By Stephanie Choate
Vermont Gas has set up a local staging area at the site of the former Williston Driving Range near Taft Corners for the planned $86 million Addison Rutland Natural Gas Project.
The project, brought before the town in 2012, would bring natural gas from Colchester to Middlebury and Vergennes through an underground high-pressure pipeline, passing through Essex, Williston, St. George and Hinesburg. The pipeline will follow the route of the scrapped Circumferential Highway.
A new gate station planned in Williston will support the existing distribution and improve reliability, though the pipeline will not mean an expansion of distribution to Williston. The project will bring natural gas service to portions of St. George by 2017.
It will also bring tax revenue to Williston, since the transmission lines would be subject to municipal taxes.
The Vermont Public Service Board approved the 41-mile natural gas pipeline, known as Phase I of the Addison Rutland Natural Gas Project, in December. Preliminary planning for Phase II, an extension of the transmission line to Ticonderoga, N.Y., is underway.
Charlie Pughe, Vermont Gas project manager, said they hope to begin construction in June, starting with the section from Colchester to the Williston gate station planned for construction across from the fire station. The gate station will house two small buildings in a 55 by 75-foot gated area. That section should be completed by December, with the rest of the line completed the following year.
Earlier this month, Vermont Gas awarded a multi-million dollar contract for construction on Phase 1 of the project to Williston-based Engineers Construction, Inc.
The company will use horizontal directional drilling, which Vermont Gas described as an environmentally preferable technique for installing natural gas systems in sensitive areas.
Vermont Gas expects the pipeline to save Addison and Rutland county customers approximately $200 million over 20 years, as well as reduce Vermont’s greenhouse gas production by 300,000 tons. But some activists have opposed building additional infrastructure for fossil fuels, and object to the fact that much of the gas would be extracted through hydraulic fracking.
The Selectboard has not yet approved the transfer of land and easements needed for the pipeline in Williston, but is likely to do so at its next meeting, set for June 2. The land includes the sale of two parcels on Williston Road totaling 1.4 acres and an easement on 2.69 acres on Williston Road for $168,800. A notice of property conveyance was approved in December.
Vermont Gas already operates 750 miles of underground natural gas pipelines under Chittenden and Franklin counties, including in Williston. Vermont Gas has 3,000 customers in Williston, both residential and commercial users.
In a 2012 letter, Fire Chief Ken Morton said the department would need additional training for emergency responders and more sophisticated metering equipment, but that “pipelines rank among the safest modes of transporting fuels, and/or natural gas.”
“Statistically, pipelines are the safest way there is to transport fuel,” Pughe said. Residents should make sure to call Dig Safe before any projects wherever there are underground utilities.
For more information about the project, visit addisonnaturalgas.com.