Opinion: Vermont Gas official is not sharing enough information

The Jan. 15 issue of the Addison Indy headlined a story “New CEO of Vt. Gas vows company will be more transparent.” On that same day I had the opportunity to directly ask the new CEO, Don Rendall, a question on the Mark Johnson Show on WDEV radio. (Thank you, Mark.)
I asked Mr. Rendall if he could give me the approximate cost per unit of natural gas delivered through a pipe vs. the approximate cost per unit of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) delivered by truck. Now I did this because in last fall’s paper, Vermont Gas said its customers of the CNG gas island in Middlebury would save from 20 percent to 40 percent on their fuel bills. Certainly IP, being their largest customer, would save greatly with CNG. Also last year IP and Vermont Gas had received a “protective order” from the PSB, which would exempt documents in Phase II from “public records requests.”
Now it took me a few seconds to get off the phone and get the radio back on, but what I think I heard Mr. Rendall say was that he didn’t have the comparison figures in front of him so he couldn’t give me any information on the unit cost of piping natural gas vs. trucking it. I believe that if he is good at his job, then he should know these costs per unit figures. Then he said he would not divulge documents from discussions with IP, because these are business dealings between two private companies. I think these cost figures as they relate to IP would give us all a better understanding (during this time of escalating overruns) of whether or not to proceed with these expensive long-term pipes. If Vermont Gas is essentially acting as a public utility and the argument is “for the public good,” then these figures need to be part of public dialog. The gas island concept could also have the effect of saving millions versus a Phase I or Phase III pipe, and could lessen the burden placed on Chittenden or Franklin county ratepayers and, as AARP suggests, the poor and elderly.
So much for the transparency Mr. Randall said he would bring to Vermont Gas’ new image.
Norton Latourelle

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