Energy

Energy and renewables reporting.

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Scott appoints new PSB chair

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott has appointed attorney Anthony Roisman to serve as the next chairman of the three-member Public Service Board, a quasi-judicial regulatory board that regulates Vermont utilities and oversees the siting of energy infrastructure across the state. Roisman, who has a private law practice, will succeed outgoing PSB Chairman James Volz, who was first appointed by former Republican Gov. James Douglas in 2005 and reappointed by former Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin in 2011. Roisman will assume the chairmanship on June 12. “I think this is a unique opportunity because of a combination of factors — the quality of the other two commissioners, the staff of the public service board, which is just an outstanding group of people, the citizens … and of course, all the utilities, who are, in my experience in dealing with utilities, are a very special group of companies who are trying to do the right thing for Vermont,” Roisman said in a telephone interview Thursday. “That combination makes for just a tremendous opportunity to do good and it’s something I’m really looking forward to.”

According to the governor’s office, Roisman has worked as a consultant for attorneys on environmental litigation, public participation before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and state regulatory agencies and on the admissibility of expert testimony in litigation. Continue Reading →

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Lawmakers pitch carbon tax proposals

BARRE — A group of lawmakers plan to introduce legislation Tuesday that would tax carbon pollution and use the revenue to cut various taxes for Vermonters. Four bills were announced at news conferences Monday as part of a coordinated campaign to begin a conversation about a so-called carbon tax. Lawmakers say they plan to introduce four separate bills focused on reforming different taxes. At Capstone Community Action in Barre, Rep. Johannah Donovan, D-Burlington, said the legislation she will introduce will cut income taxes for Vermonters, small business and will double the Earned Income Tax Credit used by 43,000 low-income residents. “This bill cuts the tax rate for the bottom income bracket in half from 3.55 percent to 1.75 percent,” she said. Continue Reading →

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VTrans: Wait on electric vehicle fees

MONTPELIER — A new report recommends that lawmakers hold off on instituting fees for electric vehicles until their market share improves. Lawmakers tasked the Agency of Transportation with crafting recommendations for fees on electric vehicles as they look to deal with declining revenues from the gas tax. Vermont, like other states, has seen a drop in revenue as automakers create vehicles with better fuel efficiency. Gas tax revenue raised about $361 million in 2005 fiscal year, but just $312 million in the 2016 fiscal year. The report authored by the Agency of Transportation recommends that lawmakers refrain from instituting fees on electric vehicles until they become a greater share of vehicles on the road. Continue Reading →

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Entergy plans to sell Vermont Yankee to decommissioning firm

VERNON — Entergy Nuclear announced Tuesday morning that it had reached an agreement to sell the closed Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, a move the company said would move up decommissioning of the Vernon reactor by decades. The company also announced that it was moving up the transfer of the spent nuclear fuel held in Yankee’s spent fuel pool to dry cask storage by two years, from 2020 to 2018. The transfer to NorthStar Group Services of New York City has to be approved by both the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the state of Vermont’s Public Service Board. Gov. Peter Shumlin immediately praised the news, but injected a word of caution. “Today’s announcement that Entergy is planning to file for approval at the Public Service Board to transfer ownership of the Vermont Yankee site to a third party offers the potential for an accelerated decommissioning of the plant,” Shumlin said in a prepared statement, issued simultaneously to the Entergy announcement. Continue Reading →

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AG’s office finds no bribery in wind project proposal

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Attorney General’s office has reviewed a proposal a proposal from a wind developer to pay registered voters in the towns where they hope to build wind turbines and determined that it does not amount to a bribe. Iberdrola Renewables is looking to erect 24 turbines in the towns of Grafton and Windham in Windham county. The company recently revamped its proposal, reducing the number of wind turbines from 28 to 24, in an attempt to ease concerns in those communities. Eight turbines would remain in Grafton but Windham would see four less. The company also sweetened the financial pot of money it is offering to the towns in its revised proposal. Continue Reading →

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Dunne position on wind draws fire

MONTPELIER — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Matt Dunne is drawing strong criticism from environmental advocates and leaders after calling for local referendums over the siting of wind energy projects less than two weeks before the state’s Aug. 9 primary. On Friday, Dunne, a former Google employee and Windsor County state senator, distributed a press release detailing his stance on the siting of renewable energy projects. At the top of the three points listed Dunne stated that “wind projects should only take place with the approval of the towns where the projects are located.”

