Environment

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Vermont’s GMO Law Doomed as House Passes Federal Bill

Posted By on Thu, Jul 14, 2016 at 6:25 PM

JOHN JAMES
  • John James
Vermont’s GMO labeling law appears to be doomed to a short life. The U.S. House voted overwhelmingly Thursday for a federal bill that would preempt Vermont’s first-in-the-nation labeling law.

Gov. Peter Shumlin indicated Thursday that he expects President Barack Obama to sign the less-stringent federal bill into law.

Vermont’s law passed in 2014 but just took effect July 1. It requires that many products containing genetically modified organisms be labeled as such. Large food manufacturers opposed Vermont’s law and turned their support to a federal measure that gives them more leeway.

Under the federal bill, manufacturers will be able to use a QR code, which people scan with smartphones, to label products. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has two years to determine rules surrounding what has to be labeled.

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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Vermont Guard to Spend $25 Million on Taxiway Project

Posted By on Tue, May 31, 2016 at 2:36 PM

Air Force F-35 fighter, scheduled to replace the Vermont Air National Guard's F-16s - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Air Force F-35 fighter, scheduled to replace the Vermont Air National Guard's F-16s
The Vermont National Guard plans to spend more than $25 million to improve the taxiway that military jets use at Burlington International Airport. The project also will replace the apron where Vermont Air National Guard planes park and refuel.

The work is expected to begin this fall and continue through 2017 at the guard base, which is on land leased from Vermont's largest airport. The city of Burlington owns the airport, located in South Burlington.

The construction will not include the main runway, which military planes share with commercial carriers coming in and out of BTV, according to airport and guard officials.

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Shumlin Vetoes Bill to Avoid Adding Clean Water Board Members

Posted By on Fri, May 20, 2016 at 5:41 PM

Gov. Peter Shumlin - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Gov. Peter Shumlin
Gov. Peter Shumlin vetoed a bill Friday that would have diluted his administration’s control over a clean water fund that was established last year.

Rep. David Deen (D-Westminster) said he tried to persuade the governor’s staff that adding members of the public to the state’s Clean Water Fund Board was a good idea. “I’ve been having an argument with them all afternoon,” Deen said. “And I lost.”

The bill, H. 518, would have added four people, including two municipal officials, to the five-member board established as part of a broad clean water bill last year. The existing five members are all state agency secretaries. The board’s job is to make recommendations to the governor about how to spend money intended for cleaning up waterways.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Snelling Resigns Senate Seat to Lead Natural Resources Board

Posted By on Tue, Mar 29, 2016 at 11:24 AM

Helen Riehle (left) will replace Sen. Diane Snelling (right), who was appointed Tuesday as chair of the state Natural Resources Board. - NANCY REMSEN
  • NANCY REMSEN
  • Helen Riehle (left) will replace Sen. Diane Snelling (right), who was appointed Tuesday as chair of the state Natural Resources Board.
Diane Snelling, the lone Republican representing Chittenden County in the Vermont Senate, is leaving the legislature to become chair of the state Natural Resources Board.

Snelling, who has held the Senate seat since 2002, will be replaced for the remaining weeks of the legislative session by former senator Helen Riehle, a Republican who chairs the South Burlington city council.

Gov. Peter Shumlin announced the two appointments Tuesday morning in his ceremonial Statehouse office. Snelling’s resignation took effect shortly thereafter. Though governors often wait for party committees to recommend replacements to fill vacant legislative seats, Shumlin said he acted swiftly because the session is winding down.

Snelling, 64, of Hinesburg, said that when former board chair Jon Groveman announced his departure in February, she was immediately interested. 

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Monday, March 28, 2016

In Shelburne, 'FIX IT' Signs Speak to Vermont Railway President

Posted By on Mon, Mar 28, 2016 at 6:09 PM

Sign in Shelburne Village - MOLLY WALSH/SEVEN DAYS
  • Molly Walsh/Seven Days
  • Sign in Shelburne Village
The sign along Route 7 in Shelburne Village reads: "Mr. Wulfson, FIX IT."

The not-so-veiled message is yet another expression of opposition to Vermont Railway president David Wulfson's construction of a salt shed and a freight yard a mile north of the village.
 
So far, the town has been unable to stop the intermodal freight project in court, but loud opposition is resounding in the court of public opinion in Shelburne.

In addition to the signs, a Facebook group called Vermont United has been circulating a petition. Opponents have also purchased ads in the Shelburne News. And they've promoted a video featuring 10-year-old Madeleine Connery of Shelburne deploring the tree cutting and the potential for pollution at the site, which sits next to the LaPlatte River and land preserved by the Nature Conservancy Vermont Chapter. Connery also tells Wulfson to "fix it" in the video.
 

Through his attorney, Peter Young, Wulfson declined to comment on the signs. But construction continues on the freight yard, which Vermont Railway is building under a legal federal preemption without local or state Act 250 environmental permits. The town has sued in federal court to stop the project, and a hearing date is set for May 3 to May 5. Supporters of the project say it's a good location with direct access to Route 7, and that intermodal freight yards help reduce long-haul truck traffic on the nation's highways.
 
Town manager Joe Colangelo emphasized that the town, while opposed to the rail project, has nothing to do with the signs and said they are not permitted in the public right-of-way.

