Utility Regulators Want Review Of Vermont Gas Pipeline Construction

Apr 5, 2018

The Vermont Public Utility Commission wants an independent investigation into allegations of shoddy construction of the Addison natural gas pipeline.

In an order released on Wednesday, the commission noted that Vermont Gas Systems — which built the 41 mile project — has already agreed to an outside review of its construction practices.

Rachel Smolker, a project opponent from Hinesburg, pored over state records and the company’s own documents to raise many of the concerns, including improper construction techniques and a failure to document safe construction practices. She was pleased by the commission’s order.

“We’re very grateful and that’s exactly what we asked for. And that is what makes sense,” she said. “The concerns about construction that we brought to the PUC’s attention are multiple and they represent compounded risks that the public shouldn’t have to bear the burden of.”

Vermont Gas spokeswoman Beth Parent says the pipeline is safe, but that the company welcomes the review.

“We've heard the concerns and right now we're focused on how we can support an expert outside review so we can move forward,” she said.

The 41-mile pipeline has seen cost overruns and legal challenges since it was first approved in 2013.  

In February, the Department of Public Service recommended a $25,000 fine because workers allegedly laid the pipe in some areas directly on the ground in a trench instead of on a layer of sand needed for protection and to prevent corrosion. The department also sought additional testing to ensure safety.

The Public Utility Commission suspended that enforcement case while the independent review takes place.