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Company Agrees to Independent Review of Pipeline Construction as Opponents Seek Answers

Tue April 03, 2018 - National Edition
Emily Buenzle


In February 2018, the project was hit with a $25,000 fine from the Department of Public Service after it said workers laid pipe in certain areas directly into a trench, rather than first adding a sand layer for both protection and corrosion prevention, VPR reported.
In February 2018, the project was hit with a $25,000 fine from the Department of Public Service after it said workers laid pipe in certain areas directly into a trench, rather than first adding a sand layer for both protection and corrosion prevention, VPR reported.

Vermont Gas Systems (VGS) recently agreed to an independent review of the Addison pipeline construction project after allegations surfaced about safety shortfalls, VPR reported.

According to Beth Parent, spokeswoman for VGS, the company's goal is for the review to answer questions about the pipeline's construction.

“We are confident in the integrity of our pipeline,” said Parent. “But that's really what the process of an outside expert review would look at, right? And we expect to participate very strongly in that process.”

The review comes in response to opponents' allegations that VGS's documents reveal “improper construction and a failure to document safe construction practices,” VPR reported.

The Addison pipeline has already been subject to cost overruns and legal battles since it was approved in 2013; in February 2018, the project was hit with a $25,000 fine from the Department of Public Service after it said workers laid pipe in certain areas directly into a trench, rather than first adding a sand layer for both protection and corrosion prevention, VPR reported. In addition, the Department of Public Service wanted to conduct more testing to confirm the project's safety.

According to Jim Dumont, lawyer for the opposition, this independent review is exactly what his clients want.

“I think it's a great step forward,” said Dumont. “My clients have been submitting filings to the Public Utility Commission starting last July, asking for an independent investigation of the safety of the entire pipeline.”

Dumont recently filed a series of additional allegations about possible shortcuts made during the project's construction, VPR reported.

“This started when we had information that the pipeline wasn't buried deep enough,” said Dumont. “And then when the company filed information about that, we asked discovery questions. We found out there were other violations and we asked discovery questions on that. And then we received enough information to submit a very broad request for a complete safety investigation of the construction of the entire pipeline.”

While the Department of Public Safety said it believes the pipeline is, in fact, safe, it confirmed that it will hire a third-party consultant to conduct a review.

“With the remediation plan recommended by the department—which includes more robust pipeline testing, and increased frequency of pipeline integrity inspections than was originally contemplated—we believe the pipeline will remain safe during its future operation,” said Jim Porter, the Department of Public Safety's director of public advocacy.