"The signs were not given approval by the town and are therefore unpermitted, but it is impossible, given our current staffing levels, to police these types of signs," Colangelo wrote in an email to Seven Days. "Similarly, signs in support of politicians are not allowed in the public right-of-way but we are just unable to get around town to pull them out. It's a very difficult task to do during a presidential election season."

Town officials enforce the sign rule when they can. In late January, the town notified Christopher and Christine Sharp of 5373 Shelburne Road that their Bernie Sanders sign in the shape of a cow was larger than what's allowed in the public right-of-way without a temporary sign permit. They took it down, according to Colangelo.

The FIX IT sign in the village was posted in front of Brianne's Vintage Chic at 5462 Shelburne Road. The owner of the business did not respond to a message seeking comment. 

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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

World Climate Experts Converge for Conference in Burlington

Posted By on Tue, Mar 22, 2016 at 7:59 PM

Filipe Domingos Freires Lúcio - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Filipe Domingos Freires Lúcio
Science can't stop the extreme weather events that appear to be increasing as a result of global warming, but it can help countries prepare and be resilient. That was one of the messages Tuesday at a climate conference that brought 130 experts from around the world to Burlington this week.

The 14th annual Climate Prediction Applications Science Workshop, held in Burlington for the first time, opened Tuesday at the Hilton Burlington hotel and runs through Thursday.

David Grimes, president of the World Meteorological Organization, said weather forecasting has improved immensely over the past 20 years and there is copious data to help countries better prepare for inevitable weather disasters.

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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Shumlin Commits to Aid for North Bennington Water Woes

Posted By on Tue, Mar 8, 2016 at 2:08 PM

Ron Pembroke, left, and Gov. Peter Shumlin discussing the water contamination - NANCY REMSEN
  • Nancy Remsen
  • Ron Pembroke, left, and Gov. Peter Shumlin discussing the water contamination
Gov. Peter Shumlin went to North Bennington Tuesday morning to see for himself the community where residents suddenly have to worry about drinking water from their wells. Tests by the Department of Environmental Conservation recently detected a chemical contaminant, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), in five wells near a plant that used to make Teflon and other products.

The state has collected and is testing samples from 135 more wells, with results expected next week.

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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Shumlin Administration: Chemical Found in North Bennington Wells

Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2016 at 3:40 PM

Gov. Peter Shumlin, with his health and environmental managers and lawmakers, outlines the water contamination problem in North Bennington. - TERRI HALLENBECK
  • Terri Hallenbeck
  • Gov. Peter Shumlin, with his health and environmental managers and lawmakers, outlines the water contamination problem in North Bennington.
Two hours after learning that five private drinking-water wells in North Bennington had tested positive for a chemical,  Gov. Peter Shumlin called a news conference to detail how his staff was responding.

Shumlin clearly wanted to contrast his administration’s quick action with the slow response that Republican Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan had to the lead contamination of the drinking water in Flint.

Prompted by news that contamination had been detected in water sources in nearby Hoosick Falls, N.Y., the Department of Environmental Conservation took water samples from the municipal water source in North Bennington, and from wells at three homes, a business and the wastewater treatment plant. The test looked for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a chemical used to make Teflon. North Bennington was home to a Teflon manufacturer, and the company, Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, still operates a plant in Hoosick Falls.

 No PFOA contamination turned up in the town water supply, but levels exceeding what the Vermont Department of Health considers safe were found in the other wells, Shumlin said.

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Friday, February 19, 2016

City, Vermont Land Trust Close on Former Burlington College Land

Posted By on Fri, Feb 19, 2016 at 11:00 AM

From left, Vermont Land Trust president Gil Livingston, Mayor Miro Weinberger and Parks, Recreation & Waterfront Director Jesse Bridges stand in front of the future parkland. - ALICIA FREESE
  • Alicia Freese
  • From left, Vermont Land Trust president Gil Livingston, Mayor Miro Weinberger and Parks, Recreation & Waterfront Director Jesse Bridges stand in front of the future parkland.
Burlington and the Vermont Land Trust on Thursday purchased 12 acres from developer Eric Farrell for $2 million.

The former Burlington College land, which borders Lake Champlain, has been the subject of a contentious debate about conservation since the cash-strapped school sold it. Last December, city officials reached an agreement with Farrell to preserve nearly half the land. The remainder is expected to host a housing development with roughly 700 units.

Calling Thursday’s acquisition a “very critical milestone,” Mayor Miro Weinberger also acknowledged that it won’t be final until the city approves several zoning changes requested by Farrell.

Paving the way for the deal, the city council voted on Tuesday to use $500,000 from the city’s Conservation Legacy Fund for the purchase. The Vermont Land Trust secured a loan to cover the rest.

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Friday, January 8, 2016

Vermont Gas Pipeline Wins Public Service Board OK

Posted By on Fri, Jan 8, 2016 at 6:00 PM

A crowd at a meeting on Vermont Gas' Addison Natural Gas Pipeline project - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • A crowd at a meeting on Vermont Gas' Addison Natural Gas Pipeline project
Vermont Gas Systems got its long-awaited go-ahead Friday from the state Public Service Board to continue building a controversial 41-mile natural gas pipeline from Colchester to Middlebury.

The board ruled that project is still in the public good — even after its price tag leapfrogged from $87 million to $154 million.

Opponents had asked the board to reconsider the project's certificate of public good based on the price increase and the availability of other price-competitive fuel options.

“The general good of the people of Vermont would best be served if the proceeding is not reopened,” the board said in its ruling.

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