PSB begins hearing on gas pipeline - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

PSB begins hearing on gas pipeline

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It was a packed hearing before the Public Service Board in Montpelier.  At issue is the proposal by Vermont Gas and it's Canadian parent company, Gaz Metro, to build a natural gas pipeline. Phase one of the three phase project would bring natural gas from Colchester to Middlebury -- through 11  communities.   A key issue is the availability of natural gas in the future.

"Is natural gas going to be affordable into the foreseeable future. All of our data shows all the forecasts that we look at shows 140 years supply as a result in change in technologies," said
Steve Wark with Vermont Gas. "It's a cleaner source of energy and so a lot of the questions will continue to focus on that."

Wark says that change in technologies includes the ability now for directional drilling into shale and a technique called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.  It involves injecting water under controlled pressure to create fractures in a targeted rock formation permitting --  in this case -- natural gas to flow to the
well bore.  

The technique has come under fire from environmentalists and the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association, who say the process creates polluted water tables. "Our role here is to point out that some of the claims made by Gaz Metro and its subsidiary, Vermont Gas, are not quite accurate when it is comparing the cost of the fuels, when it is comparing environmental impact of the fuels -- that is why we have been granted party status by the Public Service Board. That is why we are here," said the Fuel Dealer Association's Matt Cota.

A study published Monday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concludes fracking doesn't seem to spew immense amounts of the greenhouse gas, methane, into the air. The study doesn't address other fracking pollution concerns.

Cota says The Vermont Fuel Dealers Association, Vermont Gas and the Conservation Law Foundation have all hired nationally known environmental experts who are expected to testify about the dangers later this week.  Vermont Gas hopes to have approval for the $91 million dollar project soon.

"We hope to have some sort of approval or indication from the board sometime in November and after that we would start. We already started connecting with vendors and we would like to start building sometime in February," Wark said.

The long term goal is to ultimately extend the pipeline to Rutland.

The PSB hearings for the proposed pipeline will continue throughout the week.

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