BURLINGTON — Vermont Gas Systems has asked the Public Service Board to approve a protective agreement the company brokered with the Public Service Department, which would limit the public’s access to documents related to Phase II of the Addison-Rutland Natural Gas Project.
The agreement would allow Vermont Gas to, under specified criteria, request that certain documents and communications be exempted from public examination. If the Public Service Department approves such a request, parties to the agreement, which include opponents of the pipeline project, would be prohibited from sharing exempted materials with the public, or citing them in future litigation.
“If we learn something important in this case, I don’t want to sign an agreement saying we won’t use it in another case involving the same utility,” said James Dumont, a Bristol attorney who is representing the Vermont Public Interest Research Group.
VPIRG has also said the organization believes the proposed agreement could potentially prohibit criminal acts from being reported to law enforcement. The Vermont Press Association has raised concerns about the merits of withholding information from the public.
Vermont Gas and the Public Service Department filed the draft agreement with the Public Service Board March 24. Public Service Board Clerk Susan Hudson said she did not know when the board will decide to approve or reject the agreement.