TICONDEROGA — International Paper’s Ticonderoga mill is one step closer to getting a natural-gas pipeline from Vermont to power its operations.
Vermont state regulators recently approved the first phase of a proposed 43-mile-long natural-gas pipeline from Colchester to Middlebury, Vt. Phase II would extend it another 11 miles, in part under Lake Champlain, to the Ticonderoga paper mill.
IP would pay $45 million toward the cost of the pipeline extension — a permit for that part of the project has been applied for from the Vermont Public Service Board by Vermont Gas Systems.
Representatives of the papermaker say the pipeline would reduce its annual fuel costs by an estimated $24 million at the Ticonderoga mill, which now burns fuel oil in its power-generating boiler.
International Paper spokeswoman Donna Wadsworth said this week that they’re pleased that the pipeline project is proceeding.
“We’re looking forward to continue to work with Vermont Gas Systems, and we’d like to be a customer by December 2015.”
She said IP believes it is very important to reduce energy costs at the Ticonderoga mill.
“As we’ve said before, we view this project as a significant cost savings and greenhouse gas reduction project.”
Opponents, among them environmental groups and some property owners along the way, argue the pipeline for IP would chiefly benefit another state and is trading one dirty fossil fuel for another fossil fuel.
But Vermont Gas Systems spokesman Steve Wark said the cleaner-burning natural gas from the pipeline would result in fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
“It will save that region $200 million in energy costs over a 20-year period, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by almost 300,000 tons and also help just the average residential consumer cut their (fuel) bills in half,” Wark said in a statement.
The Vermont Public Interest Research group and a group of homeowners in Monkton oppose the pipeline project in its entirety, arguing the natural gas it would carry is mostly obtained from a controversial hydraulic fracturing extraction process called “fracking.”