Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Vermont Gas Pipeline Protester Arrested After Chaining Herself to HQ

Posted By on Tue, May 27, 2014 at 1:15 PM

  • Courtesy Rising Tide Vermont
At 8 a.m. this morning, 31-year-old Sara Mehalick sat down in front of the main entrance to the Vermont Gas headquarters in South Burlington and chained herself to the building. There she planned to remain, she said, until Vermont Gas called off its plans for the construction of a new natural gas pipeline to Addison County.

More than four hours later, with protesters looking on from the sidewalk, Mehalick was arrested for refusing to leave the private property and was led away. 

Mehalick and the grassroots environmental group Rising Tide Vermont said the action was one of nonviolent civil disobedience. Vermont Gas took a different view.

"We respect peoples’ need and their rights to protest and voice their opinions," said spokesman Steve Wark in a phone interview with Seven Days. "However, today’s behavior crossed the line," he continued. In a news release issued this afternoon, Wark said that an administrative support staff member was assaulted while attempting "to ensure the protest did not impede the normal flow of customers" into and out of the building. "Protestors made physical contact with the Vermont Gas employee – with their hands and the chain – and physically, and visibly, injured the employee on the arm," Wark wrote. 

"We can no longer trust that [protesters] can express their views peacefully," wrote Wark, 

Rising Tide organizer Keith Brunner said that he wasn't present when the alleged assault took place, but that Rising Tide is "committed to nonviolent civil disobedience. That's what this was today."

"I’m really here defending a livable planet," said Mehalick by telephone, prior to her arrest. At the time, she sat on a small cushion and wore a U-shaped bicycle lock around her neck through which the chain blockading the door was threaded. 

Does today's action represent an escalation in the fight against the Vermont Gas pipeline, slated to carry natural gas from Chittenden County south to Middlebury and potentially beyond?

"Definitely," said Brunner. "I don’t think it’s going to stop here. We’re saying, we’re not going to stop until you stop. People are pretty serious. The stakes are way too high with climate change and fossil fuels."

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Did Hartwell Really Say That About Climate Change?

Posted By on Thu, Apr 17, 2014 at 9:46 PM

Sen. Bob Hartwell - PAUL HEINTZ
  • Paul Heintz
  • Sen. Bob Hartwell
Is Sen. Bob Hartwell (D-Bennington) truly skeptical that humans are responsible for global climate change?

Does he really think the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change "has come out with some pretty extreme statements about what's going on?"

Did he really suggest that what we call climate change may simply be the result of a naturally warming and cooling earth?

That's what we wrote in last week's Fair Game, quoting from a 15-minute interview conducted with Hartwell on April 7. But Hartwell, who chairs the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy, seems to think his words were distorted. After former lobbyist Bob Stannard linked to the column on his Facebook page and wrote that "Vermonters are very disappointed" with Hartwell's comments, the senator posted a four-paragraph statement clarifying his position and calling into question the column's accuracy.

"Unfortunately, some have taken to characterizing my description of the climate change situation without discussion directly with me," Hartwell wrote. "I have and will continue to express my opinion as to what I believe is best for Vermont, even when the press distorts my interviews on occasion, something that often happens to those in public life."

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Monday, April 14, 2014

GMP to Buy Neighbors' Property in Lowell Wind Settlement

Posted By on Mon, Apr 14, 2014 at 11:05 AM

  • File: Kathryn Flagg
After years of drawn-out lawsuits, property disputes and heartbreak, Don and Shirley Nelson are leaving Lowell Mountain.

The neighbors of the 21-turbine Kingdom Community Wind project announced a settlement with Green Mountain Power this morning. GMP will pay $1.3 million for the Nelsons' 540-acre farm in Lowell, which has been in the Nelson family for 72 years. The Nelsons can remain in their home for up to two years and will retain 35 acres of property in Albany — but according to their statement, they intend to move to "a location well away from the turbines." The couple claims the giant  windmills have brought them grief and ill health since they were constructed three years ago.

