Plans for Vt. Gas pipeline fuel controversy - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Plans for Vt. Gas pipeline fuel controversy

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It's a picturesque neighborhood, but it looks more like a crime scene these days. Residents like Jennifer Baker and Holly Lukens are taking a stand against the proposed route of the Vermont Gas pipeline project.

"We wanted people to understand the impact of the project because the notification sent out by the gas company were completely inadequate," Baker said.

As it's planned now, the high pressure pipeline will run just feet from their front doors.

"We looked into the ramifications of that and we didn't like what we found," Baker said.

"If it blows up there's no protection against it; there's no distance," Lukens said.

The $91 million project entails 42 miles of new 12-inch pipeline extending from Colchester to Addison County through 11 different communities. Most will be serviced by the pipeline, but whether or not Monkton will be able to feed off it is still in question.

"We won't even get service!" Baker said.

"Too disruptive, too close to the houses, too close to springs; it's just not safe. It's too close for a line that size," said John Phillips, the chair of the Monkton select board.

Vermont Gas plans to continue the line under Lake Champlain to power the International Paper Mill in Ticonderoga New York and eventually extend to Rutland.

"This is larger volumes of gas that we need to bring down to serve Addison County," said Steve Wark of Vermont Gas.

Reporter Gina Bullard: Are there safety concerns with that higher pressure?

Steve Wark: No, there's not, because there's safety codes that account for where the pipe is placed, how it's built and to deal with all those issues.

"It's not the gas line per se, it's strictly the route. There's alternative routes to follow that would be safer," Phillips said.

The Monkton community hopes Vermont Gas goes back to its original plan of putting the project along the VELCO transmission line. Vermont Gas says things like environmental and safety issues arose with that current utility corridor.

In Middlebury, select board chair Dean George says the gas line is essential to the community.

"It's a huge benefit to our local businesses who use tremendous amounts of heating oil for example," George said.

The pipeline will also feed out to neighborhoods and potentially service 1,000 homes in Middlebury. Either way, Monkton is hoping Vermont Gas changes its route.

Steve Wark: We're going to go back to work them to see the solutions we can come with.

Gina Bullard: So you're willing to change the route?

Steve Wark: If we can, yeah.

The town's next public service board meeting is Jan. 10.

Vermont Gas currently has two high pressure lines running through Colchester and Swanton.

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