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Friday, March 29, 2019

Vermont Senate Backs Ban on Single-Use Plastic Bags, Foam Containers

Posted By on Fri, Mar 29, 2019 at 2:35 PM

Sen. Ann Cummings questioning Sen. Chris Bray about a proposal to ban single-use plastic bags. - TAYLOR DOBBS
  • Taylor Dobbs
  • Sen. Ann Cummings questioning Sen. Chris Bray about a proposal to ban single-use plastic bags.
The Vermont Senate gave preliminary approval Friday to legislation that would ban the distribution of single-use plastic bags, foam containers and plastic straws, with some exceptions.

The 27-3 vote followed a short debate that largely focused on a 10-cent fee on single-use paper bags included in the bill. Some senators voiced concern that the fee would be a hardship for low-income Vermonters.

Mostly, though, senators spoke in support of the bill, S.113, which would also establish a study committee to examine the effects of plastic on Vermont’s waste stream and other policies that might help reduce plastic waste.

Sen. Chris Bray (D-Addison), the bill’s lead sponsor, said Vermont needs to address plastic waste “without being the street sweeper following the parade — always cleaning up.”

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Monday, March 25, 2019

House and Senate at Odds on Lead Limit for Vermont Schools

Posted By on Mon, Mar 25, 2019 at 4:58 PM

  • File: Michael Tonn
Lawmakers are moving quickly to address lead in drinking water at Vermont’s schools and childcare centers, but the House and Senate disagree on how strict the state’s standards should be.

The Senate has approved legislation that would require lead testing at all schools and childcare facilities and would mandate plumbing work at any schools with lead levels higher than three parts per billion. The Senate also approved $2.5 million to fund the tests and half the costs of replacing any faucets.

The legislature's urgency is due in part to a 2018 Agency of Education pilot program that tested water at 16 schools. Of the 900 faucets and fountains checked, 27 had lead levels above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's limit of 15 parts per billion. In response, Gov. Phil Scott called on the legislature to act quickly to expand the program statewide.

House Education chair Kate Webb (D-Shelburne) said Monday that her committee fully supports lead reduction, but its members have concerns about the Senate plan. The House panel is working this week on the bill that the Senate passed and could make significant changes.

“What we’re finding in hearing from facilities managers is that some of the assumptions that [Senators] made … are not always accurate,” Webb said.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Vermont Senate Bill Would Ban Single-Use Plastic Bags

Posted By on Wed, Mar 13, 2019 at 2:26 PM

Brad Braddon, general manager of technology for Tekni-Plex, which manufactures plastic containers. - TAYLOR DOBBS
  • Taylor Dobbs
  • Brad Braddon, general manager of technology for Tekni-Plex, which manufactures plastic containers.
A proposal to ban single-use plastic bags and curtail the use of plastic straws in Vermont is poised for a vote this week in the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee.

Industry groups and a lobbyist for movie theaters voiced opposition to the proposal Wednesday, arguing that such a law would do more harm than good for the environment and human health.

Students and environmentalists, on the other hand, said the bill, S.113, represents the first step in tackling Vermont’s share of the global plastic waste problem, which is fueled by disposable products that decompose slowly.

The proposal doesn’t ban other single-use containers such as takeout boxes and coffee cups but calls for a study committee to look into the consequences of banning those items.

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Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Colchester Residents Vote Down Malletts Bay Sewer Bond

Posted By on Tue, Mar 5, 2019 at 10:15 PM

The proposed sewer area along Malletts Bay
  • The proposed sewer area along Malletts Bay
Colchester voters flushed a proposed $14.3 million sewer line for Malletts Bay Tuesday by a vote of 1,396 to 1,203.

The defeat by fewer than 200 votes was a disappointment, Town Manager Aaron Frank said Tuesday night.

"The selectboard will have to take a pause, do some reflection and figure out where do we go from here,” Frank said.

Inadequate private septic systems at homes and camps along the bay can leak human waste into the water, a problem the proposed sewer line was intended to mitigate. But critics said it was an expensive project that wouldn't actually solve complex pollution problems in the scenic and heavily used bay. They also worried the sewer line would accelerate development.

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Friday, March 1, 2019

Welch Hires Rebecca Ellis to Run Vermont Office

Posted By on Fri, Mar 1, 2019 at 11:35 AM

Rebecca Ellis - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Rebecca Ellis
Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) announced Friday that he has hired one of the state’s top environmental officials to oversee his Vermont office.

Rebecca Ellis, deputy commissioner of the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, will begin work as Welch’s state director on March 25, according to a press release.

Ellis has been involved in Vermont state government since she became an assistant attorney general in 1997. Then-governor Peter Shumlin appointed Ellis to represent Waterbury in the House of Representatives in 2011, where she served until joining the DEC in 2015.

