F.A.Q.: Frequently Asked Questions

Click below to scroll to the specific information resources.

  1. What is Natural gas?
  2. Safety
  3. Construction
  4. Operation and Maintenance
  5. Pipeline Routing and Permitting
  6. Private Property and Easements
  7. Natural Resources
  8. Lake Champlain Crossing
  9. Environmental and Economic Benefits
  10. Local Service and Distribution
  11. Phase III: To Rutland
  12. Energy and Natural Gas Basics
  13. Vermont Gas Ownership
  14. Communication
  15. Property Easements and Eminent Domain

Click to expand all questions and responses.

1. Natural Gas

What is the safe distance from the transmission line to a residence or other building?

Natural gas is predominantly comprised of methane(95% to 99%). The balance of the gas includes smaller amounts of other hydrocarbons and nitrogen. In addition, and as a safety precaution to assist in leak detection, Vermont Gas adds small quantities of an odorant (mercaptan) to our natural gas at the Vermont / Quebec border. Mercaptan as we use it (also known as methanethiol) is a harmless but pugnent-smelling gas which has been described as having the stench of rotting cabbage.

2. SAFETY

What is the safe distance from the transmission line to a residence or other building?

Vermont Gas is required to meet or exceed all applicable safety codes throughout its operations. While these stringent safety codes allow for the installation of a transmission line within a few feet of residences, Vermont Gas seeks, when possible, to use a 25-foot minimum setback.

Do local firefighters receive training regarding potential pipeline issues?

We offer natural gas emergency response training to all emergency responders within our service territory at no charge. We also communicate regularly with local fire and police departments and provide natural gas safety information and updates.

How far apart are shutoff valves distributed along the lines?

We plan to install shutoff valves at a distance of every eight miles which meets or exceeds the standards required by code. The gas flow in the pipeline is monitored 24 hours per day, 7 days per week by our Gas Control Department in South Burlington. Shutoff valves are remotely operated from the Gas Control Department.


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3. CONSTRUCTION

How do you inspect and ensure the transmission pipeline is built and installed correctly?

We conduct inspections at the fabrication mill to ensure the pipe meets specifications. During the construction process, we regularly inspect the excavation and backfill materials to ensure conformance with applicable standards.

Vermont Gas exceeds federal standards by x-raying 100% of the pipe welds to ensure they meet specifications. All inspectors, technicians, welders and other pipeline workers are fully trained with up-to-date certifications.

Finally, prior to being placed into service, the pipeline is tested to 150% of its Maximum Allowable Operating Pressure.

How deep will the pipeline be buried?

The pipeline is buried between three and five feet below ground level with warning tape placed one foot above the pipe.

How wide a corridor will you need to build the transmission line?

Across fields and open country, we typically use a 75-foot construction phase right-of-way to install the pipe. This right-of-way consists of a temporary easement of 25 feet and permanent easement of 50 feet. In certain situations, the construction right-of-way is narrowed to 50 feet to avoid or minimize potential impacts. Following construction, Vermont Gas would retain access rights to the permanent easement.

open country construction plan

Open Country Construciton

For construction along the road shoulder in the public right-of-way, the construction area is generally 25 feet wide and allows for passage of vehicular traffic during the construction process.

Along Road Shoulder

Along Road Shoulder

Will you use blasting as part of the construction process?

Should we encounter ledge that will not allow for conventional excavation, we will use controlled blasting as a construction technique as described in our permit applications and subject to regulatory approval. We have successfully used blasting as part of our normal construction operations. Based on that track record, we do not expect damage to private property as part of this process. As an added precaution, we perform testing of nearby wells and springs and undertake physical inspections of structures before and after blasting. Should damage due to blasting take place, Vermont Gas will remedy the situation.


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4. OPERATION AND MAINTENANCE

What is the design life of the transmission line?

The pipeline is designed to operate indefinitely. Practically, the pipeline will be operationally sound for at least 100 years.

How often will the transmission line be inspected following installation?

Conforming to all codes and standards, the pipeline and route undergo regular aerial monitoring, ground patrols and leak detection protocols. Using an electronic inspection device commonly referred to as a “smart pig”, the pipeline is to be inspected every seven years for anomalies. Should anomalies be noted, that portion of the pipeline will be excavated and repaired as required.

What is the planned pressure in the pipe?

