WILLISTON -- Vermont Gas President and CEO Don Gilbert and Engineers Construction, Inc. (ECI) President Ken Pidgeon announced Monday the signing of a multi-million dollar agreement for construction on Phase 1 of the Addison Rutland Natural Gas Project.

The agreement with the Vermont-based contractor focuses on horizontal directional drilling -- an environmentally preferable technique for installing natural gas systems. It is also the first construction contract for the project. Construction is expected to begin in June. When complete, the Addison Rutland Natural Gas Project is expected to help about 16,000 additional homes and businesses cut heating costs by about half, while reducing emissions by about 25 percent when converting from oil. Natural gas is currently 49 percent less expensive than oil and 63 percent less than propane.

"Today marks a major step forward in the Addison Rutland natural gas project," said Don Gilbert. "The agreement with ECI is important both because it is with a Vermont-based business and the horizontal directional drilling technology they use will help protect environmentally and archaeological sensitive areas along the route."

ECI, a Vermont-based engineering and construction company, has extensive experience with the use of horizontal directional drilling including projects under Lake Champlain and the Winooski, Lamoille and Missisquioi rivers.

"In our company's history we have been involved in many drilling projects in Vermont and throughout New England and New York," said Ken Pidgeon. "These projects range from drilling below Lake Champlain for Vermont's Sandbar State Park, to drilling under Rouses Point to connect electricity and fiber."

Lisa Ventriss from the Vermont Business Roundtable, Cathy Voyer-Lamberton from Associated General Contractors of Vermont and Josh Sky, Senior Scientist from VHB, also spoke about the economic and environmental benefits of the project.

About Horizontal Directional Drilling: Horizontal Directional drilling (HDD) is a trenchless pipeline installation method that will be used in more than 17 locations along 41 miles of the Phase 1 route of the Addison Rutland Natural Gas Project. The equipment used in the directional drilling process is new and allows ECI to bore underneath environmentally and archaeologically sensitive areas, thus minimizing impacts. ECI recently purchased several pieces of equipment for the project.

About Engineers Construction: Engineers Construction is a family-owned contractor specializing in civil, sitework, concrete, paving, railroad, and trenchless pipeline construction. Engineers Construction was founded by Alan Pidgeon in 1965. Alan's sons, Ken and Scott, took over corporate ownership in 2004.

About Vermont Gas: Vermont Gas currently serves almost 50,000 customers in Franklin and Chittenden counties and is working to expand service into Addison and Rutland counties through the Addison Rutland Natural Gas Project. The company's long heritage for safe and reliable operations includes its award-winning energy-efficiency programs, which reduce energy use while saving current customers $13 million annually for homes and businesses. For more information about the Addison Rutland Natural Gas Project, visit addisonrutlandnaturalgas.com .