Addison County sent a strong message of opposition to Phase II of the Vermont Gas pipeline at town meetings Monday and Tuesday.
At Cornwall’s meeting on Monday evening, voters passed a nonbinding resolution to oppose the Addison-Rutland Natural Gas Project, 126-16.
Also Monday, residents in Shoreham approved a nonbinding resolution to oppose Phase II of the pipeline, 63-38.
And Monkton voters strongly denounced the pipeline Tuesday, with three speakers delivering prepared remarks against the project and no one speaking in support.
The $70 million project would pipe natural gas from Middlebury to the International Paper Mill in Ticonderoga, N.Y., passing through Cornwall and Shoreham and eventually under Lake Champlain.
Monday evening the energy committee of the Addison County Regional Planning Commission also determined that it would not endorse Phase II of the project, advising the commission that the pipeline does not comply with the energy section of the Addison County regional plan.
Adam Lougee, executive director of the commission, emphasized that the committee’s 4-1 vote was merely advisory; the commission will also receive recommendations from three other committees by March 12.
“Committees’ recommendations are nonbinding recommendations to the full commission,” Lougee said.
At Cornwall’s meeting, several landowners voiced their opposition to the pipeline before the paper ballot vote.
“We have been lied to. Our property has been trespassed on,” said Randy Martin. “We really were never given an opportunity, we felt, to fairly discuss our concerns about this. It was, ‘It’s coming. Deal with it.’”
Cornwall has retained an attorney, Ben Marks, but Select Board Chairman Bruce Hiland said the town is not representing individual landowners. Hiland also emphasized that a vote to oppose the pipeline does not automatically restrict its construction.
“We can resolve to do all sorts of things, but there’s the statutes and the Legislature and the procedures are all there. So this is simply our opportunity to say where we stand,” Hiland said.
Steve Wark, a spokesman for Vermont Gas, said the company remains committed to the project but realizes it needs to do more outreach in Addison County. “These are advisory votes. They’re nonbinding,” he said. “But we look at them as ... an indicator. It’s a metric that we need to continue to work with these communities.”
Wark said the extension of the pipeline to the International Paper plant in New York was a key part of getting natural gas service to Rutland, which he said will benefit from lower fuel prices.
“That agreement for Phase II with International Paper, that makes Rutland possible,” he said. “It’s worth $45 million. So without International Paper, Vermont would have to come up with an additional $45 million to get down to Rutland in a reasonable timeframe without any kind of rate impact.”
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