Monday, January 16, 2017

Vermont Treasurer: Annual $25M in Fees Needed for Water Cleanup

Posted By on Mon, Jan 16, 2017 at 7:12 PM

Blue-green algae in Lake Champlain - FILE
  • File
  • Blue-green algae in Lake Champlain
Vermont should generate $25 million each year to help clean up state waterways by creating stormwater utilities that charge property owners for contributing to the pollution, state Treasurer Beth Pearce recommended in a report filed Sunday.

A per-parcel fee would help raise just over half the cash needed to get the state in compliance with agreements it has in place with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to clean up various waterways, Pearce concluded in the much-anticipated 91-page report.

Pearce said that she envisions officials establishing regional stormwater utilities statewide. While Lake Champlain phosphorus cleanup gets much of the attention, virtually all of the state is under orders from the EPA to reduce the phosphorus load, she said.

Establishing stormwater utilities to collect funding through user fees would take two years, Pearce said in the report. Homeowners, developers, farmers and store owners would all contribute based on how much pollution they generate.

“I think it should be tied to the usage as much as possible,” Pearce said Monday.

Lawmakers and Gov. Phil Scott’s administration would need to set standards for who gets charged how much by the stormwater utilities, she said.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Walters: Treasurer Previews Waterways Cleanup Plan

Posted By on Wed, Jan 11, 2017 at 10:14 PM

State Treasurer Beth Pearce - JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • State Treasurer Beth Pearce
State Treasurer Beth Pearce is still developing a plan to pay for federally mandated improvements to the quality of Vermont waterways. But on Tuesday, she provided a rough outline of the plan to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

“There is a two-year window where we can put sizable money into clean water without raising taxes,” she told the panel. After that, she said, new revenue would be required. Her suggestion for a long-term funding source will be included in her full proposal. And she warned that the funding “can’t be ‘catch as catch can.’ It has to be a stable funding source for 20 years.”

Members of the committee recoiled. A 20-year unbreakable promise? Sufferin’ succotash!

In 2016, the legislature asked Pearce to prepare a funding plan to meet federal mandates under the Clean Water Act. Her plan is due by Sunday, January 15, and she predicts that her team will be working up to the last minute before releasing her report.

Pearce told the committee that the estimated cost of the project is at least $60 million per year. That includes all contributors: the state, local governments and the private sector. Pearce is aiming for $25 million a year in the first two years — without raising new revenue.

That’s quite the coincidence. It jibes nicely with Republican Governor Phil Scott’s promise not to raise any taxes or fees. If Pearce wasn’t a Democrat, one might be inclined to suspect politics at work.

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Monday, December 5, 2016

Dakota Access Pipeline Opponents March on TD Bank in Montpelier

Posted By on Mon, Dec 5, 2016 at 5:54 PM

Protesters urging divestment from TD Bank - RACHEL JONES
  • Rachel Jones
  • Protesters urging divestment from TD Bank
The Army Corps of Engineers announced on Sunday a decision that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and allied opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline consider a major victory. The corps said that it would deny pipeline company Energy Transfer Partners the easement necessary for pipeline construction under the Missouri River.

Despite that, more than 200 people marched in Montpelier Monday morning to show solidarity with DAPL opponents and to demand that TD Bank "withdraw its financial support from the DAPL." Organizers said that the action was a response to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's call for national and global shows of solidarity.

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Saturday, November 19, 2016

Vermonters Head to North Dakota to Support Sioux Tribe

Posted By on Sat, Nov 19, 2016 at 11:46 AM

Brittany Dunn - KYMELYA SARI
  • Kymelya Sari
  • Brittany Dunn
When Brittany Dunn left Montpelier early Saturday morning to travel to North Dakota by chartered bus, she brought with her 125 pounds of meat in coolers, along with other food supplies. The 31-year-old volunteer coordinator from the environmental organization 350 Vermont is on her way to the Oceti Sakowin Camp in North Dakota to express solidarity with the anti-pipeline movement.

