MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — State regulators on Thursday asked for a $35,000 fine against Vermont Gas Systems for being slow to file a new and higher cost estimate for phase one of a natural gas pipeline expansion in western Vermont.
The company told the Public Service Board on July 2 that the cost of extending its system from Chittenden County south to Middlebury had grown by 40 percent, to more than $121 million.
In a filing with the board, the utility-regulating body that will decide the matter, the Public Service Department cited a board rule saying utilities building new projects are supposed to "regularly monitor and update the estimated capital costs" and report changes valued at more than $25,000.
The department said the board's last previous estimate of costs for phase one came in February of 2013. The "lapse of time between February 2013 and July 2014 is too long a time by any measure, and the Department therefore believes that a penalty is warranted in the present circumstances," wrote Louise Porter, a lawyer for the department.
The company responded in a statement saying "we regret not providing advanced notice of pending budget changes and will not make this mistake again."
It added: "Vermont Gas believed updates to the budget needed to be complete and accurate prior to filing. This approach delayed the filing until all information was both available and verified. Although we accomplished the goal of ensuring a comprehensive update, in retrospect we should have notified the parties in the regulatory proceeding earlier."
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