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Middlebury Sets Conditions For Gas Pipeline

The Middlebury Selectboard approved conditions for Vermont Gas Systems' planned pipeline extension into the Middlebury area last night.

The conditions come in the form of a Memorandum of Agreement, to be signed by Middlebury officials and Vermont Gas Company officials. After signing, it will be submitted to Vermont’s Public Service Board.

The Public Service Board, in weighing the decision to allow the project, will consider the Middlebury agreement a conditional nod of approval from the town.

The agreement addresses some of the concerns Middlebury residents and officials have about the pipeline build-out. It mandates final approval by the town before Vermont Gas begins using the pipeline and requires the company to sponsor annual training sessions for first responders in the area. The training is aimed at increasing preparedness for a pipeline explosion or other problem.

Middlebury also wants to be sure residents have access to the natural gas flowing through town. The agreement stipulates that Middlebury Village must have access to service by 2016 and East Middlebury by 2017.

Vermont Gas Systems spokesman Steve Wark called the Middlebury memorandum "a positive development" and said the company would review the town's suggestions and come up with a plan of action within the next week.

Vermont Gas is in the second phase of its plan to expand south into Addison County, getting municipal approvals before it files its application with the Public Service Board later this year.

The 41-mile gas pipeline, if approved, will bring service to Middlebury and Vergennes as well as under Lake Champlain to Ticonderoga, N.Y.

Critics of the plan say bringing natural gas to Vermont that was extracted from the earth through hydraulic fracturing, a practice banned in Vermont, is wrong. Proponents argue that natural gas is less polluting than other fossil fuels, and that the western part of the state should have access to the pipeline.

Updated Oct. 9 at 3:26 p.m. to reflect comment from Vermont Gas Systems.

Taylor was VPR's digital reporter from 2013 until 2017. After growing up in Vermont, he graduated with at BA in Journalism from Northeastern University in 2013.
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