State regulators have approved a complex ownership deal relating to two Vermont utilities, which critics say could lead to additional fossil fuel infrastructure in the state.
On Friday, the Public Utility Commission signed off on a deal that will indirectly increase Canadian pipeline company Enbridge's ownership over both Green Mountain Power and Vermont Gas. The deal involves multiple Canadian energy companies and subsidiaries.
The deal in question is a proposal for Noverco, which has an ownership stake in GMP and Vermont Gas, to acquire Valener, which also has an indirect ownership role over the two utilities. Noverco is partly owned by Enbridge. With the PUC approval, the deal between Noverco and Valener can now move forward.
"We should be moving toward clean energy, renewable energy, and publicly-owned utilities," said Julie Macuga, an activist with 350 Vermont, who organized a protest Monday against the deal. "This is another case where we're heading towards a fossil fuel monopoly and a consolidation of power."
Activists, including several residents who intervened in the PUC proceedings, also raised concerns about the possiblity of increased pipeline construction in Vermont under the change in ownership.
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Jim Porter, director of public advocacy at the Department of Public Service — which represents ratepayers — pushed back on those worries.
"The concern expressed by the intervenors I think was ill-founded," he said. "We continue to have laws that would govern that in Vermont were it to happen, but we found no evidence that that was of concern."
Porter said his department found the deal will not have any significant impact on the status quo of how the two utilities are run and operated in Vermont.
Vermont Gas has said it does not have plans to expand its pipeline in Vermont. Green Mountain Power has said the deal will not change how the utility is run.