Gas Company Plans To Extend Pipeline Under Lake Champlain
09/07/12 5:50PM By John Dillon  Download MP3
Vermont Gas hopes to extend a proposed natural gas pipeline to carry fuel under Lake Champlain to a paper plant in Ticonderoga, New York.
The gas company says it's reached an agreement with International Paper to share engineering and environmental studies of the project.
The natural gas provider already plans to build a pipeline south from Chittenden County to Vergennes, Middlebury and eventually to Rutland.
Spokesman Steve Wark says extending the line under Lake Champlain to the paper plant in Ticonderoga would provide an anchor customer and could be built at no additional cost to residential ratepayers.
"While we were planning the Addison natural gas project we held a series of public meetings. The Ticonderoga paper mill - some folks from there attended those meetings - and actually approached us about providing service," he says. "So we did study it; we've done some engineering work, some environmental work, and it does seem to be feasible."
Wark says if the Champlain piece is included, the company would be able to extend the line further south and closer to Rutland sooner than originally planned.
The International Paper plant in Ticonderoga provides about 610 jobs. The plant now burns fuel oil. A few years ago, the company sparked protests from environmentalists in Vermont when it considered switching its boilers to fuel derived from shredded tires. Wark says natural gas is both cheaper and cleaner than oil.
"Switching to natural gas I think could be immediate 30 percent reduction in their carbon. But not only that, it's the particulates," he says. "These types of fuels tend to be heavy in particulates and they're right across the lake from us. So we see this as positive all the way around."
Wark says the two companies have signed a memorandum of understanding to share environmental and engineering costs. He says they're now negotiating contract terms to cover construction costs and fuel prices.
International Paper Spokeswoman Donna Wadsworth says the company is interested because the price of fuel has been a major burden.
"It will definitely reduce our fuel costs, and secondarily, and even more importantly, it will significantly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions," she says.
Vermont Gas plans to file in December for Public Service Board approval for the Addison project. Spokesman Wark said the Lake Champlain leg would need additional regulatory review in both states.
"The federal government also has several different permitting agencies: The Army Corps (of Engineers). I'm sure the EPA will look at this," he says.
During a recent visit to Ticonderoga, New York Senator Charles Schumer highlighted the high cost of energy facing International Paper. The senator promised to work with federal agencies to expedite review of the pipeline project.