Letter to the Editor: Vote “No” on pipeline easement

Vermont Gas is hoping for free easements to use Middlebury town property to deliver fracked gas downtown. Gas representatives have suggested that since they will be paying taxes on the pipelines they install, charging for easements in addition is somehow unnecessary or unfair.
Unlike the property taxes we pay that go up every year, the taxes VGS will pay on its pipeline is allowed to be reduced every year through depreciation of the pipeline’s value so that after 20 or 30 years they bottom out at only 30% of the pipeline’s value. This is despite the fact that VGS can expect to use and profit from the pipeline for 50 years or more.
The taxes the town will receive for the pipeline won’t even cover the real value of the pipeline to the company, let alone make up for the loss of value experienced by the town’s properties that will be encumbered by the easements.
In reality, VGS should make payments related to the amount of gas that passes through their pipeline every year, rather than the doctored value of the pipeline itself. Given that Middlebury ranks in the top 10 of Vermont municipalities with the highest property taxes in the state, we should be looking to develop as many income streams as possible before Middlebury homeowners reach the end of their rope in property taxes.
Some have expressed concern that if VGS is required to pay for town easements it will cause the rates their customers pay to increase. Thanks to a Memorandum of Understanding that the Vermont Public Service Board worked out with VGS, natural gas ratepayers are only on the hook for the first $134 million of the new pipeline project. Since the cost of the total project has already reached over $160 million, ratepayers will not have to absorb the easement costs, rather, the stockholders of Gaz Metro (the Canadian company that owns Vermont Gas) will receive a slightly smaller dividend check.
If you think Vermont Gas should pay for the easements they want from the Town, join me in voting NO on Article 1 on Nov. 7. You can vote anytime between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. at the Middlebury Town Office.
Alice Eckles, Middlebury

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