Ellis will oversee Welch's Vermont operations. The Burlington-based staff deals with constituent services, fields calls from local media and coordinates the boss' official schedule when he visits the state, among other things.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Scott's Clean Water Funding Proposal Satisfies EPA Regulators

Posted By on Tue, Feb 12, 2019 at 2:22 PM

The town beach in St. Albans in summer 2016 - FILE
  • File
  • The town beach in St. Albans in summer 2016
Vermont is finally on track to meet federal funding requirements for the cleanup of the state's waterways.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency indicated in a letter Monday that a proposal put forth by Gov. Phil Scott’s administration passes muster. The determination is based on the assumption that the legislature will approve the funding plan.

Scott’s proposed state budget includes new funding for clean water from the estate tax, which is expected to provide $9 million or more each year.

The February 11 letter, signed by acting regional EPA administrator Deborah A. Szaro, is part of an ongoing effort to bring Lake Champlain and other Vermont waterways into compliance with the Clean Water Act. The state is under a federal order to reduce the amount of phosphorus that flows into the lake, which fuels smelly and potentially toxic algae blooms.

The federal stamp of approval marks a significant milestone for the Scott administration, which was warned last year that the state’s continued failure to come up with a long-term funding plan could jeopardize its "provisional" passing grade on water cleanup. Under the Vermont Clean Water Act of 2015, Scott's administration was required to release a long-term funding proposal by the end of 2017. The administration didn't come up with a proposal, frustrating last year's efforts to set up a funding source.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Middlebury College to Divest $55 Million From Fossil Fuel Companies

Posted By on Tue, Jan 29, 2019 at 6:03 PM

  • Courtesy of Divest Middlebury
Years of student pressure is prompting Middlebury College to phase out most investments in fossil-fuel companies, the school announced Tuesday.

The board of trustees for the private liberal arts college unanimously voted to divest January 26 as part of a sweeping sustainability plan dubbed Energy2028, according to a Tuesday press release.

Trustees had previously rejected students' divestment demands. The college's resistance was notable because scholar-in-residence Bill McKibben is a leading proponent of the international movement, as is the organization he and a group of Midd students founded in 2008, 350.org.

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Thursday, September 20, 2018

Burlington Officials Unveil $30 Million Fix for Wastewater Problems

Posted By on Thu, Sep 20, 2018 at 4:07 PM

Mayor Miro Weinberger - SASHA GOLDSTEIN
  • Sasha Goldstein
  • Mayor Miro Weinberger
After wastewater discharges plagued the City of Burlington all summer, officials on Thursday unveiled a plan intended to stanch the flow of dirty water into Lake Champlain.

It's not without a cost — $30 million. On Monday, the Burlington City Council will consider whether to put a related bond vote on the November ballot.

If Burlingtonians approve it, they can expect to pay $64 more annually for water by the time all the improvements are implemented within the next four or five years, Mayor Miro Weinberger said at a press conference in front of the city's main wastewater treatment plant.

“This is an opportunity for Burlington to take strong, decisive action to keep the lake the economic, cultural and recreational driver of our city and state that it has been since our founding,” said Weinberger, surrounded by city councilors, city workers and advocates for Lake Champlain.
Officials initially planned to come forward with a plan by December 1, in time to get a bond on the March Town Meeting Day ballot, but accelerated the timeline after repeated overflow problems.

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Tuesday, August 7, 2018

EPA Investigates Contaminated Soil in Burlington's Old North End

Posted By on Tue, Aug 7, 2018 at 11:12 PM

  • Luke Eastman
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is investigating soil vapors in the Old North End in Burlington after elevated levels of chemicals were detected in a home.

In July, testing at a house on the northern part of Elmwood Avenue revealed two chemicals at levels above federal limits, according to Michael Nahmias, an environmental analyst for the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation. The department has not yet found the source, he added.

The chemicals are known as perchloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethylene (TCE). PCE and TCE are commonly used for dry cleaning and can also be found in cleaning products and grease removers. The neighborhood was formerly home to two dry-cleaning businesses.

Exposure can cause nausea, vomiting, dizziness and irritation, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Longterm exposure to PCE can lead to changes in memory and mood, and potentially to cancer.

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Chittenden Drop-Off Centers to Eliminate ReUse Zones

Posted By on Tue, Aug 7, 2018 at 8:05 PM

The ReUse Zone at the South Burlington drop off center - MOLLY WALSH
  • Molly Walsh
  • The ReUse Zone at the South Burlington drop off center
One man brought in a green plastic sandbox shaped like a turtle. Another went home with a cast-iron frying pan. It was business as usual at the ReUse zone in South Burlington Tuesday, but it won't be for much longer.

All-day scavengers and problems with prohibited items ranging from ammunition to prescription drugs prompted the Chittenden Solid Waste District to announce it will close the ReUse zones at the county's six drop-off centers, effective September 29.

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