Vermont Gas Systems said last week that it is on schedule to complete a 41-mile natural gas pipeline that stretches from Colchester to Middlebury.
The pipeline’s path will pass through Hinesburg’s Geprags Park, where horizontal drilling is slated to take place. Last week, a group of concern citizens who have a lawsuit before the Vermont Supreme Court to stop the pipeline protested to protect the park. Last year, the High Court lifted a stay, paving the way for Vermont Gas to move ahead with construction, even though pending litigation was filed.
Vermont Gas Communications Manager Beth Parent said the utility is pleased with the pace of the project. “The Addison Natural Gas Expansion Project is nearly complete,” Parent wrote in an email. “We have only 2,200 feet of what is a 41-mile extension of natural gas service from Colchester to Middlebury. This is the final piece of the construction, and when complete, we’ll be prepared to begin service to new customers in Middlebury as well thousands of families and businesses in Addison County…We look forward to working with our customers to help them save even more through efficiency measures such as weatherization and the use of natural gas appliances.”
Rachel Smolker, a member of Protect Geprags Park, disagreed with Parent’s assessment. “Vermont Gas Systems says they will complete their pipeline by spring, but meanwhile the easement through which they are building is likely invalid; in accordance with well-settled law in the state of Vermont, land such as Geprags Park, which is in the public use, cannot be condemned by a utility for a different public use. Certainly not without legislative authority. The PSB overstepped their bounds in granting the easement and we are challenging it in the Supreme Court. That they are being allowed to do construction even prior to the Supreme Court case being heard is outrageous.”
Four years ago, the project was budgeted at $86.6 million. The current spending plan is around $166 million.