Opinion: Cornwall clarifies position on pipeline negotiations
The Cornwall selectboard would like to clarify its position regarding Vermont Gas Systems’ Phase II project.
We, the selectboard, said from the outset that we would work to oppose the pipeline AND we would attempt to work with VGS so that IF, despite our opposition, the Public Service Board (PSB) were to allow the project, we could negotiate the best outcome for Cornwall as a whole. That hasn’t changed.
However, with Phase II on hold it is unknown when, or whether, the PSB will consider VGS Phase II construction. If the PSB eventually says “No,” Cornwall will have spent the money allocated to attorney and expert witness fees towards the desired outcome. If the PSB says “Yes” and allows VGS to construct Phase II, one of two things will happen to Cornwall: If there is no Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with VGS, the PSB will decide Cornwall’s fate; if, however, there is a signed MOU, the terms of the MOU would apply to VGS. A draft term sheet for an MOU is on the table awaiting selectboard action.
As to when the PSB may opine, we understand from news reports that key elements of the pipeline proposal are being reviewed by the principals, International Paper and VGS, with no firm dates set to announce potential changes to Phase II (which in turn may require further PSB review). Consequently, there is no clear timeline for PSB Phase II deliberations and uncertainty as to the project’s parameters. Therefore, the selectboard decided at its meeting on Jan. 20 to take no further action with regard to the draft term sheet unless and until VGS reactivates Phase II.
Last spring at town meeting the town voted overwhelmingly against the pipeline. We have followed that direction. However, the selectboard is charged with protecting the interests of the entire Cornwall community and, given the possibility of the project’s approval despite our opposition, needs to proceed with careful deliberation and full input from the community.
Ben Wood, Acting Selectboard Chairman, Cornwall
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