Community Forum: Don’t overlook benefits we bring

This week’s writer is Don Rendell, President and CEO, Vermont Gas Systems.
Vermont Gas’s Addison County customer expansion project has received its fair share of news coverage over the past few years and rightfully so: this has been a complex and, at times, very challenging project. Often missing in the many headlines about Vermont Gas are the tremendous benefits this project will bring to Vermont.
Construction alone has pumped tens of millions of dollars into our state and local economies. Since early June, over 250 laborers, inspectors and contractors have been hard at work six days a week building this important infrastructure project. These folks have made Vermont their home this summer — they are staying in area motels and campgrounds, eating at local restaurants and spending money in local stores and specialty shops. They are buying and renting equipment and vehicles at local dealerships. They are getting equipment repaired at local shops, giving businesses a much-needed boost during the summer months.
When this project is completed and we are able to offer natural gas service to Addison County, Vermont Gas will add some $3.1 million to state and local property tax revenues in Chittenden and Addison Counties. We will have added over 110 acres of new conservation land and contributed almost $100,000 to communities for conservation and environmental stewardship.
For thousands of families and businesses in Addison County, completing this project will bring a new, reliable, affordable and much cleaner energy choice. The savings are real. Natural gas is currently almost 10 percent less expensive than heating oil and 44 percent cheaper than propane — that represents an average savings of $150 to almost $900 per year for those choosing natural gas. It will also mean access to award-winning efficiency programs, which can help customers save an additional 20-30 percent off their heating bills and reduce their carbon footprint. That’s real money that can be put back into the pockets of hardworking families and invested in the local economy. And the savings can be much higher for businesses.
Vermont Gas has been at this project now for more than five years. We’re over 90 percent complete and close to finishing construction of 40.5 out of 41 miles. That’s just 2200 feet short of final completion. With final resolution of the last land parcel in Hinesburg, we will be able to finish this important infrastructure project.
We have a 50-year-history of delivering safe, reliable and affordable natural gas service to new communities without exposing our customers to the kind of cost increases or price uncertainty that customers of oil and propane, which are not price regulated, have experienced. Since 2012, our prices have gone down by over 15 percent — saving the average family hundreds of dollars per year. Earlier this year we proposed an additional rate decrease for our customers in 2017, furthering our commitment to low and stable rates.
Every single day, our customers tell me how pleased they are to have made the choice of natural gas service. And every single day people ask me, “When will Vermont Gas come to my town, or my street, or my neighborhood?” We believe in choice and we believe Vermonters will continue to make good energy choices for their own families, their businesses, our state and our planet. We are proud of the work we have accomplished and we are committed to finishing what we’ve started.

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