The pipeline is to be designed, permitted, built, and tested to have a Maximum Allowable Operating Pressure (MAOP) of 1,440 pounds per square inch (psi), and will be tested to 150% of this pressure. Initially the pipeline will operate at a pressure of 605 psi. Because the pipe will have been permitted at 1,440 psi, Vermont Gas will have the potential to operate up to this increased pressures should that need arise.

Do natural gas pipes make any noise? If so, how much?

There will not be any noise from the pipeline’s normal operation. Some low-level noise is generated from the above-ground gate stations where the pressure of the gas is being reduced for distribution to local customers but these noise levels will be within standards.

Is the gas odorized in the pipe?

Yes. In its virgin state, natural gas is odorless. As a safety precaution and in accordance with code requirements, all of the natural gas in our pipeline is odorized (with a distinctive rotten egg smell) so that it may easily be detected by smell.

Will the transmission line be used for anything other than providing natural gas service?

No. The sole use of the pipeline is to provide natural gas service.

May the natural gas transmission line Right-of-Way be used for the transmission of oil in a separate pipeline?

No.

I have heard that Vermont Gas’ easements allow for two pipes and would allow the pipeline to someday be used for oil. Is that true?

There is no intention to construct more than one pipeline or allow anything other than natural gas in the pipeline. However the language in the initial draft easement said “pipelines”. Similarly, the draft easement initially said “petroleum products”. This language was never intended to allow the transportation of fuel oil. Vermont Gas has since changed its form of easement and made it clear that only one operating pipeline is permitted and its only purpose is to transmit natural gas.

Can you elaborate on Dig Safe rules? How far from the pipeline will a homeowner have to be to not have to call Dig Safe? How deep?

By being a member of Dig Safe, Vermont Gas is notified when a land owner contacts Dig Safe in advance of any excavation activity being planned within 100 feet of a Vermont Gas pipeline or facility. We will then visit the planned excavation area and mark the pipeline location so that the excavation may be conducted in a safe manner. It is a safe practice to always call Dig Safe any time a mechanized excavation is planned.

A copy of the complete Dig Safe procedures can be found at: digsafe.com


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5. PIPELINE ROUTING AND PERMITTING

What is the regulatory permitting process for this project?

The primary permit for this project is a Certificate of Public Good issued by the Vermont Public Service Board (PSB) under Title 30, Section 248. Vermont Gas will also obtain other required permits including those from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) and local towns.

A “Citizens Guide to the Vermont Public Service Board’s Section 248 Process” is available on-line at: http://psb.vermont.gov/statutesrulesandguidelines/guidelines#248

What factors do you consider in designing a pipeline route?

Routing the transmission line requires the balancing of several factors: resident input, aesthetics, natural resource considerations, archaeological resources, property access, constructability, the ability to obtain permits, system integrity and cost.

What is your approach to pipeline routing and construction in sensitive areas?

Where possible, we seek to avoid sensitive areas. This means routing the pipeline around, for instance, wetlands or other important resources. We also work to avoid impacts to wells and other structures and at no time will the pipeline be placed underneath residences or other buildings. We may also use alternative construction techniques (directional drilling) that reduce natural resource impacts when compared to traditional excavation.

Who decides on the final location of the pipeline?

Vermont Gas incorporates input from residents, regulators and other stakeholders and proposes a pipeline location that is responsive to community, state and federal input. This pipeline route is then part of a petition that is then submitted to the Vermont Public Service Board who will issue a final ruling. In addition, the pipeline route and construction techniques must comply with other permit conditions including those under USACE and ANR jurisdiction.

What is the process for selecting the route for Phase II?

Phase II of the Addison Rutland Natural Gas Project proposes to extend the transmission line from Middlebury, Vermont to Ticonderoga, New York. While preliminary studies of various route alternatives have been undertaken, no route has been chosen.  Selection of the final transmission line route will be guided by input from town stakeholders.

Vermont Gas has formed a multi-town stakeholder committee, including representatives from Middlebury, Cornwall and Shoreham, to inform the route selection effort.  We expect that process to begin shortly and will keep you updated as to the committee’s progress.

What are the next steps in the permitting process?

For Phase I, we submitted our initial application on December 20, 2012. This submittal was supplemented on February 28, 2013. For Phase I, we would expect the Public Service Board process to be completed in the fall of 2013.

The Phase II permitting process is expected to begin in the summer of 2013 and be complete in the spring of 2014.

For up-to-date project information, including meeting dates and times, please visit the Calendar section of our website.


