The Addison Natural Gas Project (ANGP), a Vermont Gas proposal to add a 41-mile extension to its natural gas system in western Vermont, “will benefit the region” and Middlebury College “in numerous ways for years to come,” Middlebury President Ron Liebowitz said recently, despite requests from one prominent faculty member that the college publicly oppose the pipeline.

The college Middlebury, VT, one of the oldest in the U.S. and ranked as the fourth best liberal arts college in the nation by U.S. News and World Report, first voiced its support for the Addison project more than two years ago. Since then, “members of the Middlebury community have expressed their opposition to the construction” of the project, Liebowitz said in a statement endorsing Phase I of ANGP posted on the college’s website.

“While we continue to listen to, and understand, the arguments against the pipeline, we believe that they do not fully take into account the economic needs of the communities around us, or the lack of sufficient alternative sources of comparable energy in the near term. Ultimately, we believe the pipeline will contribute to the economic welfare of the region and that it would be unacceptable for us to stand in the way of real and measurable progress toward goals broadly shared in our community,” the president said.

Unclear is how the university’s endorsement of the pipeline will affect the tenure of Bill McKibben, an environmentalist who has written extensively about the causes and effects of global warming (see Daily GPI, Oct. 11, 2007) and opposes, among other things, construction of the Keystone XL pipeline project. McKibben, the Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury, has urged colleges to divest their endowments of stocks in fossil fuel companies.

A petition signed by a reported 1,400 Middlebury students, faculty and others, including McKibben, and calling on the college to adopt a neutral position on the project was presented to college officials late last month.

McKibben did not respond to a request for comment.

Vermont Gas operates 750 miles of underground transmission and distribution pipeline in northeastern Vermont. ANGP Phase I “will bring clean and affordable energy to the region in a manner that maximizes economic, environmental and reliability benefits to stakeholders,” said the company. It would allow natural gas service to about 2,000 residential and commercial customers in Middlebury and another 1,000 in Vergennes, VT. The project is scheduled to be completed by 2015. Preliminary planning for ANGP Phase II, an extension of the transmission line from Middlebury to Ticonderoga, NY, is also under way.

Gas to be transported through the proposed pipeline originates in western Canada.

In addition to the support of Middlebury College, ANGP has been endorsed by Gov. Peter Shumlin, the Middlebury Select Board, the Middlebury Planning Commission, and Cabot Creamery, one of the area’s largest employers, Liebowitz said.

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