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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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Officials Agree to Treat for Lamprey, Filter Drinking Water

Posted By on Wed, Sep 7, 2016 at 5:22 PM

Gov. Peter Shumlin announcing a plan to treat lamprey in the LaPlatte River. - TERRI HALLENBECK
  • Gov. Peter Shumlin announcing a plan to treat lamprey in the LaPlatte River.
State, federal and local officials announced a plan Wednesday to treat the LaPlatte River in Shelburne this fall with a pesticide to kill off pesky sea lamprey, which prey on game fish.

The plan resolves a heated disagreement among state officials over whether the treatment should take place this year.

The plan, which still requires a state-issued permit, is to install a temporary filtration system at the Champlain Water District's treatment plant to protect the public water supply from the pesticides used, Gov. Peter Shumlin said at a news conference.

The LaPlatte flows into Lake Champlain's Shelburne Bay. The Champlain Water District, which serves about 70,000 customers in Chittenden County, has two water intakes in the bay, about half a mile from the river.

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Thursday, August 4, 2016

Vermont Gas, Pipeline Foes Face Off at Public Service Board Session

Posted By on Thu, Aug 4, 2016 at 7:54 PM

Protesters outside the Vermont Gas hearing Thursday - ALICIA FREESE
  • Alicia Freese
  • Protesters outside the Vermont Gas hearing Thursday
In a small room in a large warehouse, the Public Service Board on Thursday heard Vermont Gas Systems make a case for why it must send its natural gas pipeline through a public park in Hinesburg. And it listened as James Dumont, an attorney representing seven town residents who use the park, argued against the company’s request.

The meeting, which lasted all day, dealt with minutia. But the stakes are high: This is the final right-of-way that Vermont Gas needs to complete its 41-mile pipeline from Colchester to Middlebury, which company officials hope to do by the end of the year.

“This is the last piece of the puzzle in our effort to being able to complete the pipeline,” said Vermont Gas president Don Rendall, in an interview after the hearing. 

Outside the building Thursday morning, pipeline protesters lay on the pavement, their faces painted chalky white and bodies cloaked in white sheets. They explained to reporters that they were staging a “die-in” as the casualties of climate change. 

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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Judge Orders Public Service Board to Allow Public at Pipeline Hearing

Posted By on Tue, Aug 2, 2016 at 11:05 AM

A crowded meeting on the Vermont Gas pipeline project at Shoreham Elementary School in 2014 - FILE: CALEB KENNA
  • File: Caleb Kenna
  • A crowded meeting on the Vermont Gas pipeline project at Shoreham Elementary School in 2014
Federal Judge Christina Reiss has ordered the Public Service Board to open its upcoming hearing on the Vermont Gas Systems pipeline to the public.

In a move observers called unprecedented, the PSB announced last month that the public would not be allowed to attend its session Thursday on Vermont Gas’ eminent domain hearing, meant to enable construction of its pipeline through Geprags Community Park in Hinesburg. Opponents of the natural gas pipeline have repeatedly disrupted earlier hearings.

The PSB later clarified that members of the media could attend, and it planned to live-stream the event.

But on Monday, Reiss ruled in favor of Lisa Barrett, a retired attorney who took the PSB to court in an effort to open the hearing. 

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Monday, August 1, 2016

Advocates Consider Suing to Restore Vermont GMO Law

Posted By on Mon, Aug 1, 2016 at 5:02 PM

Gov. Peter Shumlin at the GMO bill signing ceremony in 2014. - PAUL HEINTZ/FILE
  • Paul Heintz/file
  • Gov. Peter Shumlin at the GMO bill signing ceremony in 2014.
With the flick of a presidential pen late Friday afternoon, Vermont’s GMO labeling law suffered an early demise. Less than a month after the state law took effect, a newer and less aggressive federal law nullified it.

What does it all mean? To begin with, store owners and food manufacturers who scurried to make sure that foods containing genetically modified organisms were labeled can chill.

But they might not want to toss those labels just yet. Several organizations that 
helped get Vermont’s law passed are considering challenging the federal statute in court.

“VPIRG and a number of organizations around the country are looking at what options we have,” said Falko Schilling, consumer and environmental advocate for the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. 

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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
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

  • 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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