Vermont Gas should never have gotten a permit to build brand new fossil fuel infrastructure at a time when Vermont can and should be weaning off climate-roasting fuels, but the story gets worse.
Last week, VPIRG received news¹ that building Vermont Gas’ fracked gas pipeline could force customers to pony up an additional $35 million—a whopping 40% over the cost presented to state regulators. Did Vermont Gas lowball its initial pricetag to make its project look good? Or, if the costs were “not surprising,” as a Vermont Gas spokesman told the press,² the company just in over its head with this project?
We don’t know. But one thing’s for sure: Vermont Gas shouldn’t count on building this pipeline without proper review of these costs.
That’s why VPIRG supports Conservation Law Foundation’s petition to formally ask the Public Service Board to re-examine the permit it gave Vermont Gas in light of soaring construction costs. And until that happens, CLF is asking the Board to halt construction.
Here’s where you come in. While others are working the behind-the-scenes legal angle, this is the time for you to demand that the Public Service Department hold Vermont Gas accountable. The Department is set up to represent consumers, so a short message from you could make a big difference.
A 40% increase in costs with construction just barely begun is a HUGE overrun. But then Vermont Gas adds insult to the injury with this incredible explanation: “This is one of the largest projects we’ve undertaken. It became apparent to us that to do it right and make sure it goes according to schedule and on budget we needed to bring additional resources to bear.”³ Really? In order to stay “on budget” they’re increasing the budget by more than $35 million? That kind of doublespeak is positively Orwellian.
You can bet Vermont Gas’ legal team going to try and sweep this huge cost increase under the rug. Let’s give ‘em a run for their money.
¹ “Vermont Gas pipeline cost soars 40 percent,” Burlington Free Press, July 2, 2014
² Vermont Gas VP for Marketing and Customer Service Jim Sinclair, quoted in “Vermont Gas pipeline cost soars 40 percent,” Burlington Free Press, 7/2/14.
³ Letter from Vermont Gas Systems to Public Service Board, “Update of Estimated Capital Costs,” July 2, 2014