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Monday, March 6, 2017

Public Service Board Proposes Stricter Wind Regulations

Posted By on Mon, Mar 6, 2017 at 5:58 PM

Wind turbines - FILE
  • File
  • Wind turbines
Proposed rules issued Friday by the state Public Service Board signal a significant shift in the state’s regulation of wind turbines.

The board is calling for more restrictive limits on sound emissions, which at least one renewable energy proponent said could effectively ban wind power in Vermont.

Currently, regulators measure sound emissions from inside and outside homes. Emissions outside must not exceed 45 decibels, while emissions inside a home cannot exceed 30 decibels.

The new proposal does away with inside or outside and instead measures emissions during the day and at night within 100 feet of a home. Under such standards, emissions could not exceed 42 decibels during the day and 35 decibels at night.

“That is absurdly low,” Ben Walsh, climate and energy program director at the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, said of the nighttime level in particular. “This is functionally a ban on wind large and small in Vermont ... I’m surprised the board went this far.”

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Monday, January 9, 2017

Solar Solidarity? Scott, SunCommon Find Common Ground

Posted By on Mon, Jan 9, 2017 at 4:19 PM

Gov. Phil Scott (left) joins SunCommon cofounder (second from left) James Moore at a press conference Monday. - TERRI HALLENBECK
  • TERRI HALLENBECK
  • Gov. Phil Scott (left) joins SunCommon cofounder (second from left) James Moore at a press conference Monday.
There’s no doubt that James Moore would have preferred Democrat Sue Minter to have won Vermont’s 2016 gubernatorial race over Republican Phil Scott.

But ask Moore his preference in the race and the cofounder of the Waterbury-based SunCommon solar company — and former clean energy advocate for Vermont Public Interest Research Group — will sidestep the question.

Instead, on Monday, he pivoted quickly to embrace the governor he got over the governor he might have wanted.

“I’m thrilled that he’s here with us,” Moore said as Scott agreed to spend his very first press conference as governor highlighting a SunCommon solar project in Montpelier.

Scott’s morning appearance showing off the Hunger Mountain Co-op’s new solar canopy did reveal something about Vermont politics: All sides are quick to embrace reality, even as they struggle with their differences behind the scenes.

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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Morning Read: Post Walks Back Burlington Electric Hacking Story

Posted By on Tue, Jan 3, 2017 at 9:15 AM

morningread640.png
The Washington Post on Monday night continued to walk back a story it published Friday alleging that Russian hackers had “penetrated” the U.S. electric grid through a Vermont utility, later identified as the Burlington Electric Department.

In an editor’s note appended to the story a day after publication, the Post retracted its most explosive assertion, which had been sourced to anonymous federal officials:

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Russian hackers had penetrated the U.S. electric grid. Authorities say there is no indication of that so far. The computer at Burlington Electric that was hacked was not attached to the grid.
The original story continued to assert that malware discovered on a BED laptop last Friday was “associated with the Russian hacking operation dubbed Grizzly Steppe by the Obama administration.” But in a follow-up story published Monday night, the Post called into question even that suggestion.

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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Burlington Electric Discovers Russia-Linked Malware on Laptop

Posted By on Sat, Dec 31, 2016 at 11:54 AM

BED logo - COURTESY: BURLINGTON ELECTRIC DEPARTMENT
  • Courtesy: Burlington Electric Department
  • BED logo
Updated at 4:35 p.m.

The Burlington Electric Department discovered suspected Russian malware code on one of its laptops Friday, the municipal utility confirmed late that night.

According to BED spokesman Mike Kanarick, the code is associated with a Russian hacking campaign known by the federal government as Grizzly Steppe. Kanarick said in a written statement Friday that the laptop was “not connected to our organization’s grid systems.”

“We took immediate action to isolate the laptop and alerted federal officials of this finding,” he said. “Our team is working with federal officials to trace this malware and prevent any other attempts to infiltrate utility systems.”

BED issued a second statement Saturday afternoon saying that there was “no indication that either our electric grid or customer information has been compromised.” It said that similar malware had been discovered elsewhere in the country and was “not unique to Burlington Electric.”

“Media reports stating that Burlington Electric was hacked or that the electric grid was breached are false,” the utility said in the second statement.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Scott’s Push for Wind Moratorium Faces Tough Odds

Posted By on Wed, Dec 14, 2016 at 8:12 PM

SEVEN DAYS FILE
  • Seven Days file
Governor-elect Phil Scott wants to push lawmakers for a ban on industrial wind projects next year, but said this week he would settle for a temporary moratorium.

He might have a hard time getting either.

“We just passed — literally in June — Act 174,” Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee chair Chris Bray (D-Addison) said. “I really want to stay with and develop that planning process.”

Bray was referring to a new state law designed to give municipalities more say in siting energy projects.

Scott pledged during the election to push for a moratorium on large-scale wind projects, a heated issue in some parts of the state. This week, speaking to reporters at a press conference, he said he hopes for legislation to pass next year.

He was already hedging his expectations. “What I personally would like to see is to protect our ridgelines in perpetuity,” Scott said. “The reality is that won’t happen.”

Still, Scott expressed hope that he could convince legislators to agree to a short-term halt on wind projects.

