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Vermont Gas Going Ahead With Phase I Despite Uncertainty

Taylor Dobbs
Demonstrators set up a lemonade stand outside a Public Service Board hearing Wednesday to illustrate concerns over the rising cost of the Vermont Gas pipeline.

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.

Demonstrators outside a regulatory hearing Wednesday set up a lemonade stand to highlight what they say is an unaffordable project for ratepayers.

As they climbed the three stories and packed the hall outside the crowded hearing room, the demonstrators were hoping to convince the state's Public Service Board that the pipeline is no longer worth it.

Jason Kaye, who lives in the Middlebury area was one of them.

"This is the first step in the Public Service Board considering whether to reevaluate the permit for Phase I, so we feel this is a really important time for us to get out here, let the Public Service Board and the Public Service Department know that we're still here and that a growing chorus of Vermonters realize that this project is not in the best interest of the state," he said.

The board is in the process of deciding whether to reopen the case of the pipeline after Vermont Gas announced a second major cost increase in December.

The board could reopen the case and ultimately reverse its approval of the project if it determines it's not in the best interests of Vermonters.

But Vermont Gas spokeswoman Beth Parent said the company is going ahead with the now-$154 million project.

"We put all of our confidence in the board, but we also have confidence in our latest cost estimates and that the benefits show a significant economic and environmental benefit that Phase I still has," she said.

The board is expected to decide the future of the project sometime this summer.

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