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6. PRIVATE PROPERTY AND EASEMENTS

What is the process for notifying landowners along potential transmission line routes?

For Vermont Gas to investigate a transmission line route, we would first notify property owners for the need to access your property for the purposes of conducting field studies. This conversation begins with either a written letter or a personal conversation. In general, these field investigations are minimally invasive and the only presence you may see after the studies are complete would be small markers or flags signifying natural resource findings.

By granting Vermont Gas representatives access to your property for field studies, you are not obligated to grant access for pipeline construction. If you chose not to grant permission to access your property for the purpose of these studies, Vermont Gas will honor your request.

There are small flags that were placed on my property as a result of natural resource surveys. What are they and can I have them removed?

Our natural resource and survey professionals study potential routes and place small flags on the ground as they record their observations. We generally leave these flags in place to assist in season-to-season monitoring. If you wish to have these flags removed sooner, please contact us and we will schedule a time to return to your property and remove the flags.

Please describe the easement acquisition process.

If access to your property is required for the purposes of the project, you will be contacted by Vermont Gas representatives who will request permission to purchase an easement from you. This easement would grant Vermont Gas permission to enter your property for the purposes of construction and operation of the pipeline. The terms of the easement are very clear, they spell out the obligations of both parties, and you will be compensated for allowing Vermont Gas the needed access. You will still own the property and have access to it for your own use subject to some restrictions as detailed in the easement agreement.

What if I chose not to grant you an easement?

Vermont Gas has successfully worked with hundreds of landowners for the past 40 years and in nearly all instances we have been able to reach a satisfactory outcome by negotiating in good faith with landowners. If the project has been found to be in the public interest by the Public Service Board but an individual does not choose to grant an easement, then the option of eminent domain is possible. It should be noted that eminent domain is always viewed as a last resort and only is used in cases where an individual interest is found to be blocking the overall good of the state. Eminent domain allows for the taking of property (via an easement with compensation to the land owner) and could be authorized by the Public Service Board in support of the project’s Public Good. This process is conducted in a structured legal proceeding and is subject to appeal to the Vermont Supreme Court.

How do you arrive at a Fair Market Value for easements?

Vermont Gas will review tax valuations, sales in the area and a variety of other factors to customize compensation for each landowner.

What is the expected impact that the transmission line will have on property values?

Our experience has been that the presence of a transmission line does not impact property values. While this may seem counterintuitive, it has been our experience in Vermont and within the industry in general.

What about the ability to secure homeowner’s insurance?

We know of no instance where homeowners’ ability to secure homeowner insurance, or the cost of that insurance, has been affected by the presence of a transmission line.


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7. NATURAL RESOURCES

What natural and cultural resources do you investigate?

As part of the US Army Corps of Engineers and State of Vermont’s permitting process, we conduct a number of studies. These include investigations of wetlands, streams and vernal pools. We also look for rare, threatened and endangered plants, animals and natural communities as well as critical wildlife habitat. In addition, we conduct field assessments of the historic structures, aesthetic resources and archeological resources in proximity to the project.

What are the results of these studies?

We delineate resource areas along the pipeline corridor. These resource implications will be incorporated into the permitting process and construction methods used. These findings will also be shared with local conservation boards.

These findings are described in greater detail in the testimonies of Mr. Jeff Nelson (environmental) and Dr. John Crock (archeological). Both sets of testimony may be found in the “Documents” section of our website.

What are the natural resource impacts of a transmission line?

We use various construction techniques to minimize natural resource impacts. Within the construction right-of-way, trees and vegetation are removed during the pipeline installation process. Following construction, vegetation is periodically cleared within the permanent right-of-way via mechanical means (generally a brush hog). Vermont Gas does not use herbicides as part of its vegetation management process within transmission rights-of-way.

With the exception of tree removal, impacts to natural resource features are generally temporary in nature. Our observations have been that natural systems typically recover to pre-construction conditions within one to two years following the installation of the pipeline.

Can I continue to farm over the pipeline?

Yes. The pipeline is buried at a depth of 5-feet below ground in agricultural areas. The presence of the pipeline does not impact normal farming operations.


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8. LAKE CHAMPLAIN CROSSING

How do you plan to cross Lake Champlain?

To reach Ticonderoga, New York, we will install the transmission line approximately 30 feet below the bottom of Lake Champlain. The technology used is called “directional drilling” and is a proven technique in the pipeline industry. Vermont Gas has directionally drilled under the Missisquoi in 1995.