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Friday, November 4, 2016

Tensions Run High in Windham Over Wind Vote

Posted By on Fri, Nov 4, 2016 at 12:54 PM

Voters in Windham and Grafton will weigh in Tuesday on a 24-turbine wind project. - TERRI HALLENBECK/FILE
  • TERRI HALLENBECK/File
  • Voters in Windham and Grafton will weigh in Tuesday on a 24-turbine wind project.
Next Tuesday’s vote in Windham on a proposed wind project has become so controversial that the town plans to videotape the whole process — from voter check-in to ballot counting — in hopes of quelling concerns about fairness.

“I’m not taking any risk,” said Windham Town Clerk Jo-Jo Chlebogiannis. “I’m being criticized for things that aren’t actually occurring.”

Windham and Grafton are both slated to vote Tuesday on the proposed 24-turbine Stiles Brook wind project, which would construct 16 turbines in Windham and eight in Grafton.

Project developer Iberdrola has said it will follow the towns’ wishes on the project, but some residents are worried that the company is laying the groundwork for declaring the vote unjust.

New accusations arise almost daily from those for and against the project.

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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Wind Developer Woos Windham With More Money, Fewer Turbines

Posted By on Wed, Oct 5, 2016 at 5:08 PM

Frank Seawright pointing out the proposed location of the Windham turbine project - TERRI HALLENBECK
  • terri hallenbeck
  • Frank Seawright pointing out the proposed location of the Windham turbine project

A wind project developer offered Windham County residents more money and fewer turbines in the hope of winning their support in an election-day vote.


Iberdrola Renewables originally planned to build a combined 28 turbines in Windham and Grafton as part of the Stiles Brook Wind Project. The company still plans to build eight turbines in Grafton but, at a public meeting Tuesday, offered to cut from 20 to 16 the number of turbines built in Windham.


Iberdrola also offered the town of Windham a $1 million annual payment — an increase from their original $715,000 offer — for hosting the turbines. And, the company offered to pay each registered voter in Windham $1,174 a year for them to use as they please, said Iberdrola spokesman Paul Copleman.


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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

With Backing from Key Institutions, Burlington to Pursue District Heating

Posted By on Wed, Sep 28, 2016 at 8:57 PM

From left: Burlington Mayor Weinberger, John St.Hilaire of Vermont Gas, Corix chief operating officer and vice president Eric van Roon, Dawn LeBaron of UVM Medical Center, Don Sinex, BED director Neale Lunderville and Jan Schultz announce plans to pursue district heating on Wednesday. - ALICIA FREESE
  • Alicia Freese
  • From left: Burlington Mayor Weinberger, John St.Hilaire of Vermont Gas, Corix chief operating officer and vice president Eric van Roon, Dawn LeBaron of UVM Medical Center, Don Sinex, BED director Neale Lunderville and Jan Schultz announce plans to pursue district heating on Wednesday.
Updated September 29, 2016 at 8:50 a.m. to include corrected information from Burlington Electric about greenhouse gas emissions.

Several major Burlington institutions are backing a plan to create a district heat system that would harness waste heat from the Joseph C. McNeil Generating Station.

A group of residents has been trying for decades to convince city leaders to implement this type of system, which works like an electric grid — but for heat. The idea has been formally studied at least six times, with the most recent report concluding that it didn't make financial sense.

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Friday, September 16, 2016

First Wind Project on U.S. Forest Service Land Set to Break Ground

Posted By on Fri, Sep 16, 2016 at 1:07 PM

The Green Mountain Forest area, near an existing Searsburg wind project, where a 15-turbine project is planned. - COURTESY VERMONTERS FOR A CLEAN ENVIRONMENT
  • Courtesy Vermonters for a Clean Environment
  • The Green Mountain Forest area, near an existing Searsburg wind project, where a 15-turbine project is planned.
Updated at 4:23 p.m., September 16, 2016, with a comment from VPIRG.

The first wind turbine project in the country to be built on U.S. Forest Service land will break ground Monday in southern Vermont.

The 15-turbine project spans across parts of Readsboro and Searsburg, just north of the state border with Massachusetts, within the Green Mountain National Forest.

Construction comes after the developer Avangrid — formerly called Iberdrola — cleared a controversial permitting process that took more than a decade.

The developer has an agreement with Green Mountain Power to purchase 30 megawatts of power for 4.8 cents per kilowatt from the project once it is constructed. 

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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Board Says Vermont Gas Can Use Eminent Domain in Park

Posted By on Tue, Sep 13, 2016 at 7:04 PM

ALICIA FREESE
  • Alicia Freese
The Vermont Public Service Board will allow Vermont Gas Systems to use eminent domain to build its natural gas pipeline through Geprags Community Park.

The Hinesburg parcel was the last remaining piece of land along the planned 41-mile Colchester-to-Middlebury route where Vermont Gas had to secure the rights to install its pipeline. The area to be condemned is 50 feet wide and 1,987 feet long.

A group of Hinesburg residents represented by attorney James Dumont argued against the eminent domain request in front of the PSB during an August 4th meeting.

The board was not persuaded. In a decision issued Tuesday, it concluded that the pipeline "will have little or no impact on the park and its existing uses, both during and after construction."

Citing Vermont Supreme Court precedent, Dumont had argued that land already designated for a public use couldn't be seized for a different public use. But in its decision, the board reasoned that it was permissible if the public would be best served by both uses and as long as the "second public use would not destroy or materially interfere with the prior public use."

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