Vermont Gas proposes new rate decreases
MIDDLEBURY — Vermont Gas is recommending a 3.3-percent rate decrease for its approximately 50,000 customers in Franklin and Chittenden counties, a reduction that — if OK’d by the state’s Public Service Board (PSB) — will also apply to the few hundred Middlebury and Vergennes clients the company hopes to patch into its natural gas network this year via its new pipeline extension into Addison County.
Don Rendall, president and CEO of Vermont Gas, said the rate reduction provides evidence that the Addison Natural Gas Project is “on track, on budget and on schedule.”
The controversial 41.2-mile pipeline from Colchester to Middlebury and Vergennes is currently estimated at around $134 million. The PSB originally approved the project in December of 2013, when the projected price tag was $86 million. But the board in March began discussing whether to reopen the permit after cost estimates for the project grew to $154 million — a 78 percent increase. Vermont Gas last October announced a memorandum of understanding with the Vermont Department of Public Service placing a limit of $134 million on the amount it would seek from its ratepayers for expenses related to the Addison RNatural Gas Project.
“Lower energy costs is great news for our existing customers in Chittenden and Franklin counties and for our new customers in Addison County,” Rendall said of the latest news. “We made a commitment to keep rates low and stable for customers and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
Looking beyond this year, Vermont Gas spokeswoman Beth Parent said the company expects to sign on “more than 900 residential and commercial customers in Addison County” in 2017. Eventually, the company wants to serve clusters of homes, businesses and town/school buildings in such communities as New Haven, Bristol and East Middlebury.
Vermont Gas has negotiated easements with 160 landowners along the pipeline route, but remains at an impasse with three landowners. Rendall said those three disputes are currently before the PSB.
The proposed rate decrease filing is subject to PSB approval. Vermont Gas officials said they will make a case for lower rates before the board later this year.