Environment

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Watch: Capital Beat with Rep. David Deen and ANR Secretary Julie Moore

Rep. David Deen, the chairman of the House Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife Committee, and Julie Moore, secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources, join the program to discuss water quality efforts and a funding proposal put forth by Deen’s committee. Capital Beat airs on Vermont PBS Plus Mondays at 8:30 p.m. Continue Reading →

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House member surveys federal threats to funding, policy

MONTPELIER — As the administration of President Donald Trump settles in, one Vermont lawmaker is attempting to survey the landscape and determine where the state could be harmed by changes in federal policy and funding. Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas, D-Bradford, a former House majority leader, is attempting to create a rapid response plan if the president’s policies have a significant impact on Vermont. So far, however, there are still many question marks about what the Trump administration is planning. “There’s nothing rapid about it so far because right now a lot of what I’m doing is trying to get a handle on the landscape — what do we hear might be coming down from Congress, what do we hear might be coming in the form of executive orders,” she told the Vermont Press Bureau. Copeland Hanzas is keeping in touch with the state’s congressional delegation to stay abreast of what could be coming. Continue Reading →

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PFOA liability bill clears the Senate

MONTPELIER — The Senate passed legislation Tuesday that will force those responsible for contaminating water supplies with a specific chemical to cover the cost of extending municipal water lines to impacted areas. The bill, S.10, was passed unanimously on a voice vote Tuesday and will now head to the House. It requires those who release perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, into the air, groundwater, surface water or soil to be liable for the costs of extending water supply lines from a public water system to impacted properties. The secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources would have to determine a potable water supply on a property contains perfluorooctanoic acid or is likely to become contaminated. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Dick Sears and Sen. Brian Campion of Bennington County after PFOA was found in Bennington and North Bennington around a former factory now owned by Saint- Gobain Performance Plastics. Continue Reading →

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Listen: Capital Beat Podcast 1.20.17

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Vermont Press Bureau chief Neal Goswami and Vermont Public Radio political reporter Peter Hirschfeld chat with Conservation Law Foundation staff attorney Elena Mihaly and Lake Champlain International Executive Director James Ehlers about the clean water effort in Vermont. 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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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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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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Environmental activists attempt to “seize” commissioner’s property

RANDOLPH – Environmental activists came to the home of the commissioner of the state’s Public Service Department to demonstrate their displeasure the proposed natural gas pipeline running through the state. According to Henry Harris, a spokesman for a group calling itself the People’s Department of Environmental Justice, shortly after 6 a.m., he and others went to the home of Commissioner Chris Recchia and attempted to serve him paperwork to seize Recchia’s land on behalf of the organization. “We were there to serve Mr. Recchia notice that we were seizing his property,” said Harris, a 37-year-old carpenter from Plainfield. The action is the latest in a number of demonstrations condemning the Vermont Gas Systems Pipeline being constructed in Addison and Chittenden counties, which has resulted in a handful of private properties being seized in the name of eminent domain. In September, six people were arrested for blocking the entrance to Vermont Gas Systems in Williston. Continue Reading →

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Potential dam purchase gets bipartisan support

MONTPELIER — State officials are mobilizing to explore the potential purchase of hydroelectric dams on the Connecticut and Deerfield Rivers, but plenty of obstacles remain in the way to complete a purchase the state passed on just over a decade ago. TransCanada put the 13 dams on the market on March 17 as part of an effort to acquire Columbia Pipeline Group, a Texas-based firm that operates a natural gas pipeline between New York and the Gulf of Mexico, for $13 billion. The sale process involves a total of 4,600 megawatts of power in TransCanada’s northeast power portfolio, including the hydroelectric plants on the Connecticut and Deerfield Rivers that total 560 megawatts, according to spokeswoman Jennifer Link. The move has prompted a bipartisan group of state officials, including Gov. Peter Shumlin and House Speaker Shap Smith, both Democrats, and Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, to express interest in purchasing the dams through a state-owned power authority. A similar effort under former Gov. Jim Douglas was made in 2005, but TransCanada outbid the state with its $505 million offer. Continue Reading →

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