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Protecting Residential Utility Customers: Summary of 2015 AARP Survey of Vermont Voters

Voters have not been well-informed about the Addison Natural Gas Project, nor about how the project is being funded. The Vermont Addison Natural Gas Project was projected to be a 41-mile pipeline extension from Colchester south to Middlebury financed through a rate increase to Vermont Gas Systems customers.  The cost for the first phase has increased from $86 million to $154 million due to cost overruns.  Phase II of the project would have expanded the pipeline from Middlebury southwest to Ticonderoga, New York.  Due to cost overruns, Phase II has now been cancelled.  Only about 3,000 customers in Addison County will benefit from direct energy savings; however, rates will increase for all 50,000 Vermont Gas Systems customers to pay for the project.

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Key findings include:

  • Voters would support a candidate who ensures that the Vermont Public Service Department is advocating for affordable utility rates.
  • Voters want greater consumer protections, financial transparency and accountability by the Vermont Public Service Department and Vermont Gas Systems.
  • One-half of registered voters in Vermont oppose the Vermont Public Service Department’s decision for Vermont Gas System to continue Phase I of the Addison Natural Gas Project despite substantial cost overruns of millions of dollars.
  • More than eight in ten (84%) respondents think that the company should pay for the overruns due to their own underestimation of the project cost.
  • Vermont voters agree greater levels of transparency and accountability by both the Vermont Public Service Board and Vermont Gas Systems are necessary. 

The AARP 2015 Vermont Utility Survey was conducted as a telephone survey among registered voters age 18 or older in the state of Vermont. The survey collected the opinions of Vermont registered voters on issues related to utility bills, the effectiveness of government regulation of utilities, and the Addison Natural Gas Project. The interviews were conducted in English by Precision Opinion from May 30th to June 9th, 2015. The sample utilized a voter list. For more information, contact Cassandra Burton at CCantave@aarp.org.