Vermont’s Public Service Board (PSB) postponed hearings on Phase II of the Vermont Gas Systems pipeline project under Lake Champlain from Middlebury, VT to Ticonderoga, NY after Vermont Gas Systems revealed more cost overruns and requested the delay.
Vermont Gas had asked the Public Service Board to delay the project’s Phase II hearings after it announced its costs for Phase I were runnng about $68 million ahead of projections – $154 million, up from the initial $86 million estimate.
Vermont Gas CEO Don Rendall said last month that the company was filing new, increased cost estimates for Phase I of the project and asked for the delay on regulatory proceedings for Phase II to allow Vermont Gas to review cost estimates for that phase.
Phase I is designed to bring Vermont Gas service south from Vermont’s Chittenden County to Addison County, and the cost increases might lead the Public Service Board to reevaluate its approval for that phase.
Phase II of the pipeline would conduct the natural gas from its Phase I terminus in Addison County under Lake Champlain to Ticonderoga’s International Paper mill.
Some pipeline opponents think the delay for Phase II consideratuion was a mistake. They hold that the Public Service Board should dismiss it totally.
Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) said the board should dismiss the petition without prejudice on conditions.
VPIRG pointed out the failure ofVermont Gas Systems provide quarterly updates to the Public Service Board, which regulates utilities in Vermont. Vermont Gas had committed to quarterly cost updates forboth Phase I and Phase II after they announced a price increase last July. VPIRG said Vemont Gas had not delivered on that commitment.
Others, including Vermont’s Agency of Natural Resources, the Conservation Law Foundation and some landowners along the pipeline route, had no problems with the company’s request to delay Phase II hearings.
Solar Haven Farm, an organic farm located along the route of the pipeline, called for a timely conclusion to the matter.
The parties “… should not be held in a perennial holding pattern wherein no personal or business plans can be made because at any time the Docket 8180 [for Phase II] could be reactivated. In the interests of fairness to the parties, Solar Haven Farm respectfully asks the Board to set a deadline by which VGS must make its decision whether it will withdraw or proceed with its Docket 8180 petition. The docket 8180 must have closure date.” ~ PSB filing for Solar Haven Farm.
The Public Service Board ruling said it “will determine at a later date whether to hold a status conference, and whether to reschedule the technical hearings in this proceeding or dismiss VGS’s petition,” and that “the board will address the request for sanctions in due course.”
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