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Toxics Action Center and Just Power Disappointed in Public Service Board Decision About Pipeline
Shaina Kasper, Toxics Action Center, 802-922-4780
Rebecca Foster, Just Power, 802-425-4628
MIDDLEBURY, VT – Community groups fighting the pipeline in Vermont are disappointed by today's Vermont Public Service Board (PSB) ruling that it will not reconsider the certificate of public good issued in December 2013 to Vermont Gas Systems, Inc. (VGS) to expand its fracked gas transmission pipeline into the heart of the state.
“We are profoundly disappointed in the PSB’s decision to allow unnecessary and obsolete new fossil fuel infrastructure in Vermont,” said Shaina Kasper, community organizer with Toxics Action Center. “Vermonters have shown time and time again that we don’t want or need this pipeline to lock us into decades of fossil fuel infrastructure.”
The decision comes in the wake of news earlier this week that over 1,400 businesses, organizations, faith and community leaders, and individuals predominantly from Vermont signed a letter requesting that pipeline construction be stopped where it is, at 11 of the 41 total miles. Even though the deadline for signing passed, the tally has continued to go up and is now 1,500.
Toxics Action Center staff and Just Power volunteers have followed PSB proceedings closely for years, carrying out extensive fact-checking on VGS’ claims and reviewing the Department of Public Service’s (DPS) and other parties’ analyses.“We’ve found everything ranging from obvious math errors to repeated instances of contradictory and misleading statements in VGS’ testimony and exhibits,” said Just Power member Barb Wilson. “We’ve been alarmed by DPS’ blind support of VGS, including the shifting of goalposts to accommodate VGS’ cost increases and delays. In light of DPS’ unwillingness to enforce existing project conditions and regulations, we have little confidence that VGS’ pledged rate cap will withstand time.” DPS is the public’s sole representative in utility cases.
Today's decision leaves customers with continued uncertainty about home heating cost increases that will affect them decades into the future. In 2011, VGS received special dispensation from the State to pre-charge customers for what VGS said would be a distribution line serving businesses down Route 7 at a total cost of $60-70 million. Today, with a price tag of $154 million, rate increases that could exceed 15%, almost no price difference between fracked gas and oil, alternative home heating options dropping in price, available compressed natural gas for commercial customers, and a dangerously high-pressure transmission line that cuts through prime agricultural land and sensitive wetlands, the project and the conditions around it are simply unrecognizable.
“With so much at stake for Vermonters’ safety, health, and economy, we today call on the Board to reverse its decision and appoint independent counsel to represent the public immediately” said Rebecca Foster, community leader with the community group Just Power. Vermonters deserve a fair and thorough review of this large-scale utility project. Under these circumstances, the only way the public good can be served is through effective representation by independent counsel – whether before the Board or before the Supreme Court on appeal.
See press release, letter, and signers at this link: http://www.toxicsaction.org/news/tac/1400-sign-letter-end-gas-pipeline-project.
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