Anti-pipeline activists launched a "fish-in" at the Public Service Board office in Montpelier this afternoon. They want construction of a natural gas pipeline halted while state regulators review a 40 percent increase in the project's cost estimate.
Demonstrators outside the Public Service Board office wore fishing garb and sang protest songs while sitting in a land-bound canoe. One of the protesters was Burlington resident Andy Simon, who is a Vermont Gas ratepayer.
"So we came together with the idea that this 40 percent cost increase represented a bait and switch on the part of Vermont Gas Systems," said Simon. "That they knew beforehand that construction costs were going to be considerably higher than what they had reported to the public service board when they got a Certificate of Public Good, back in December."
Vermont Gas announced earlier this month that the estimated cost of phase one of the project had climbed to more than $121 million dollars. But Steve Wark, a Vermont Gas spokesman, says the project will still save energy consumers money, despite the increase.
"It’s currently under construction and it will bring $152 million in energy savings to up to about 4,000 customers in Addison," said Wark. "So put that in context, that will help people cut their heating bills in half, and a typical customers can save $1,000 to $2,000 a year."
The company attributes the higher costs to construction cost increases and route changes, to accommodate landowners and towns along the route.
Vermont Gas wants to extend its system from Franklin and Chittenden counties south, through Addison and Rutland counties, with a spur under Lake Champlain to serve the paper mill in Ticonderoga, New York.