In Their Opinion...

Editorial: Support IP pipeline

---- — Some people across the lake don’t want Vermont Gas Systems to build a pipeline that would supply International Paper’s Ticonderoga mill with natural gas.

The utility has proposed a pipeline extension from Middlebury, Vt., to the paper mill located just across Lake Champlain from the Green Mountain State.

That irked some Vermont officials and residents, who don’t want the pipeline passing through their pristine communities to serve an industry in another state.

The reaction takes us back to Vermont’s “we’re small and special and unique” cliché, which New York state tourism officials have been hearing for years, especially when they want Vermont to pay its share of joint tourism projects.

Vermont used to issue Lake Champlain maps that showed the entire lake to be in their state. That gives you an idea of what they think of their neighbor to the east.

The most extreme reaction to the pipeline extension plan came from the chair of the Cornwall Town Select Board, who sent Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin a letter attacking the project.

He said the IP mill was profitable without the use of natural gas in its operation, that the emissions reduction would be slight and that any cost savings would just benefit International Paper’s corporate headquarters in Memphis, Tenn.

The guy seems to think he knows a great deal about the inner financial workings of the Ticonderoga mill.

The bottom line is that without the approximate $15 million in annual savings from the use of natural gas, the mill may not be around some day in the not-so-distant future.

The Ticonderoga mill is the most expensive to operate in the IP group, and the papermaker has already closed mills in Corinth and Erie. It is imperative that the local mill be able to take steps to reduce its operating and energy costs.

What industry doesn’t need to reduce its energy costs? The boilers at the mill now burn fuel oil and tree bark and would be converted to use much cleaner natural gas.

Vermont, being an environmentally conscious state, should be commending IP for wanting to save energy and reduce emissions.

IP is the largest private employer in Essex County, with 600 employees, some of whom live in Vermont, not to mention the logging contractors from the Green Mountain State who supply the mill.

And the pipeline expansion, which IP would finance, would benefit Rutland, Vt., because it would enable Vermont Gas to extend natural gas south to that city. The company says it could not otherwise afford the extension.

Close the mill and watch the area around it become a ghost town in a short period of time. The ripple effect would take out many small businesses. Vermont would certainly suffer, as well.

We think it’s time for Vermonters to put partisan considerations aside and support the IP pipeline extension.