Vermont Gas Systems is inching forward with its plan to expand natural gas service to Addison County and points south, with the support of town officials.
Vermont Gas currently serves areas of Chittenden and Franklin Counties. But the utility has big plans to build approximately 42 miles of new 12-inch transmission pipeline, extending from an existing mainline on Route 2 in Colchester.
Under the plan, Vermont Gas expects to bring gas service to customers in Middlebury by late 2014.
Despite concerns raised about hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, Middlebury’s Town Planner, Fred Dunnington, supports the project. Dunnington says natural gas is a cleaner source of fuel than fuel oil, and is an attractive alternative to many ratepayers in town.
"This energy source, like all energy sources, has some issues. So people who look for the indirect impacts – or the source impacts – are as mindful about this as they are about any energy supplies," Dunnington said.
Some environmentalists have expressed concerns about a deal Vermont Gas signed last month to build a pipeline under Lake Champlain to deliver fuel to a paper plant in Ticonderoga, N.Y. The Conservation Law Foundation is worried about how work on the bottom of the lake could affect phosphorous levels. But Dunnington dismisses those concerns.
"Just as a reality check, the gas gets here from Alberta going under some waterways and it already goes under certain rivers in Vermont. And the directional boring under Lake Champlain is a directional bore through rock, 20-30 feet below the bottom of the lake," Dunnington said.
As Vermont Gas prepares to file for permits with the Public Service Board this month, the utility says it will continue to work with planners from Middlebury, Cornwall, Shoreham and Middlebury College to identify the best route. Its ultimate goal is to extend natural gas service to Rutland.
Middelbury’s Planning Commission will get an update on the plan at a meeting on Monday, November 19.