GMP Proposes Use of Pole Socks Statewide

Green Mountain Power (GMP) attended the December 2020 WRC Project Review Committee (PRC) meeting to discuss the relocation of approximately 5700’ of power line along Weatherhead Hollow Road in Guilford which required an Act 250 permit (2W1365). The District 2 Environmental Commission (DEC2) had proposed to permit GMP to use alternate pole materials for several poles that were within wetland or wetland buffer. GMP was resistant to this proposed permit condition, wanting instead to continue to use chemical treated penta poles, and they called for a hearing. Because of this seeming impasse, the PRC suggested to GMP the consideration of the use of plastic ‘pole socks’ as a way to both use penta poles and prevent seepage to the surrounding environment. 

Pole socks are impermeable plastic barriers, an example is here. GMP expressed interest, but indicated they had not used pole socks in the past, only pole sleeves. Sleeves, however, are open on the bottom and thus would not solve the situation here. Encouraged by the response, Alyssa brought the pole sock idea up again at the virtual Act 250 hearing on December 3rd, 2020.

The idea gained momentum at the hearing and prevailed in the permit. The Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Order indicated that the Commission would allow GMP to use pole socks on two poles of concern, but will also require a 5-year monitoring plan for seven poles so that water quality is monitored and the effectiveness of the plastic pole coverings can be ascertained.

GMP responded to the DEC2 stating that they will make a new practice of using protective pole socks on all poles within 50 feet of streams or wetlands statewide—not just in DEC2 territory. This is a positive outcome going forward for future permits. As a result, GMP just received another permit (2W1347) for a realignment project in Athens that had been held up for nearly 3½ years because of similar issues as in the Guilford case.

These permits being issued will help those living in Guilford and Athens to get the needed upgrades to their power infrastructure completed, while doing so in an environmentally sensitive manner. GMP deserves credit for their proposal, as this is something that they could have continued to appeal in both instances. Instead, this compromise will speed up their permit applications, protect the lifespan of their poles, protect the surrounding environment from leeching chemicals, and will mean quicker upgrades to the power grid in numerous cases.

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Last Updated: 09 September 2021
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