Federal regulator cedes pipeline jurisdiction to N.Y., Vt.

<p> <span style="line-height: 20.7999992370605px;">ADDISON COUNTY &mdash; The federal agency responsible for regulating interstate energy projects has granted a waiver that gives New York and Vermont, the two states through which Phase II of Vermont Gas Systems&rsquo; Addison Rutland Natural Gas Project would run, authority to approve or reject the plan.</span></p><p> The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a ruling Sept. 26 that Phase II complies with the Natural Gas Act, which prohibits the construction of a natural gas pipeline in an area already served by natural gas.</p><p> The ruling effectively removes the federal government from oversight of the project, and instead cedes jurisdiction to its state counterparts &mdash; the Vermont Public Service Board and the New York Public Service Commission. FERC argued that between those two tribunals, all aspects of the project can be effectively regulated.</p><p> Vermont Gas first submitted Phase II for Public Service Board review in November 2013, a month before the company approved Phase I of the project. Last month, the board <a href="http://www.addisonindependent.com/201409public-service-board-delays-phas... technical hearings</a> for that docket, in part because FERC had yet to make a ruling on jurisdiction and also because the board is considering whether to reexamine its approval of Phase I, after Vermont Gas in July <a href="http://www.addisonindependent.com/201409regulator-mulls-pipeline-options... a 40 percent cost hike</a> for that project.</p><p> Hearings for Phase II were originally scheduled for October, but the board moved them to January. Based on how long the Phase I approval process took, the Public Service Board is unlikely to rule on Phase II until next spring.</p><p> The Vermont Public Interest Group, an opponent of the pipeline project, petitioned FERC to hold evidentiary hearings before making a ruling. The federal agency rejected that request.</p>

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