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The Vermont Supreme Court Vacates a Stay, Allowing Pipeline Construction to Continue through Public Lands

In In re Petition of Vermont Gas Systems, Inc., 106 VT 132 (Dec. 8, 2016) the Court grants the request of Vermont Gas Systems (VGS) to vacate a statutory stay under 30 V.S.A. § 124.

Issue: This is a case concerning a Public Service Board approval to condemn a pipeline easement through Geprags Park. Appellants were granted the right to an automatic stay of decisions granting easements by the Public Service Board under 30 V.S.A. § 124, and the Supreme Court is given the right, by statute, to vacate such a stay “as justice or equity require.” The Court considered the likelihood of success on the merits, using established precedent to consider whether VGS is likely to prevail, and therefore whether the stay should be vacated.

Holding: To determine that VGS was likely to prevail, the Court considered prior case law, which held that if a limited condemnation does not destroy or materially impair existing recreational uses of public lands that additional condemnation of this land also serving a public use will be seen as a public benefit and will be approved. On this rationale, the Court noted the Board’s careful and reasoned consideration of this case, holding that VGS is entitled to proceed with the pipeline construction as approved by the Public Service Board.

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