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Group Petitions Regulators To Reconsider Pipeline Approval

When regulators approved Phase 1 of Vermont Gas Systems’ pipeline project last year, they didn’t have accurate information about the cost of the project, the Conservation Law Foundation says.

Now, the environmental group is asking the Public Service Board to put a stop to the project until it can reconsider the approval with new numbers in mind.

The new cost estimates, announced at the beginning of July by Vermont Gas, are 40 percent higher than those approved by the Public Service Board last December, bringing the project cost to $121 million.

"The approval they received was based on information that is no longer accurate." - Sandra Levine, Conservation Law Foundation

 The Public Service Board has the authority to revoke or modify the “certificate of public good” it issues for utility infrastructure projects in the state. CLF’s petition argues the board should force Vermont Gas to reapply for a new certificate.

“The approval they received was based on information that is no longer accurate,” said CLF senior attorney Sandra Levine.  “Certainly, small cost increases may be expected, but a 40 percent increase is substantial,” she said.

Vermont Gas spokesman Steve Wark says the CLF petition “doesn’t make sense,” and that it “misses several points.” The most important, Wark said, is that “there are still significant economic and environmental benefits to this project.”

Natural gas is cheaper than other heating fuels and emits smaller quantities of greenhouse gases when it burns, he said. Wark added that if those benefits are brought to customers along the route of the proposed pipeline, they outweigh the increased cost.

Vermont Gas has filed an application for a certificate of public good for Phase 2 of the pipeline, which would extend service from the Middlebury area under Lake Champlain to the International Paper mill in Ticonderoga, N.Y.

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