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Opponents petition regulators against Vt. Gas pipeline - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Opponents petition regulators against Vt. Gas pipeline

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MONTPELIER, Vt. -

When a group of 50 Vermonters flooded the Public Service Board office Tuesday in Montpelier, they were turned away, so they decided to sing and chant outside.

It's the third protest in as many months over a Vermont Gas pipeline. The protesters asked the Public Service Board which oversees public utilities, to reconsider whether a new Vermont Gas Pipeline, running from Chittenden to Rutland county, is still in the public's best interest.

The protesters were organized by members of Rising Tide. They are upset that Phase one of the natural gas pipeline that runs through Addison County costs 40 percent more than expected. It’s an additional cost that will be borne by the ratepayers.

Andy Simon was one of the organizers of the protest. He brought with him a list of more than 500 signatures of unhappy ratepayers.

“We're here to deliver a petition with 500 names on it of ratepayers,” Simon said. “We feel that under board guidelines and under past decisions this is a significant change, a substantive change that needs to trigger an amendment to the certificate of public good."

The Conservation Law Foundation, a group that oversees environmental issues, petitioned the Public Service Board to reconsider its approval of the project.

“Vermont Gas knew or should have known about these increased costs much earlier,” said Sandra Levine, who works for the CLF.

Vermont Gas says the cost increase is due to rising labor prices, among other causes.

Vermont Gas Spokesman Steve Wark said “What we're seeing is upward pressures on labor, on materials, land value in particular, rights of way, and all those associated costs have driven the price higher on this project."

The crux of the disagreement lies around whether the pipeline is actually beneficial for Vermonters.

“About half of their energy costs could be cut in a typical home or anywhere in between $1,000-$2,000,” Wark said.

“The benefits that Vermont Gas claims to the project are simply not there,” Levin argued. “It continues to extend Vermont's reliance on fossil fuels that are polluting and we need to more carefully evaluate that impact."

Vermont law states that a substantial change to a public utilities project requires an amendment to the certificate of public good. That would create a delay that the gas company hopes to avoid.

According to Wark, any further delays would only increase the cost of the project.

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