Opinion: Benefits of gas pipeline based on false assumptions

I attended the “special” Addison County Regional Planning Commission meeting about whether or not the commission should still support the Addison “Natural” Gas Project, in light of the most recent cost estimate increase. I heard some interesting comments as reported by Mr. Flowers in a recent Addison Independent article.
“A vote against the project is a vote against jobs and higher income for the most needy Vermonters in our region,” “Chico” Martin said. Harvey Smith of New Haven said the Addison County Economic Development Corp. continues to maintain that the Phase I pipeline would be a boon to local businesses.
I would like to remind Mr. Martin and Mr. Smith of what Maren Vasatka pointed out at that special meeting … that Franklin County has “enjoyed” the benefits of “natural” gas for almost 50 years now. Why is it that Addison County measures better economically than Franklin County in every aspect? Housing values, employment, number of businesses per capita, median wage … all better in Addison County. And the cost of fuel oil and propane is consistently higher in Franklin County.
Could it be someone was exaggerating the benefits of this project? This project will have the complete opposite effect on jobs. An economic expert testified at the Public Service Board hearing that the project will destroy jobs in our region and cause economic loss.
Seems to me Mr. Martin and Mr. Smith and others who didn’t take the time to read or listen to the testimony before the PSB have bought the line Vermont Gas has been spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising in our region to convince our public officials of and that they have chosen what they want to believe and now they feel they should stick to their decision no matter what transpires.
This is about some business owners who want to save money no matter what the cost to “others.” It makes no matter they will not be footing the bill. They want gas and that is all there is to it.
It would be a sad situation if after the project gets built, the price of oil remains low, renewable energy becomes more commonplace and affordable, “natural” gas prices shoot up due to export and shortness of supply and no one finds “natural” gas that desirable any more. Towns like Monkton and Bristol may never see distribution because by the time VGS gets around to building the distribution pipeline, the cost will be too high and the price advantage too low.
But … the pipeline will still need to be paid for and by a smaller number of customers. Wouldn’t it be great if those that support this project, businesses like Agri-Mark and Middlebury College, would be the ones on the hook to pay for it?
If you think about it, that is exactly what happened with Phase II and International Paper. The cost estimate for Phase II shot up and IP, being a multi-billion dollar corporation, made a sound business decision that the price tag was just too high. The big difference is that IP was going to pay for most of Phase II. Wonder if IP would still want the “choice” if they didn’t have to pay for it? And if Agri-Mark and Middlebury College had to pay for the pipeline, would they still support it? Anybody want to guess?
Jane Palmer

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