The following is the text of a letter from Sarah Hofmann (Department of Public Service) to Annette Smith (Vermonters for a Clean Environment) on the subject of questions Annette Smith put to NYSEG/SVNG on their intentions.


August 9, 1999

Annette Smith
789 Baker Brook Road
Danby, VT 05739

Re: Your e-mail of 8/4/99

Dear Ms. Smith:

Thank you for your account of the Sunderland Selectboard meeting at which the gas projects were discussed. Your report of Mr. Roloson's and Mr. Macaulay's comments was very interesting. I just wanted to respond to a few points in your e-mail.

First, please bear in mind that there has been no petition filed with the Public Service Board. If SVNG files a petition with the Board, we do expect a fairly high degree of specificity as to the route of the pipeline. The state worked with SVNG to pick what appears at this time to be the least environmentally harmful route. That could change depending upon what is found when the field work is done, but SVNG should be able to show citizens and the Board a fairly specific route if it chooses to file a petition. Obviously any filing or any presentations to communities should carry the caveat that this is the study corridor and it could change for good cause, but it should give citizens a good idea if their land is more likely than not to be impacted.

Although we want SVNG to be flexible and make changes where needed, we expect them to be able to tell the State, towns and citizens where the pipeline is proposed to be laid.

As to the interconnection studies, a completed study will not be required at the time of filing. However, the Department will expect SVNG's filing to show that the funds for the interconnection studies have been provided, what will be included in the studies, and a timetable for the studies' completion. Ultimately the study will have to be introduced in the S 248 proceeding and parties should have a chance to respond. I am assuming that this type of submission and response time will be built into a schedule that will be developed at a rehearing conference if SVNG or Vermont Energy Park Holdings file petitions with the Public Service Board. One option could be to make a granting of a certificate of public good contingent on the satisfactory completion of the systems integration study. Also the system integration study and follow-up facilities study will identify any needed transmission system modifications or upgrades. It is likely that any transmission construction would require a separate S 248 proceeding.

You mention in your e-mail a meeting that took place approximately two weeks ago about air quality. I believe you are referring to a meeting that took place on 7/15/99 that focused on GE turbine technology. Tom Dunn and Dave Lamont from our office attended that meeting. In the materials you received from us in response to your public records request were four pages of Tom's handwritten notes from the meeting. Basically, Vermont Energy Holdings was told by Brian Fitzgerald of ANR's Air Pollution Control Division that its project would have to meet the lowest achievable emission rate (LAER). In terms of air emissions his would make the plant among the cleanest in the nation.

You imply in your e-mail that the state is somehow remiss because of statements made by the project proponents. The State is expecting specificity if the projects file for a certificate of public good. If necessary information is not provided by the companies proposing projects then those deficiencies will be pointed out in the S 248 process. As to the state's review of the projects it will be thorough, far reaching, and well supervised. The state was willing to bring on extra qualified people to do the field work at the expense of SVNG, with control of who was hired and what was done remaining with the State. Certainly we haggled over budgets but that is not unusual in the least. The bottom line was the State committed to its best efforts in reviewing the project, and expected SVNG to pay the cost of the review. In the end, SVNG did not feel it could sign such an agreement until the financing for Vermont Energy Park Holdings was more secure. To date, the financing is still up in the air.

You state that there is not a forum for the effects on citizens to be measured. That is precisely what the S 248 process will be doing. It will be a forum to examine the effect on citizens, our land, our water, our economy, our infrastructure, and our future. Public hearings will be held to allow fairly easy access for citizens to comment. The State will investigate all aspects of the S 248 criteria and present evidence. You may also choose to try and intervene. The Public Service Board will be fully informed as to the projects prior to the Board issuing an order. Of course, this presupposes that there will be any filing at all.

Finally, you conclude that because Mr. Roloson and Mr. Macaulay "take no responsibility for anything....that the State of Vermont should be prepared to take full responsibility for every aspect of this project." The State is not responsible for a petitioning party's filing. Proponents are free to file what they chose, it is the State's responsibility to review the filing and make a recommendation based on the investigation of that filing. We take our responsibility seriously.



Sarah Hofmann
Special Counsel
Office of the Advocate
Department of Public Service

Copyright © 1999 Vermonters for a Clean Environment
Updated: Friday, October 1, 1999