More recently, in 2012, in support of our service to Richmond, we successfully drilled under the Winooski, Missisquoi and Lamoille Rivers.


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9. ENVIRONMENTAL AND ECONOMIC BENEFITS

How does natural gas compare to other forms of heating?

Natural Gas is Less Expensive

Vermont Department of Public Service chart displaying prices of various heating prices.

As of February 2013, and on a cost per BTU basis, natural gas costs 44% less than fuel oil and 54% less than propane.

What are the economic benefits of the Addison Rutland Natural Gas Project?

The Addison Rutland Natural Gas Project will strengthen the regional economy and save Addison County and Rutland customers $200 million over 20 years. As of February 2013, the average savings for each household that converts to natural gas from oil will be approximately $1,300 per year. Customers converting from propane will save approximately $1,400 per year.

What are the environmental benefits of the Addison Rutland Natural Gas Project?

Because natural gas is a cleaner burning fuel than heating oil or propane, the Addison Rutland Natural Gas Project will reduce greenhouse gases by 300,000 tons over 20 years. Phase II of the project will also assist International Paper in meeting its corporate sustainability goals of a 20% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2020.

What about economic benefits to local towns?

Natural gas service will be made available to all towns along the transmission pipeline route who wish to realize the related economic and environmental benefits.

In addition, the ARNGP transmission line will add between $1,500,000 and $2,000,000 per mile to each Town’s Grand List. Vermont Gas will then pay local taxes to each town based on the project value.

What is the total cost of Phase I and Phase II? How much is paid for by International Paper?

The total project cost is approximately $140 million. International Paper’s contribution is approximately $70 million and this contribution fully covers the cost of the transmission pipe required to serve Ticonderoga. In addition, International Paper’s support of the project advances the transmission line an additional 17 miles further south to Rutland thereby accelerating expansion to Rutland County.


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10. LOCAL SERVICE AND DISTRIBUTION

What towns will be served as part of this project?

For Phase I, we plan to serve portions of the following towns on the following schedule:

  • Middlebury Industrial Park — 2014
  • Middlebury — 2015
  • Vergennes — 2015
  • Bristol – 2016
  • New Haven – 2016
  • Monkton — 2016
  • St. George — 2017

For Phase II, we expect to be able to serve local town centers along the transmission route in the 2017 timeframe depending on the transmission line routing.

What businesses / institutions do you expect to serve as part of this project?

Several businesses and institutions are expected to convert to natural gas including Agri-mark / Cabot Cheese, Middlebury College and Porter Hospital.  


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11. PHASE III: TO RUTLAND

How does construction of the pipeline to International Paper advance service to Rutland?

The construction of Phase II to serve the Ticonderoga mill is funded by International Paper. The extension from Middlebury extends the transmission line further south towards Rutland by approximately 17 miles with a project value of $44,000,000 at no cost to Vermont tax payers or customers. Phase II serves to jump-start the Rutland portion of the project and allows Vermont Gas to serve Rutland approximately 15 years sooner than originally planned.

 
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12. ENERGY AND NATURAL GAS BASICS

Where does Vermont Gas source its natural gas?

Our gas is purchased on the open market. All of our supply is located in Canada, with most of it from a series of production wells in the province of Alberta.

Is this natural gas produced using hydraulic fracturing commonly called fracking?

Yes. Virtually all natural gas sold in North America is a combination of gas that is produced via conventional methods and fracking. This principle also holds true for North American oil and propane production.

How reliable is this supply of natural gas?

Industry and government forecasts indicate that a reliable supply of natural gas will exist for the next 100+ years. We would also expect relative price stability as a result of this reliable supply.

What is Vermont Gas’ position on renewable energy?

Vermont Gas supports renewable energy and is working towards the development of local renewable natural gas, also referred to as biomethane. It should be noted, that in most cases when the topic of renewable energy is discussed, if is focused on wind, solar and hydro-electric energy sources, all of which are forms of electric generation. While natural gas compliments and supports these energy sources, the primary opportunities for natural gas in Vermont are focused on transportation and thermal applications, both of which have no impact on the development of renewable resources in the electric sector.

What about energy efficiency and conservation?

