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In Addison County, Three No's To Vt. Gas Pipeline

Addison County sent a strong message of opposition to Phase II of the Vermont Gas pipeline at Town Meetings held on Monday and Tuesday.

At Cornwall's Town Meeting on Monday evening, voters passed a non-binding resolution to oppose the Addison-Rutland Natural Gas Project, 126-16.

Also on Monday, residents in Shoreham also approved a non-binding resolution to oppose Phase II of the pipeline, 63-38.

"We can resolve to do all sorts of things, but there [are] the statutes and the Legislature and the procedures ... So this is simply our opportunity to say where we stand." - Bruce Hiland, Cornwall select board chair

And Monkton voters strongly denounced the pipeline on Tuesday, with three speakers delivering prepared remarks against the project and no one speaking in support.

The $70 million project would pipe natural gas from Middlebury to the International Paper Mill in Ticonderoga, N.Y., passing through Cornwall and Shoreham and eventually under Lake Champlain.

Meanwhile, on Monday evening, the Energy Committee of the Addison County Regional Planning Commission also determined that it would not endorse Phase II of the project, advising the commission that the pipeline does not comply with the energy section of the Addison County Regional Plan.

Adam Lougee, executive director of the ACRPC, emphasized that the committee's 4-1 vote was merely advisory; the planning commission will also receive recommendations from three other committees by March 12.

"Committees' recommendations are non-binding recommendations to the full commission," Lougee said. 

At Cornwall's meeting, several landowners voiced their opposition to the pipeline before the paper ballot vote. 

"We have been lied to. Our property has been trespassed on," said Randy Martin. "We really were never given an opportunity, we felt, to fairly discuss our concerns about this. It was, 'It's coming. Deal with it.'"

Cornwall has retained an attorney, Ben Marks, but Select Board Chair Bruce Hiland said that the town is not representing individual landowners. Hiland also emphasized that a vote to oppose the pipeline does not automatically restrict its construction.

"We can resolve to do all sorts of things, but there's the statutes and the Legislature and the procedures are all there. So this is simply our opportunity to say where we stand," Hiland said.

Steve Wark, a spokesman for Vermont Gas, says the company remains committed to the project but realizes it needs to do more outreach in Addison County. "These are advisory votes; they're non-binding," he said. "But we look at them as ... an indicator. It's a metric that we need to continue to work with these communities." 

Wark said that the extension of the pipeline to the International Paper plant in New York was a key part of getting natural gas service to Rutland, which he said will benefit from the lower cost fuel prices. 

"That agreement for Phase II with International Paper, that makes Rutland possible," he said. "It's worth $45 million. So without International Paper, Vermont would have to come up with an additional $45 million to get down to Rutland in a reasonable timeframe without any kind of rate impact." 

Corrected at 4:50 p.m. on March 4, 2014 to reflect the fact that Shoreham's vote took place on Monday evening, not Tuesday.

Updated at 3:40 p.m. on March 4, 2014 to include comments from Vermont Gas.

Updated at 1:08 p.m. on March 4, 2014 to include results from Shoreham and Monkton and comments from Adam Lougee.

Angela Evancie serves as Vermont Public's Senior VP of Content, and was the Director of Engagement Journalism and the Executive Producer of Brave Little State, the station's people-powered journalism project.
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