing energy efficiency improvements to residents’ homes.
The selectboard will administer the fund, which the company said it OK’d because of the town’s “unique status” of hosting the transmission line to the International Paper plant in Ticonderoga, N.Y.
In a statement issued by Vermont Gas, selectboard chair Paul Saenger praised the MOU as a good step for the town.
“Our agreement with Vermont Gas is a positive step forward that will ensure our community and landowners’ interests,” Saenger said. “The community fund, to be managed by the town, will help town officials with planning and emergency services. While natural gas will be available to some parts of Shoreham, it is our hope Vermont Gas will continue to work to expand their service so all of our citizens can benefit from the lower prices and emissions of natural gas.”
Saenger added that he hoped Vermont Gas would extend service to more citizens of Addison County. Currently, the company estimates the pipeline could serve about 100 homes and businesses in Shoreham.
The MOU also states that Vermont Gas will provide up to $40,000 to convert municipal vehicles to natural gas, and that the company will, when possible, hire and train local workers to construct the pipeline.
It also sets a number of safety rules, such as the construction of a 7-foot, barbed wire-topped perimeter fence surrounding the gate station. The company also promises to notify residents within 1,000 feet of a construction site a week before construction begins. Vermont Gas will also inspect the outside of the pipeline every two years, and the inside of the pipeline, using a specialized device, every seven years.
Though every member of the selectboard signed the MOU, the project remains controversial in Shoreham. On Town Meeting Day, residents voted 66-38 against the pipeline.
Phase II of the project would run from Middlebury through the towns of Cornwall and Shoreham before crossing Lake Champlain and terminating at the International Paper mill in Ticonderoga. It has not yet been approved by the Public Service Board.

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