“As governor, I will ensure that no means no. Towns should be voting by Australian ballot, and if a town says no to a large industrial wind project I would use all the power of the Governor’s office to ensure that is the end of the project,” Dunne wrote. Continue Reading →

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Minter outlines plan for energy future

MONTPELIER — Sue Minter, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, has laid out a plan for Vermont’s energy future that she said will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the energy sector, support job growth in the clean energy sector and cut energy costs for Vermonters. Minter’s plan focuses on two main goals — reducing peak electric demand by 10 percent over the next five years and cutting back on carbon dioxide pollution in the transportation sector by expanding the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative that covers fossil fuel-burning power plants to include transportation fuels. Expanding RGGI, however, would require the consent of several other Northeast states that participate. “I am the candidate who is concerned about climate change, and who wants to make more progress on energy efficiency and local renewable energy,” Minter said in a statement. “It is unbelievable to me that we have candidates running for governor in the year 2016 who want to ban renewable energy when we now have over 17,000 Vermonters proudly working in the clean-energy sector.”

Minter said her administration would reduce peak electric demand, which is more costly and often generated through means that produce more carbon, through energy efficiency, solar power and new energy storage technologies. Continue Reading →

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Lawmakers craft replacement language for vetoed energy siting bill

MONTPELIER — Key lawmakers have drafted replacement language for an energy siting bill vetoed by Gov. Peter Shumlin on Monday they hope will be passed during a legislative veto session on Thursday to fix issues he identified in his veto message. Shumlin, a Democrat who is not seeking a fourth two-year term, vetoed S.230 Monday over concerns that language approved on the final day of the legislative session would have unintended consequences. He said the emergency rule-making process called for in the bill for new wind turbine sound standards unintentionally invokes a provision in statute that would make Vermont the first state in the country to declare a public health emergency around wind energy “without peer-reviewed science backing that assertion up.”

Additionally, Shumlin said new temporary sound standards for wind turbines “unintentionally relies on a standard used in a small 150 kilowatt project as the standard for all wind” projects, which “could have the clearly unintended effect of pushing wind projects closer to homes where the background noise is higher.” Another provision in the bill requires notice of certificates of public good for energy projects on parcels of land to be filed with land records. He said that “could create problems for residential solar customers when they go to sell their home.”

The fourth concern deals with money. Under the bill, regional planning commissions are supposed to help municipalities develop local energy plans that conform to the state’s energy goals. Continue Reading →

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Shumlin vetoes energy siting bill

MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin has vetoed a controversial energy siting bill, triggering a special legislative veto session on Thursday where lawmakers can try to override his rejection or look to fix the portions he finds unacceptable and send it back. The legislation, S.230, was passed by lawmakers on the final day of the legislative session last month after last-minute wrangling by House and Senate negotiators and the Shumlin administration. It seeks to provide local communities with more say over the siting of renewable energy projects if they craft their own energy plans that are approved by the Department of Public Service. It also seeks to create sound restrictions for wind generation projects. The governor, a Democrat, said the bill would hurt the state’s renewable energy progress, which he said has created more than 17,000 jobs in Vermont. Continue Reading →

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Energy siting bill passed without funding section

MONTPELIER — Language providing funding for regional planning commissions that was left out of an energy siting bill passed by lawmakers in the waning hours of the legislative session will need to be restored when lawmakers return in January. Both House and Senate leaders agree that the funding — about $300,000 — was intended to be part of the final version of the legislation. The money will help regional planning commissions develop regional energy plans and assist municipalities with town-level energy plans. Those plans will be necessary under the law if local communities are to receive “substantial deference” from the Public Service Board when energy products are considered. House Natural Resources and Energy Committee Chairman Tony Klein, D-East Montpelier, said the absence of the funding in the bill was a simple drafting error as the office of Legislative Counsel worked quickly to update the legislation ahead of adjournment. Continue Reading →

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