VERNON — With plans for a natural gas pipeline called off for now, the town's Planning Commission will go back to the drawing board.
In March, Vernon residents supported the prospect of hosting a natural gas plant in town in a 677-153 vote.
"We have never put all our eggs in one basket," Planning Commission Chairman Bob Spencer said. "We actually discussed there was a fairly good chance this wouldn't happen."
A meeting between state officials and the Planning Commission was cancelled following news last week of Kinder Morgan's Northeast Energy Direct Pipeline plans being withdrawn. The company said it did not receive enough commitment from customers. Proposed was a 188-mile pipeline from an area west of Albany, N.Y., to Dracut, Mass. The controversial project was expected to cost $3.3 billion. Part of its route was planned to come within seven miles of Vernon.
The news came as a disappointment to Spencer, who cited two public meetings leading up to the March vote plus meetings between the commission and a group interested in developing a proposal. Commission members also visited a gas plant in Middletown, Conn., where an explosion occurred in 2010.
"I didn't find out about it until last night and we have had no discussions," Spencer said Thursday afternoon. "We'll review it at our May 11 meeting. But I imagine we will try to pursue other energy projects there."
Earlier this month, the commission scheduled a time to talk with Secretary of Agency of Commerce and Community Development Pat Moulton and Department of Public Service Commissioner Chris Recchia about a potential project.
The infrastructure where a natural gas plant could have been connected — an electric switchyard used by the nuclear plant Vermont Yankee until it was shut down in December 2014 — could provide "a good opportunity for some energy facility," said Spencer.
"We don't know what it is," he added. "It could be solar, you know? It could be perhaps some other smaller version of a gas plant that wouldn't depend on a pipeline. You can rail gas. It can come on rail. There's a rail siting. We don't know."
Moulton suggested the commission participate in the Vermont Council on Rural Development forums coming to Vernon via the Windham County Economic Development Program, said Spencer. The program was set up following the closure of Vermont Yankee and it has funded several projects around the county. The meetings are looked at as a way of navigating post-Vermont Yankee life in Vernon.
Contact Chris Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.