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Vermont towns oppose IP pipeline

By: LOHR McKINSTRY

TICONDEROGA — Voters in the Vermont towns of Cornwall and Shoreham have said they don’t want a natural-gas pipeline that would serve International Paper’s Ticonderoga mill to pass through their communities.

By a vote of 126 to 16 during Cornwall Town Meeting Day on Monday evening, voters passed a non-binding resolution to oppose the Addison-Rutland Natural Gas Project’s 20-mile-long spur that would reach the mill on the New York side of the lake.

At Shoreham’s Town Meeting on Tuesday morning, the vote was 63 to 38 to oppose the pipeline for IP in another non-binding vote.

Vermont Gas already has permission from the Vermont Public Service Board to extend a gas pipeline to Vergennes and Middlebury, Vt., and Phase II would go from Middlebury to Rutland, Vt., with a branch line for International Paper.

IP would pay $62 million of the $64.4 million cost to extend the Vermont Gas line to its facility in New York state. Part of the pipeline would pass under Lake Champlain.

‘DOES NOT COMPLY’

Vermont Gas has asked the Public Service Board for approval of the Phase II section, and a decision is expected later this year.

At a meeting in Middlebury on Monday, the Energy Committee of the Addison County Regional Planning Commission voted 4 to 1 to not endorse Phase II of the project.

Stan Grzyb, a Cornwall representative to the Regional Planning Commission, said in a statement that the committee “decided not to endorse the project because it does not comply with the Energy Section of the Regional Plan.”

The Energy Section disavows energy projects that would help another state or region.

Planning Commission Executive Director Adam Lougee said the committee vote was advisory only.

‘VITAL TO MILL’

The Cornwall Select Board has hired an attorney, Ben Marks, to help oppose the pipeline, but Cornwall Select Board Chair Bruce Hiland said that a vote to oppose it does not necessarily prevent its construction.

“This is simply our opportunity to say where we stand,” he said in a statement.

Vermont Gas spokesman Steve Wark said the pipeline project would help residents and business owners cut their energy bills and reduce emissions.

International Paper has said the pipeline extension is vital to the future viability of the Ticonderoga mill, which now burns much more expensive fuel oil in its boilers.

IP Mill spokeswoman Donna Wadsworth said Tuesday that they respect Vermont’s unique Town Meeting process.

“We believe that the environmental benefit of converting from oil to natural gas and the associated reduction of greenhouse gases is good for the region,” she said by email. “The economic benefit to Vermont communities which will be served by the pipeline as well as the economic benefit to the mill are important reasons for seeing the proposed pipeline become a reality. We remain positive and hope to become a customer of Vermont Gas.”

Email Lohr McKinstry:lmckinstry@pressrepublican.com

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