What's holding up Yankee Gas?

Though First Selectman Bill Brennan said last night, April 7, he is still optimistic about proposed plans to install expanded natural gas lines in Wilton, his tone was noticeably less confident than at previous meetings of the Board of Selectmen.

After saying he was “not sure” whether delays on the part of Yankee Gas were due to Public Utility Regulatory Authority set-backs, as he said the utility claims, the first selectman indicated the plan for expanded gas may no longer be a sure bet.

“Before we start ordering conversion equipment, we have to make sure we have a gas line. Is it going to happen? I hope so,” he said.

Tuesday meeting

A group of representatives from Wilton, including Mr. Brennan, met with Yankee Gas executives today, April 8, for what Mr. Brennan called a “very good, very constructive meeting.”

Mitch Gross, a representative of Yankee Gas, said this afternoon the meeting had been a “very frank” discussion between town officials and utility representatives.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Yankee Gas representatives agreed to attend a special meeting of the Board of Selectmen next week to “bring everyone up to date.”

“We share the enthusiasm for gas expansion in Wilton,” Mr. Gross said, “and we want to do everything we can to establish a plan of action that works for everyone.”

Sunk investment

Regardless of his early doubt Monday, Mr. Brennan reassured citizens later that evening that a substantial “sunk investment” by Yankee Gas into Wilton suggests it will follow through on natural gas plans.

“The main thing is that Yankee Gas has a substantial sunk investment in this process,” he said. “All the engineering is done, they’ve gotten quotes on pipe contractors. They have the basic route and we have supplied all the information for these easements.”

After Tuesday’s meeting, he confirmed that both entities are prepared to keep the project “on track.”

“We both have a lot invested in the program,” Mr. Brennan said. “What we are trying to do is work out the issues and keep the program on track. Yankee Gas has certainly shown a lot of enthusiasm.”

PURA problems

There are three significant milestones Yankee Gas and the town must meet before natural gas expansion takes place, Mr. Brennan said Monday, including the installation agreement “supposedly held up by PURA,” a combined meeting of Yankee Gas with the town’s Inland Wetlands Commission and its Conservation Commission, as well as a formalized timeline.

Mr. Gross, of Yankee Gas, confirmed Tuesday PURA requirements had affected the project’s timeline.

“Wilton would be one of the first, so for a project like this there are a variety of factors that need to be carefully integrated to ensure the project meets all of the required oversight criteria,” he said. When changes to PURA requirements were announced “it changed the timeframe under which we can implement the project.”

“Supposedly they are going to have three crews working here,” Mr. Brennan said. “We need traffic controls along River Road and Kristine Lilly Way and wherever else they will be digging. We’re getting close to 11 weeks until we have to break ground.”

This story represents updated information.