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Vermont Governor Assails Pipeline, Power Projects

Vermont Governor Assails Pipeline, Power Projects

Vermont Gov. Howard Dean last week voiced strong opposition to a $100 million gas pipeline project and two power plants proposed in his state. The governor's position, local opposition and financing troubles for the power plants have left project planners Energy East, Iroquois Gas Pipeline and Vermont Energy Park Holdings with very few options.

The 63-mile pipeline lateral off of the Iroquois mainline, which was announced in September 1998, was being designed to serve the 1,080 MW gas-fired power plant in Rutland and the 270 MW plant in Bennington as well as industrial and commercial loads in the towns. However, Vermont Energy Park Holdings has been unable to obtain power plant financing.

"We put the pipeline on hold last year," said George Bonner, vice president of gas operations and marketing for Energy East subsidiary New York State Electric and Gas. "We had an application ready to go the Vermont Public Service Commission but without the base load of the power plants we weren't going to file it. In the meantime, there has been a lot of opposition both to the power plants and the pipeline between Bennington and Rutland. Whether or not the opposition would have been enough for the regulatory agency not to grant a certificate I don't know, but we never got a chance to test it because we put it on hold.

"Now the governor is saying the project is dead as far as he is concerned and the state will not allow us to use the route 7 corridor between Bennington and Rutland. So we're sitting here looking at --- if the power plants were to come up with financing --- a potential alternate route. If they do not go forward, we are studying whether or not we still want to put service into Rutland and Bennington and how to do it. We have to regroup."

Bonner said the companies might consider going ahead with gas distribution plans in the two towns without the power plants. But it would be less economically attractive and would take several more months to regroup and probably up to a year to complete a new plan.

He said unlike most other new pipelines this one did not encounter the problem of going through heavily populated areas because there are no heavily populated areas in the state. Rather, the opponents were fighting the project and power plants because they would disturb the pristine landscape.

The governor's opposition "could be" too big of a political hurdle for the project to proceed. "If the power plants got financing we would have to go talk to the governor and see what we could come up with in terms of other routes or something to get his approval."

Rocco Canonica

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