The case for natural gas
BRUCE EDWARDS / Staff File Photo
Eileen Simollardes of Vermont Gas Systems makes a presentation in Pittsford earlier this year. The company wants to extend its natural gas pipeline to Rutland by 2020.
No doubt about it, Vermonters are passionate about the Green Mountain State. That’s a healthy sign of an engaged citizenry.
One project, the Addison-Rutland Natural Gas Project, has been vigorously debated. Unfortunately, sometimes the facts can get lost.
In Vermont, there is no project — proposed or underway — with the combined economic and environmental benefits of the Addison-Rutland Natural Gas Project.
The first of three phases has earned a certificate of public good from state regulators, the regulators are reviewing the second, and the third is in the planning stages to expand services to Rutland.
With this progress, now is the perfect time to review the facts showing how customers, communities and our state will benefit from the long-term savings and other advantages of the Addison-Rutland Natural Gas Project.
Affordability: Natural gas is safer, cleaner — and about half the cost — compared with the propane or oil currently used by most Vermonters. Homeowners stand to save up to $2,000 a year, and employers millions that can be reinvested.
Jobs: Cutting energy bills by about 50 percent will encourage job retention and creation, generating as much as three-quarters of a billion dollars in energy savings over the next several decades. Economic development experts in Rutland County continue to cite the need for natural gas service to attract and retain employers — a competitive advantage Chittenden County has enjoyed for nearly 50 years.
Community funding: The Addison-Rutland Natural Gas Project will shrink municipal heating budgets, while property taxes from the project will help fund programs at public schools and other local services. Providing natural gas service to Cornwall and Shoreham will save residents in those communities alone about $2 million over 20 years while meaningfully reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.
Cleaner air: When homeowners and businesses in Addison and Rutland counties convert to more affordable natural gas, they will reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and help improve regional air quality. In fact, when a home or business converts from oil, they can reduce their emissions by about 25 percent.
Energy efficiency: Residents in all of Vermont Gas’ service areas have access to award-winning and recently expanded energy-efficiency programs. Current customers save $13 million every year while reducing their energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.
Safe operations: Vermont Gas is proud of its state-of-the-art transmission and distribution system, safely supplying natural gas to residential and business customers who annually rate the company extremely highly for safe and reliable operations. This method is a much safer way to deliver fuel than on trains or in large trucks crisscrossing through downtowns.
Regional cooperation, benefits: By routing the 10-inch underground transmission line to the Ticonderoga mill, Vermont Gas can deliver the economic and environmental benefits of natural gas to Rutland County by 2020 — 15 years earlier than otherwise possible. Extending natural gas to the mill will save Vermonters $45 million of the cost to bring natural gas to Rutland while reducing emissions by 1 million tons over 20 years. One of the largest employers in our region, the mill spends more than $3 million on goods and services from Vermont businesses, $2.5 million on Vermont wood and fiber and pays over $1 million in wages and benefits to Vermonters working at the mill.
National, local support: Together, all of these benefits are why President Obama, his energy secretary, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a growing list of scientists and regulators support natural gas and more modern extraction methods. They are also the reason North American natural gas is part of their policies to cut emissions, achieve energy independence and strengthen the economy. These are also the reasons Rutland County’s elected legislators have unanimously endorsed the project.
Learn more: Natural gas can strengthen the economy by significantly reducing energy costs, improving air quality and supporting alternative energy development through locallysourced methane and other projects. It’s time to extend the economic and environmental benefits of this cleaner, more affordable heating source beyond Chittenden County.
For more information about the Addison-Rutland Natural Gas Project, and for details on upcoming informational open houses, visit www.addisonrutlandnaturalgas.com.
Don Gilbert is president and CEO of Vermont Gas Systems.