The city’s Public Works Committee heard nothing but positives regarding a proposed gas pipeline Thursday.
The committee met to consider a resolution drafted by Rutland Mayor Christopher Louras supporting the extension of the Vermont Gas pipeline from South Burlington to Middlebury and Fort Ticonderoga, N.Y.
After about a half hour of discussion, the committee voted unanimously to recommend that the full board approve the resolution.
Much of the talk came from Jamie Stewart, executive director of Rutland Economic Development Corp. He said the city should support bringing the pipeline to Middlebury because that would get it closer to Rutland
Stewart said bringing the pipeline to the city was a primary component of REDC’s strategic plan. He described a meeting he had with a group of consultants who help businesses find locations, including one who dealt with the specialty foods industry — a sector the region has been targeting. The consultant, according to Stewart, said a key feature he looks for is availability of natural gas.
“By not having natural gas here, we are eliminated at the very beginning of the process of siting for the specialty food industry,” he said.
Not only that, Stewart said, but existing Rutland businesses like Westminster Crackers are operating at a disadvantage because they use propane instead.
Beyond the food industry, he said, a natural gas pipeline would make General Electric more competitive and help smaller businesses like restaurants.
“Anybody who uses heat in their process, they would prefer to be using natural gas,” Stewart said.
If the project proceeds according to schedule, Stewart said, the pipeline would reach Middlebury in five years and could be extended to Rutland two years after that.
“That doesn’t get it to all the residences because that’s a buildup that happens over time,” Stewart said.
The only note of concern Thursday came from Alderman Gary Donahue, who said he was “all for it” but was worried by some of the debate he had heard in Hinesburg and Monkton about the pipeline bisecting those towns.
“I don’t know how serious that is ... but I’m concerned about hurting other people,” he said.
Mayor Louras said projects like the natural gas pipeline had a proven safety record.
“They build these lines in New York City, right through the middle of New York City,” Louras said. “There are ways to make this work, make this safe, and they will do that.”
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