Power line opponents seek delay

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(Host) Opponents of a large power line planned for western Vermont want regulators to delay their review of the project. In a motion filed on Tuesday, the opponents argue that the power line developers have not done an adequate review of alternatives.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) The Vermont Electric Power Company says the 60-mile long, $125 million power line will prevent future blackouts in Chittenden County. But a group that’s fighting the project, Citizens for Safe Energy, say VELCO hasn’t looked closely enough at alternatives – such as burying the line or investing more in energy conservation.

Jim Dumont is a Middlebury lawyer who frequently challenges utilities and represents the group. He says a recent federal study highlighted concerns about the health impacts of high voltage power lines.

(Dumont) “So we need to say: look, there are potentially severe health consequences. There are potentially feasible alternatives. There are alternatives that may be better than this transmission line and VELCO hasn’t studied them. Before we start looking at the specific route for this line, we need to see if this line is really necessary. And VELCO hasn’t done that.”

(Dillon) According to Dumont, VELCO’s own consultant found that heavy investment in conservation programs could save ratepayers money in the long run.

(Dumont) “It’s not just an alternative where we break even. We come out way ahead if we do energy conservation. And they dismiss that basically, by saying that will require rate increases up front and we don’t think the board is going to want to do that. That’s for the board to decide, not for VELCO to decide. And VELCO has basically taken it off the table.”

(Dillon) But VELCO lawyer Kim Hayden disagrees. She says conservation programs are more expensive than the power line.

(Hayden) “The cost of an aggressive energy efficiency program would cost about $600 million. And the alternatives analysis conducted by VELCO demonstrated that’s significantly more than what either the transmission, or what other transmission and generation alternatives would cost.”

(Dillon) Hayden says there’s no reason to delay the proceedings. She says the questions about energy conservation and other issues can be addressed when the Public Service Board reviews the case.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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