That was quite a heapin’ helpin’ o’ bad news served up by Vermont Gas this morning. It announced yet another big cost increase for Phase 1 of its pipeline project, and asked state regulators to put the case on hold.
Which is, if nothing else, a sign that they realize how bad their situation is. How bad?
Cost estimates for Phase 1 of Vermont Gas pipeline have almost doubled in 6 months. Incoming CEO says it’s still worth it. #vprnews
— Taylor Dobbs (@taylordobbs) December 19, 2014
Yeeeesh. Company officials insist the pipeline is still economically viable, but it’s a lot less viable than originally thought. That changes the cost/benefit equation — which should include the environmental questions — quite a bit. In other late-breaking realizations…
— Dan D’Ambrosio (@DanDambrosioVT) December 19, 2014
Mm-hmm, I’ll bet. As I wrote in early September, Vermont Gas has been its own worst enemy, coming across as bullies with landowners, and as questionable managers with state regulators.
Whether its bumblefuckery is enough to shelve the project remains to be seen. Today’s announcement is the beginning of a new phase in the history of this proposal. Up till now, the economic arguments in favor of the pipeline had been strong enough to overcome resistance from the environmental community and a small number of landowners.
Those arguments are a lot less strong today. Vermont Gas has given the state a big fat excuse to kill the project — at a time when Governor Shumlin (to be entirely political about it) desperately needs a high-profile issue on which he can pander to the left. Well, if he wants one, he’s got one.
Update. The Governor has released a statement, and yes, he sees an open door in front of him.
Although I am pleased that the new leadership at Vermont Gas is taking the time to reevaluate the proposed projects, this further cost increase is very troubling. In the coming weeks my administration will be evaluating all of this new information and looking at these projects as a whole to ensure that they remain in the best interest of Vermont. Meanwhile, I expect Vermont Gas to also reevaluate its communications and negotiations with affected landowners to help improve relations. I trust those steps will continue.