Members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe started the campaign in April to protest the construction of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline by Texas-based company Energy Transfer Partners. The pipeline will transport crude oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota to Patoka, Ill. Nearly 200 tribes have offered support to the Standing Rock Sioux, according to National Public Radio.

"We've never seen indigenous-led action of this magnitude and I want to be able to support that," Dunn told Seven Days Thursday.

Opponents of the project, who call themselves water protectors — not protesters — worry that the pipeline will leak into the Missouri River, which holds cultural, spiritual and environmental significance for the tribe. They also say the proposed route cuts through sacred burial grounds.

Dunn and her colleague Abby Mnookin had been thinking about traveling to North Dakota separately before deciding to coordinate the bus trip. It took them a week to do the planning. All 51 seats filled up.

"I'm a little surprised and excited that so many people are able to come at such a last minute," said Dunn.

Participants include students from colleges in Vermont and Massachusetts, Dunn noted. Before the trip, she encouraged everyone to read a resource package from the Standing Rock Solidarity Network, which includes camp protocols. The group will spend the week at the Oceti Sakowin Camp before returning on Sunday, November 27.

Some passengers, including Dunn, will link up with another Vermonters-led group, the NoDAPL Builders Delegation and Supply Caravan, which left Friday. Henry Harris and Erik Gillard are coordinating that group. They've raised close to $13,000 since last month to buy building supplies.

Harris told Seven Days Thursday that the caravan of trucks and cars comprise builders and volunteers from Vermont, New York, Ohio, Michigan and Minnesota. They will work throughout Thanksgiving week to help winterize and insulate existing structures with straw bales.
Supplies gathered by the NoDAPL Builders Delegation and Supply Caravan - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Supplies gathered by the NoDAPL Builders Delegation and Supply Caravan

"I hope that we can get a bunch of warm places for the people who are there, participate in direct action, make enough pressure on President [Barack] Obama that he moves to protect water before [Donald] Trump [comes into office]," said Harris.

The Plainfield builder said he has contacted native leaders in North Dakota. "They are excited for us to come down and help them," he said. "This isn't just a struggle over the climate. But this is a struggle for native survival."

Clashes between police and demonstrators have followed what activists described as peaceful protests. The movement has received backing from several groups, including Black Lives Matter, as well as politicians and prominent personalities, such as former vice president Al Gore. Celebrities have organized benefit concerts.

The Standing Rock tribe points out that the pipeline was originally supposed to pass north of the state capital, Bismarck. But that plan was rejected and the pipeline was rerouted closer to the tribe's reservation.

"This pipeline was rerouted towards our tribal nations when other citizens of North Dakota rightfully rejected it in the interests of protecting their communities and water. We seek the same consideration as those citizens," Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, said in a statement last month.

Brenda Gagne, an Abenaki, said earlier this month that she plans to send supplies to the Standing Rock tribe. Gagne runs the Circle of Courage, an after-school program in Swanton that teaches children about Abenaki traditions.

Melody Brook, the vice chair of the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs, said the Elnu band of the Abenaki tribe has sent money and messages of support to Standing Rock.

"I hope everyone recognizes that they are making history," said Brook, when told about the Vermont delegations. "Standing up for what you believe in in a world that often marginalizes others and contains far too much injustice is, in essence, expressing your deepest love of the world around you and for all of its people."

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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Entergy to Sell Vermont Yankee to New York Cleanup Company

Posted By on Tue, Nov 8, 2016 at 4:53 PM

  • Courtesy of Nuclear Regulatory Commission
  • The Vermont Yankee plant
Entergy announced Tuesday that it has agreed to sell the shuttered Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant to New York-based NorthStar Group Services — a deal that could accelerate its decommissioning by nearly five decades.

The sale is subject to approval by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Vermont Public Service Board. The deal is expected to close by the end of 2018.

"By accelerating decommissioning, we are fulfilling a commitment we made in 2013 to decommission Vermont Yankee as soon as reasonably possible," said Bill Mohl, president of Entergy Wholesale Commodities, in a statement.
"Decommissioning and site restoration, drawing on NorthStar's expertise, will provide economic development for the region."