The Nelsons couldn't be reached for comment this morning but said in a press release that they felt it was clear that the turbines "were not coming down and the effect on Lowell Mountain was irreversible." 

When Seven Days visited Lowell Mountain in 2012, Nelson spoke over the dull rush of a turbine turning in the distance — it sounded like a fast-moving river. At the time, Nelson was collecting signatures from neighbors attesting to the noise. “Some didn’t care much at first, but, boy, are they opposed now,” Nelson said. The retired dairy farmer blinked back tears, muttering, “Goddamn it," as he tried to express what the turbines had done to his wife's health and well being. 

GMP spokeswoman Dorothy Schnure said in a statement that the settlement "represents an opportunity for both to move forward, and we are pleased to have reached agreement." She also said that Kingdom Community Wind marks an important investment in renewable energy in Vermont, and that Vermonters place a high value on the energy produced at the ridgeline wind farm. Since 2012, she said, the project has generated enough electricity to power more than 24,000 homes. 

“We believe that this settlement represents an opportunity for both to move forward and we are pleased to have reached agreement.”

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

In Addison County, Voters Say 'No' to Vermont Gas Pipeline

Posted By on Tue, Mar 4, 2014 at 12:50 PM

  • File: Kathryn Flagg
Last night, Addison County residents registered their opposition to a proposed natural gas pipeline, loudly and clearly. The strongest rejection came from residents in Cornwall, who voted overwhelmingly — 126-16 — against Phase II of the Addison Rutland Natural Gas project, which would carry natural gas from Middlebury to the International Paper plant in Ticonderoga, N.Y.

But Cornwall — a hotbed of dissent against the project for months now — wasn't alone in that opinion last night. As voters there were casting paper ballots at the local elementary school, members of the energy committee of the Addison County Regional Planning Commission were debating the project in Middlebury. They decided 4-1 not to endorse the pipeline, ruling that it does not comply completely with the energy section of the area's regional plan. 

Meanwhile, down the road in neighboring Shoreham, voters were considering an article similar to the non-binding measure in Cornwall. They, too, sided against the pipeline — by a margin of 66-38. 

On Tuesday, the Addison County Independent reported that the town of Monkton denounced Phase I of the pipeline project, which would run through Monkton, in a "near-unanimous voice vote."

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Friday, January 31, 2014

Lisman's Group Accuses House Democrat of Solar Conflict

Posted By on Fri, Jan 31, 2014 at 1:52 PM


A group founded and funded by retired Wall Street banker Bruce Lisman has accused a St. Albans Democrat of violating House rules by voting for legislation that would help his employer.

In a letter (see below) to House Speaker Shap Smith, Campaign for Vermont lobbyist Shawn Shouldice took Rep. Mike McCarthy (D-St. Albans) to task Thursday for supporting legislation that would expand Vermont's net-metering program.

Net metering encourages Vermonters to produce electricity at home and work, in exchange for a break on their power bills. Shouldice said that the bill would benefit SunCommon, the Waterbury-based solar leasing company for which McCarthy works as a community organizer.

The legislation increases the amount of renewable energy utilities can buy from customers from 4 percent of the companies' peak demand to 15 percent. The bill won preliminary approval Wednesday by a 136-8 margin and final passage Thursday by voice vote.

In her letter, Shouldice said the episode demonstrates the need for ethics reform, a cause Lisman and Campaign for Vermont have been trumpeting lately.

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Cornwall Board Takes Aim at Vermont Gas Pipeline

Posted By on Fri, Jan 31, 2014 at 7:37 AM


The town of Cornwall is calling on the Addison County Regional Planning Commission to fight a proposed natural gas pipeline that, if constructed, would carry gas underground from Middlebury to Ticonderoga, N.Y. 

