Vermont Gas Systems

A Visual History Of The Vermont Gas Pipeline

The plan for the Vermont Gas Systems pipeline project has transformed dramatically over the two years since the company got its first approval from Vermont regulators more than two years ago.

It started as a three-stage development that would bring natural gas from Chittenden County under Lake Champlain to New York, and also south to Rutland; the company's latest plan is a much smaller 41-mile pipeline that ends in Middlebury.

Find an interactive timeline of the project here.

Exterior of the Vermont Gas building.
Taylor Dobbs / VPR File

Vermont Gas Systems has a powerful new opponent in its efforts to build a controversial natural gas pipeline into Addison County. The Vermont chapter of the AARP filed testimony from a Louisiana economist who said his calculations show the project will result in a net loss of almost $200 million over 20 years to the state’s economy.

NG Advantage / Courtesy Photo

Vermont Gas Systems canceled plans in February to run a pipeline under Lake Champlain to an International Paper mill in Ticonderoga, N.Y., but the company’s product is still going to power the plant when it switches to natural gas next month.

Vermont Gas Systems made some changes in its cost estimates related to the company's pipeline from Chittenden County to Addison County, according to the latest filings with regulators, but the total cost of the project seems to have stopped rising. The filing shows a major increase in project management costs, largely offset by savings elsewhere in the project.

The new filing also shows the major costs related to the recently canceled second phase of the pipeline.

Vermont’s Public Service Board is considering a $35,000 fine for Vermont Gas Systems because of the company’s handling of major cost overruns that have raised the estimated cost of the Addison County pipeline by about 80 percent over the past year.

In question is whether Vermont Gas Systems behaved responsibly in developing a new cost estimate last summer. The company knew about the increase as early as last March, but didn’t tell regulators about it until July.

Taylor Dobbs / VPR

Vermont Gas Systems is planning to go ahead with construction on its Addison County pipeline this summer even though the state permit for the project is no longer a sure thing.

On Wednesday, some environmentalists and other opponents of a proposed natural gas pipeline welcomed news that a portion of the project is now canceled due to rising costs.

But not everybody’s happy.

Taylor Dobbs / VPR

Opponents of the Vermont Gas Systems pipeline project are unabashedly celebrating the company’s announcement Tuesday that it will not pursue a pipeline it planned to run under Lake Champlain to a paper mill in New York.

Taylor Dobbs / VPR/file

Vermont Gas Systems has canceled plans for the second part of the company’s three-phase pipeline project.

Taylor Dobbs / VPR File Photo

Vermont Gas Systems last week filed a detailed breakdown of the updated costs of the Addison County natural gas pipeline last week.

The new filing to the quasi-judicial Vermont Public Service Board shows dramatically increased construction costs. But the documents obscure cost changes in other areas of the project because costs are categorized differently than in previous filings.

State officials and pipeline opponents are calling on regulators to reassess the merits of the Vermont Gas Systems pipeline after the company announced a second major cost increase in December.

Vermont regulators have postponed hearings on the second phase of the Vermont Gas Systems pipeline project after the company revealed additional cost overruns and requested a delay.

In an announcement framed as a “reset” of the pipeline project, incoming Vermont Gas CEO Don Rendall said last month that the company was filing new, increased cost estimates for Phase I of the project. At the same time, the company asked for a hold on regulatory proceedings for Phase II so Vermont Gas officials could review cost estimates for the next phase.

Taylor Dobbs / VPR File Photo

When I met Sara Mehalick in late May, she had a bike lock around her neck.

She'd chained herself to the front door of the Vermont Gas Systems headquarters building in South Burlington.

"I'm here today in defense of a livable planet and because the construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure like the proposed fracked gas pipeline is really the exact opposite direction that we need to be going," she said at the time.

Taylor Dobbs / VPR File Photo

Vermont Gas Systems announced Friday that it faces additional cost overruns for its pipeline to Addison County. 

The company is not ruling out a rate increase to pay for the new costs. And officials say they will ask regulators to delay proceedings on the the next phase of the project, pending revised cost estimates for that phase.  

Costs have gone up substantially since the project was first submitted to regulators a year ago.

In response to pressure from landowners and Gov. Peter Shumlin, Vermont Gas Systems has agreed to temporarily stop pursuing legal action to secure rights-of-way along the route of the company’s Addison County pipeline.

The move comes after a vocal group of landowners spent months attending public meeting and staging public demonstrations such as a “knit-in” at Vermont Gas headquarters.

Taylor Dobbs / VPR/File

Landowners along the route of the Vermont Gas pipeline met with Gov. Peter Shumlin Thursday to voice their concerns about the way the company negotiates with landowners about the pipeline right-of-way.

Shumlin met with 10 of the landowners along the pipeline route who have repeatedly voiced opposition to the pipeline itself and criticized Vermont Gas for its negotiating tactics.

The landowners are calling for a hold on all negotiations over access to their property until “fair and transparent rules of the game are in place.”

Bob Kinzel / VPR

Late Monday afternoon, about 50 protesters with the groups 350VT,  Rising Tide Vermont, Just Power and the Vermont Workers Center staged  a sit-in at Gov. Peter Shumlin’s office in Montpelier.

Organizers said they plan to stay until the governor meets their demands to renounce his support for the Vermont Gas Systems natural gas pipeline expansion – and back a ban on new fossil fuel infrastructure.

At similar demonstrations in the past, protesters refusing to leave an area have been arrested.

State utility regulators ruled Friday that Vermont Gas Systems can continue to build its pipeline from Chittenden County to Addison County despite substantial cost overruns.

Vermont Gas spokesman Steve Wark said the company was pleased by the decision.

Vermont Gas Systems has federal approval for Phase II of the company’s pipeline from Addison County under Lake Champlain to an International Paper mill in New York.

The approval, which came from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), is the only federal permission needed for the three-phase pipeline project. For each of the three phases in Vermont (Chittenden County to Addison County, Addison County under the lake to New York, and Addison County to Rutland County), Vermont Gas will need a Certificate of Public Good from the Vermont Public Service Board.

State regulators are delaying their consideration of Phase 2 of the Vermont Gas Systems pipeline because the company has so far failed to get federal approval to bring gas to New York and because of ongoing concerns about cost overruns for Phase 1 of the pipeline.

The second phase of the pipeline would connect the planned Phase 1 terminus in Addison County to a paper mill owned by International Paper in Ticonderoga, N.Y.

The Vermont Supreme Court has granted a request from the state Public Service Board that will allow the board to reconsider its December 2013 ruling that approved Phase 1 of the Vermont Gas Systems pipeline for construction.

The project in question is planned to extend Vermont Gas' network south from Chittenden County to the Middlebury area. It is the first phase of a three-phase project that is ultimately planned to bring Vermont Gas service to Rutland.