NorthStar and its partners specialize in demolition, wrecking and asbestos abatement. The group has dismantled and remediated at least 300 nuclear and nonnuclear power plants over the past 15 years.

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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Ka-Ching! Dirty Dirt at New Location Will Cost City Market

Posted By on Wed, Nov 2, 2016 at 5:35 PM

Rendering of the City Market’s South End project plans - COURTESY: CITY MARKET
  • Courtesy: City Market
  • Rendering of the City Market’s South End project plans
City Market /Onion River Co-op will face a hefty price tag to remove contaminated soil from its planned South End location.

Polluted soil at the site of the new store, which has a target opening date of October 2017, will cost the company more than $250,000 to clean up, according to Pat Burns, expansion store project manager. Construction of the 14,000-square-foot store is due to begin by early December.

The cleanup costs didn’t come entirely as a surprise. When City Market purchased the parcel in 2015, site analysts gave a “ballpark” estimate, Burns said. Anticipated costs have risen as the project progressed; early estimates stood at about $170,000.

Developers found that the site, at Flynn Avenue and Briggs Street, contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, chemicals that result from burning coal, gas, or wood. The PAHs are a result of years of industrial use at the site. Vermont Structural Steel occupied the location for much of the 20th century.

City Market purchased the land from Vermont Rail System.

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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Despite Rain and Even Snow, Vermont's Drought Persists

Posted By on Thu, Oct 27, 2016 at 4:50 PM

The view of downtown Burlington from the Lakeside neighborhood shows Lake Champlain’s widening shoreline. - CHARLOTTE SCOTT
  • Charlotte Scott
  • The view of downtown Burlington from the Lakeside neighborhood shows Lake Champlain’s widening shoreline.
The rain and snow have helped a little. But Vermont remains in the grip of its worst drought in more than a decade, and officials say threats to drinking water supplies could linger into the winter.

According to a Thursday update of the federal United States Drought Monitor, most of Vermont is experiencing a “moderate” or “severe” drought. The Northeast Kingdom has received a little more rain and is considered only “abnormally dry.” (The Drought Monitor labels the worst droughts “extreme” and “exceptional” — conditions that parts of Massachusetts, the deep South and Southern California are experiencing.)

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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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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Pipeline Foes in Vermont Show Support for Like-Minded Sioux

Posted By on Tue, Sep 13, 2016 at 4:23 PM

Pipeline protesters in New Haven - CALEB KENNA
  • Caleb Kenna
  • Pipeline protesters in New Haven
Approximately 60 protesters gathered Tuesday morning at a construction site in New Haven where Vermont Gas Systems is building its controversial pipeline. The work is contracted to Michels Corporation — the same Wisconsin-based company building the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota, where members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have in recent weeks ignited nationwide dialogue about the environmental effects of natural gas extraction.

While Rising Tide Vermont members and others have protested Vermont Gas' pipeline for years, Tuesday's action was in response to a call put out on social media by North Dakota's Sacred Stone Camp, a group started by members of the Standing Rock Sioux, for global demonstrations of solidarity. 

"A lot more people [than usual] are going to be coming out today because of the Standing Rock camps," said Alex Prolman of Rising Tide. 

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Morning Read: Vermont’s Will Allen Honored for GMO Fight

Posted By on Tue, Sep 13, 2016 at 11:26 AM

Will Allen, an organic farmer from Thetford who was a leading force behind passage of Vermont’s 2014 genetically modified food labeling law, is being recognized as one of Politico Magazine’s 50 most influential people.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also made the list, ranking No. 1.

Allen, No. 36 on the list, was granted the honor “for making food transparent.” Politico concluded that Allen “has changed America’s food system.”

Ironically, Allen’s being feted for a fight he didn’t quite win. And Politico paired him with Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), someone he decidedly doesn’t see as an ally.

Vermont’s GMO law went into effect July 1 but was quickly preempted by federal legislation Stabenow spearheaded that will require national labeling of genetically modified foods. The federal law, however, gives agencies two years to come up with rules and allows manufacturers to label products with a smartphone-scannable QR code rather than the on-package labeling that Vermont law required.

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