Vermont Gas believes that energy efficiency and conservation are critical components of our energy portfolio. Vermont Gas has been providing resources, education and comprehensive energy efficiency programs to residential and commercial customers for over twenty years. These programs have been recognized nationally by the Department of Energy and ACEEE for Exceptional Energy Efficiency Programs.

Our total energy conservation and efficiency investment over the past twenty years is over $26,000,000. In 2012 we invested over $2,000,000 in Vermont-based energy efficiency efforts and saved almost 118,000 million cubic feet of natural gas.


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13. VERMONT GAS OWNERSHIP

Who owns Vermont Gas?

Vermont Gas is a Vermont corporation regulated by the Vermont Public Service Board and has been owned by Gaz Metro, based in Montreal, for over 25 years now. Gaz Metro is the natural gas utility that serves all of Quebec.

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14. COMMUNICATION

How do you notify stakeholders in this process?

Vermont Gas maintains its website www.addisonnaturalgas.com which contains current project information and updates. We also publish newsletters that we will regularly distribute. Click here to sign up to our email list.

During the permitting process, project adjoiners (property owners whose property is crossed by the project or whose property shares a property boundary with the project) will receive written notifications in accordance with the Public Service Board rules.

How do I get additional information?

If you have any additional questions or comments, please contact us by phone at 802-951-0399 or via email at addison@vermontgas.com.

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15. PROPERTY EASEMENTS AND EMINENT DOMAIN

Vermont Gas received a Certificate of Public Good (CPG) from the Vermont Public Service Board (PSB) to construct a 41-mile natural gas system from Colchester to Middlebury, potentially cutting energy bills in half and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by about 25 percent for 3,000 residents and businesses in Addison County. Ultimately, the project intends to provide natural gas service to 16,500 homeowners and companies in Addison and Rutland counties.

A significant portion of the pipeline route follows existing transportation and utility corridors.

Vermont Gas has worked closely with landowners on those portions of the route that are on private property to reach compensation agreements (easements) for temporary construction access and ongoing use of the land.

During right-of-way discussions with some landowners, a potential legal means of resolving disagreements about land use referred to as “eminent domain” has been raised. This process has been used by Vermont Gas in only one instance, and it is our sincere hope to avoid using this legal procedure to resolve disagreements.

To better understand how the legal process works, we have included answers to some of the more frequently asked questions.

What is eminent domain?

Eminent domain is a legal process before a quasi-judicial board or court. The process is authorized by the Constitution and defined as the power of a state, municipality, or private person or corporation authorized to exercise functions of a public character to acquire rights in private property for public use.

The process includes the payment of just compensation to the owner of property to be used for public good projects
The process is only used as a last resort; when the overall public good of the project is stalled and ongoing communications with the landowner to reach a settlement have ceased being productive.

What is the legal basis for eminent domain in Vermont?

The Constitution of the State of Vermont, declares in Article 2: “That private property ought to be subservient to public uses when necessity requires it, nevertheless, whenever any person’s property is taken for the use of the public, the owner ought to receive an equivalent in money.” Consistent with this Constitutional grant, the right of regulated public utilities to use eminent domain powers is detailed by the Vermont Legislature at Sections 110-124 of Title 30.

The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution also permits the government to appropriate private land for public use if just compensation is provided.

Has eminent domain been used previously in Vermont to secure private land for the public good?

In addition to utilities using eminent domain to secure right-of-way easements to provide necessary and equitable access to energy across the state, the process also has been used in Vermont to develop public-spirited projects including the interstate highway system, airports, utility systems and even the Long Trail.

What process does Vermont Gas do to reach agreements with landowners?

Vermont Gas always negotiates in good faith with landowners along its routes. The process includes multiple personal contacts with every landowner over a number of months.

Vermont Gas offers above-market-value easement settlements that typically are much higher than court-awarded compensation in order to spare landowners and the company the significant legal cost and time required to resolve the issue before the PSB or in court.

When can eminent domain be used?

Before a regulated public utility like Vermont Gas can utilize eminent domain authority, a project must receive a CPG from the PSB.

Part of the CPG process is to identify the most responsible design specifications and route for the system.

Both before and after the issuance of a CPG, Vermont Gas is obligated to make a good faith effort to negotiate easement agreements with affected landowners.

Eminent domain may only be used as a last resort when continued negotiations are no longer productive. Of course, even after eminent domain proceedings are commenced, the parties are encouraged to engage in negotiations to resolve their differences. Without an agreement, the parties are bound by the determination of the PSB, or the courts on appeal.

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