VPIRG Legal Brief Blasts Vermont Gas

On December 29, VPIRG filed a legal motion asking the Public Service Board to reject Vermont Gas’ extraordinary request to indefinitely delay proceedings on the Phase II of the company’s fracked gas pipeline project. Specifically, VPIRG asked the Board to dismiss Vermont Gas’ Petition without prejudice, but with specific conditions that would apply with any re-filing in the future. If the Board decides to grant the Vermont Gas request, VPIRG urges that it do so only under a stringent set of conditions.

In our motion, we blasted Vermont Gas not only for the ballooning cost of the pipeline, but also for disobeying the Board’s Scheduling Order related to Phase II and failing to comply with the formal commitments the company made only months ago to improve transparency around project costs.

“Vermont Gas appears either unable or unwilling to honor the commitments it made to the Public Service Board just five months ago,” said VPIRG’s Executive Director, Paul Burns. “These were commitments made in the wake of massive cost overruns. And at that time, regulators and the public were assured that there would be no more surprises. Well, surprise.”

VPIRG is urging the Board to sanction Vermont Gas for failing to abide by its commitment to provide quarterly budget updates after projected figures for its Phase I project ballooned 40% in July. “Either Vermont Gas did not engage in the process it committed to in order to ensure that its testimony is up-to-date, accurate and in compliance with Rule 5.409 — or VGS possesses this information and has chosen not to disclose it as required,” states VPIRG’s legal brief. “In either event, sanctions should be imposed.”

The VPIRG brief pointed out various other problems with Vermont Gas and its pipeline proposal as well.

“A project that requires existing ratepayers to subsidize millions of dollars of uneconomic construction of distribution lines, in order to win the favor of a statutory party, does not satisfy least-cost planning standards – particularly where alternative means of reducing consumers’ heating bills and greenhouse gas emissions are available to the same consumers without any subsidization by existing ratepayers,” states VPIRG’s brief.

Ironically, Vermont Gas has repeatedly called on state regulators to deny requests for additional time to prepare for technical hearings for months. “VGS’ last-minute, cryptic and legally unsupported submission as to project costs leaves the Board little room to deny the request, despite VGS failure to comply with governing law,” VPIRG’s brief explains. “Neither the parties nor the Board should spend the time and money involved in the technical hearings in the absence of reliable up-to-date, complete, information as to cost.”

To read the full VPIRG brief, click here.