New Haven says ‘yes’ to Vermont Green Line

NEW HAVEN — New Haven residents have expressed their support for the proposed Vermont Green Line converter station by nearly a two-to-one margin.
Town officials polled them in a townwide survey that residents had a week to answer, and on Tuesday evening the results showed 252 residents in favor of the project and 128 residents against.
The Vermont Green Line (VGL) is a proposed high-voltage power line that would bring wind and hydro power from upstate New York into the New England grid at the VELCO substation in New Haven. The VGL partners have offered New Haven millions of dollars in financial incentives for hosting the station that would convert DC electricity on their line to AC electricity that will go onto the VELCO lines.
Immediately after tallying the survey, the selectboard met and unanimously voted to move the project forward with support from attorneys Richard Saudek and Cindy Hill and to continue hammering out contract details with Selectman Steve Dupoise and former Selectwoman Carole Hall serving as negotiators.
“We feel it’s a great victory for the town of New Haven, and it’s a direct result of the unprecedented level of collaboration that we undertook with the town in shaping the project,” said VGL representative Joe Rossignoli. “We just look forward to continuing that collaboration with the town going forward.”
New Haven selectboard Chair Kathy Barrett was happy to have crossed this hurdle.
“There are a lot of people that put a lot of hard work into this, and we’re hoping that the town can come together and make this a good project,” she said. “There are some people that are upset about the survey results and that’s unfortunate. We heard their concerns at the informational meetings, and we now have to mitigate those concerns as much as possible in the final agreements.”
Next steps for both the New Haven selectboard and for the National Grid-Anbaric partnership behind the project is to move from the terms of agreement both ratified in April to a final contract.
“We’re going to get down to the nitty-gritty and nail down all the what-ifs and all the details as to how it’s going to work,” Barrett said. “There’s a lot of things that need to be discussed. And like the original term sheet, it’s going to take a while to get all of that fleshed out.”
Said Rossignoli, “I think we need to work closely with the town’s leadership in fleshing out the framework that’s already been set forth in the term sheet that was executed and approved by the town. So we’ll be spending the coming months doing that.”
Meanwhile, the VGL partnership is taking the survey results and the unanimous yes from the New Haven selectboard as satisfying their repeated pledge to get support from the town before going to the Public Service Board to get necessary state permits. The VGL partnership plans to submit its 45-day notice on the project at the end of May and to go to Public Service Board toward the end of August.
“I feel strongly that the vote at the selectboard level plus the survey gives us two definitive expressions of support that I pledged to get before going to permitting. That being said, we have to work out the details. And we want to proceed with New Haven as expeditiously as possible,” Rossignoli said. “But obviously we don’t feel that we need to have all the details worked out before we go to make the application … We feel it’s important to keep the project on schedule.”
Anbaric and National Grid, both based in Massachusetts, want to run 60 miles of underground high-voltage direct-current cable from upstate New York, under Lake Champlain, and then convert it to AC power and plug into the electrical grid at the VELCO substation in New Haven. The power, which carries Renewable Energy Credits, would be sold to customers in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.
As described by VGL representatives, the converter station requires a site of roughly four to five acres and the main building would be roughly the size of a football field and five stories high. Developers have estimated the value of the converter station at between $100 million to $150 million. The entire VGL project itself is estimated to cost roughly $650 million.
The VGL partnership has agreed to benefits to the town of New Haven including:
•  Payments of $1.4 million per year to the town for 40 years, with yearly 1 percent adjustments for inflation.
•  $4 million to build a new fire station and a new town garage.
•  Acceptable sound levels for the project set at “World Health Organization guidelines of 40 dBa broadband/35 dBa tonal at the exterior of any residence.”
•  A VGL Compensation Fund for designated abutters, with an initial amount of $1 million.
Some of those opposed to the project have warned that the noise level will be disruptive.
Anbaric and National Grid this winter began talks to put the converter station in Middlebury if New Haven said no. Rossignoli said the New Haven survey results “better defines our plan going forward.” But he didn’t rule out some role for Middlebury.
“We want to work with Middlebury on some project, and we look forward to having discussion with them on that,” he said. “But with respect to VGL, this obviously moves the project strongly in the direction of New Haven.”
Barrett expressed appreciation for the hard work that brought the project to this stage.
“I just want to thank everyone who has worked so hard on this: Carole and Steve, the selectboard, the people that sat there all day long waiting for people to come in and fill out the survey, the office staff. It’s been a huge group effort and a lot of people have gone above and beyond and we’re very appreciative of that.”
Reporter Gaen Murphree is at [email protected].

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