MONTPELIER, VT. >> A federal judge has ordered the Vermont Public Service Board to open a hearing on a gas pipeline project to the public, despite the board's fears that protesters may disrupt it.

U.S. District Judge Christina Reiss agreed with critics of the Vermont Gas Systems plan to build a pipeline from Chittenden County south to Middlebury that it would violate the First Amendment to bar them from the hearing.

Huntington resident Lisa Barrett — a pipeline opponent — had sued after the board announced it would close this Thursday's hearing to the public. After its initial order, the board said it would allow members of the media to attend.

The court agreed with Barrett that the general public should be allowed to attend.