Monkton Town Meeting Voters to Consider Natural Gas Pipeline Restrictions

Monkton residents packed into the town fire station in January for a public meeting with Vermont Gas officials to address frustrations over the company’s proposal to route a natural gas pipeline through the town. (VPR/Jane Lindholm)

Monkton residents packed into the town fire station in January for a public meeting with Vermont Gas officials to address frustrations over the company’s proposal to route a natural gas pipeline through the town. (VPR/Jane Lindholm)

By Amy Kolb Noyes

The Monkton Selectboard will be looking to voters on Town Meeting Day for support in standing up against a natural gas  pipeline proposed in Addison County. Vermont Gas is seeking regulatory approval for its Addison Natural Gas Project. The project consists of approximately 43 miles of new transmission pipeline, five miles of distribution mainlines, and three new gate stations to extend the company’s natural gas service from Colchester into Middlebury.

Vermont Gas petitioned the Vermont Public Service Board in December for a Certificate of Public Good on the project. In its filing the company said the project would bring natural gas service to about 3,000 Addison County homes and businesses. However, the select boards in Monkton and Hinesburg both raised concerns regarding the proposed route of the pipeline, suggesting the project be located entirely within the existing VELCO right-of-way, rather than occasionally straying from the VELCO lines, onto town road right-of-ways.

Late last month Vermont Gas responded to those concerns in a press release stating it would change the proposed pipeline route to stay within the permitted VELCO corridor.

“We heard from the Monkton and Hinesburg Selectboards that they wanted the pipeline routed in the VELCO corridor instead of the road shoulder,” Stephen Wark, Director of the Addison Natural Gas Project, stated in the press release. “After meetings with both communities, Vermont Gas will propose route refinements primarily into or adjacent to the VELCO corridor. We believe the proposed route refinements will address the Monkton and Hinesburg Town Selectboards’ requests.”

The press release went on to state, “This proposed route refinement will form the basis for a supplemental filing that Vermont Gas will submit, by the end of February 2013, to the Vermont Public Service Board (PSB). The PSB has the ultimate authority over the project and provides for community input in their review process.”

However, the Monkton select board is looking to boost its voice by way of two town meeting votes. Article 9 on Monkton’s town meeting warning asks voters to appropriate up to $50,000 “…to form a legal fund to represent the Town’s interests in the PSB proceedings for the Addison Natural Gas Project, especially an issue that would have an adverse impact on the health, safety or aesthetics of the town…”

And Article 10 asks if the voters will “…advise the Selectboard not to issue any road permits for any transmission pipeline route that follows any town road right-of-way under any circumstance, and not to issue any permits for transmission pipelines to cross any town roads until town residents’ concerns about safe setbacks are addressed.”

The Addison Natural Gas Project is not addressed in the Hinesburg town meeting warning. However Hinesburg voters will be weighing in on other energy issues, including declaring the town a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) District, and adopting a nonbinding resolution opposing transporting tar sands oil through Vermont.