Scott a supporter of natural gas pipeline

MIDDLEBURY — In a wide-ranging discussion with the Independent, Vermont Lt. Gov. Phil Scott shared his ideas on making Vermont a more affordable place to live, improving the state’s economy and learning more about single-payer health care (see story here).
The Berlin Republican is seeking his third term in the Vermont’s second-highest constitutional office.
Other issues Scott discussed included:
•  The Addison Rutland Natural Gas Project pipeline. Scott said he favors Vermont Gas’ three-phase proposal to extend its natural gas pipeline from Colchester to Rutland. The Vermont Public Service Board has already OK’d Phase I, from Colchester to Middlebury and Vergennes. The PSB is now reviewing Phase II, which would involve a pipeline spur from Middlebury to the International Paper mill in Ticonderoga, N.Y.
A vast majority of Addison County residents who have attended PSB public hearings on the subject have declared staunch opposition to the Phase II pipeline proposal.
“Anything we can do to reduce our costs is essential for Vermont,” Scott said. “The affordability issue is something we are all facing. If it bridges the gap to something else, it’s well worth doing.”
That said, Scott believes the Legislature should look at the Public Service Board review process, acknowledging criticism from some circles that the three-person panel might possess too much power in deciding the fate of large utility proposals that now skirt local permitting review.
“I think there should be more input,” Scott said.
•  Marijuana legalization. Scott did not come out against legalization, but said he is concerned about the extent to which pot use can impair driving and the ability of law enforcement to measure that kind of impairment in motorists.
“I was in favor of decriminalization, because I felt (making pot possession a criminal offense) had a detrimental effect on the long-term standing of somebody who may have made a mistake in their past,” Scott said. “I am not a prude by any stretch, but at the same time, I would like to watch Colorado and Washington for a while. We don’t have to be the first at everything. Those states might have a bit of a learning curve.”
•  Higher education. Scott is concerned that not enough Vermont high school graduates are able to access higher education in the state college system.
“Vermont state colleges have got to rediscover themselves, figure out how they can be more affordable for Vermont kids,” Scott said. Too much emphasis these days is being placed on four-year college degrees, according to Scott. He is advocating, among other things, for a public-private partnership through which Vermont students could enroll in two-year college programs to qualify them for jobs.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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