by Guy Page
Vermonters hoping buried natural gas pipelines might be seen as a flood damage mitigation strategy were not encouraged by comments made by Gov. Phil Scott Wednesday, August 30 at his weekly press conference.
“From a flood damage mitigation perspective, would it make sense to lay buried natural gas pipelines from Rte. 7 up the Lamoille and Winooski river basins to reduce pollution and loss of services caused by propane and kerosene tank damage?,” VDC asked.
The July flood washed many (state officials don’t have an exact number) above-ground fuel tanks into the state’s flood plains. Kerosene heaters in damaged mobile homes overturned, spewing heating fuel into floodwaters.
While conceding that burying utilities sometimes makes sense, “it’s also very expensive,” Scott said.
‘We saw how long it took to extend the line down to Addison County,” Scott said. The original Addison-Rutland Natural Gas Project was projected to cut heating costs by about 50% and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 25%. Due in part to pushback from renewable power supporters fearing a long pipeline would commit central Vermont to natural gas for generations, the pipeline was scaled back to the Middlebury area. Still, it took five years to approve and build.
Scott correctly stated that (in Vermont, at least) building a new natural gas pipeline is “a longterm approach.”
Scott also alluded to Vermont’s policy preference for electricity over carbon-fuels, citing the commitment to electrical grid upgrades.
Vermont’s current regulatory and legislative environment discourages natural pipeline expansion. Apart from the regulatory opposition, state statute requires Vermont to sharply reduce carbon emission output. Recent climate legislation would replace home fossil-fuel heat with electric heat pumps and modern wood-chip burning furnaces.
It’s not that Scott is afraid of thinking big. When asked how the State of Vermont can limit future flood damage, he said the state needs to “create more capacity to store water” – in other words, find some plan to divert floodwaters away from the low-lying urban areas along the Winooski and Lamoille Rivers and ‘store’ it elsewhere. He didn’t offer specifics and said it will take a hydrologist and other experts to come up with a solution.