The Public Service Board approved "Phase One" of the Addison Natural Gas Project, which regional planners endorsed, in late December; that leg will bring gas south from Chittenden County to Middlebury. Vermont Gas — a subsidiary of GazMetro — filed plans requesting approval for "Phase Two" with the PSB in November. The second leg would jog southwest, through Cornwall, Shoreham, and then under Lake Champlain to its terminus: the International Paper plant in Ticonderoga, N.Y. 

In her letter this week to the regional planners, Cornwall selectboard member Judy Watts points to two provisions in the regional plan which she argues provide "specific and unambiguous" reasons for rejecting the Phase II project. The plan states that energy infrastructure and services should not "cause undue adverse impact to the health and safety of residents or on the environmental quality of the Addison Region," and that no large energy generation or transmission facilities should be constructed in the region "which have as their primary purpose providing energy markets outside the Addison Region." The letter is signed by all five members of the Cornwall selectboard. 

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

This Week's Issue: Aging Prisoners, Woodstoves and Public TV Trouble

Posted on Wed, Jan 22, 2014 at 5:03 PM


A new issue of Seven Days hits the newsstands today. Here's what you'll find inside:

Get all these stories and more in print, online or on the app.

Cover photo by Tom McNeill

Monday, January 20, 2014

Lawmakers Advance 'Solar Standoff' Solution

Posted By on Mon, Jan 20, 2014 at 5:00 PM


When some Vermont utilities started rejecting proposed home-grown solar installations last year, it looked like a plan to increase solar production in Vermont had been too successful.

Utilities were bumping up against a cap on so-called net-metered projects far faster than the lawmakers who'd designed the rules ever anticipated. Those utilities said it was time to put on the brakes; solar energy advocates argued that doing so would cripple solar development just as the industry was hitting its stride in Vermont. 

Now a plan to breakup that solar standoff is gaining traction in Montpelier. The House Natural Resources and Energy Committee advanced legislation on Friday that would relax the cap on homemade power to better match the demand for residential solar generation. The bill will head to the full House on Thursday. 

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Saturday, January 4, 2014

Protestors Renew Opposition to Vermont Gas Pipeline, Despite PSB Approval

Posted By on Sat, Jan 4, 2014 at 5:59 PM


Two days before Christmas came the news environmental activists and landowners in Addison County were dreading: The Public Service Board approved Vermont Gas’s plan to build a 43-mile, $86.6 million natural gas pipeline from Chittenden County south to Middlebury.

But neither the stamp of approval, nor frigid temperatures and biting wind in downtown Burlington, deterred protestors from turning out for a rally Saturday against that decision. Altogether, around 75 people met up outside One Main Street, waving placards and banners and stamping their feet to keep warm.

The proposed pipeline has fueled opposition throughout Vermont. Environmentalists decry the additional construction of fossil fuel infrastructure instead of renewable energy resources, and they oppose the technology used to obtain the Canadian natural gas. A portion of the gas the pipeline would carry is obtained in Canada using hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as “fracking.”

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Monday, December 9, 2013

Media Note: WCAX's Kristin Carlson Decamps to Green Mountain Power

Posted By on Mon, Dec 9, 2013 at 11:02 PM


Worcester native Kristin Carlson got her first gig at WCAX-TV as an intern after her junior year at Syracuse University. When she graduated the next year, she recalls, she phoned then-news director Marselis Parsons, who offered her a job on the spot.

"I never even had to put together a resume," she says.

Now, 14 years later, Carlson is leaving Channel 3 to join the state's electricity behemoth, Green Mountain Power. The company on Monday named Carlson its next "media director." She'll replace executive Steve Terry, who is retiring for the second time as director of GMP's communications shop.

"I've only ever worked for Channel 3," Carlson says. "It's always been my passion. I love reporting — love it. Nothing can ever replace this."

But after GMP approached her about the prospect roughly two weeks ago, she says, Carlson came to the conclusion that working for the power company would bring new challenges and the same pride she feels working for WCAX.

"I've had the privilege of working for a company I respect with people I respect," she says. "This is a similar opportunity. I respect all my interactions with Green Mountain Power and the people there. I'm excited by what they're doing."

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