Environment

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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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Snelling resigns from Senate to head Natural Resources Board

MONTPELIER — Chittenden County Republican Sen. Diane Snelling is resigning from the body to become chairwoman of the Natural Resources Board, Gov. Peter Shumlin announced Tuesday morning. Snelling, who has served in the Senate since being appointed in 2002 to replace a seat vacated by her mother, will replace Jon Groveman on the board. “I am proud to appoint Senator Snelling to this position,” Shumlin said. “Her deep policy knowledge of Act 250 as well as her well-deserved reputation for being thoughtful and non-partisan make her an ideal candidate for this position.”

Snelling’s work in the Senate has involved work on clean water initiatives and shore land protection. She has served on the Senate Natural Resources Committee. Continue Reading →

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State’s PFOA response praised as officials focus on long-term solutions

MONTPELIER — Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Alyssa Schuren was preparing to testify in front of a Senate Committee on the morning of Feb. 25 when news of drinking water contamination in North Bennington was delivered, kicking off an all-out effort by her department and the governor’s office to address an alarming situation. “I was just about to go down and testify in Senate Natural Resources and Energy … and we had 10 minutes until we were going to catch the bus. The division director … comes running in, he opens the door, he’s red-faced, he sits down and he says, ‘We have the test results back from Bennington,’” Schuren said in an interview at DEC’s main office. “I immediately feel myself just sit up straighter, because you could tell by his face that this was not going to be good news.”

The news was not good. Continue Reading →

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Saint-Gobain to cover $50,000 cost for testing wells in North Bennington

MONTPELIER — State officials say investigating contamination by a possible carcinogen in private wells in North Bennington is expected to cost around $50,000, which will be paid for by the company believed to be responsible. Gov. Peter Shumlin and other state officials announced the discovery of Perfluorooctanoic, or PFOA, on Feb. 25. Officials believe the chemical originated from a now-closed factory on Route 67A in North Bennington. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics purchased the former ChemFab site in 2000 and closed it in 2002. Continue Reading →

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State officials are investigating water contamination in North Bennington

MONTPELIER — A possible carcinogen found in a nearby New York town has also been found in several private wells in North Bennington, the Shumlin administration announced Thursday morning after receiving test results just hours earlier. The chemical, Perfluorooctanoic, or PFOA, is the same chemical that was found in the village of Hoosick Falls, N.Y., that has drawn national attention. It was that case that spurred a concerned citizen to reach out to members of the Vermont Legislature with concerns of potential contamination in North Bennington. One company, Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, operated factories that made non-stick coatings in both towns under the Chemfab name in recent decades. The New York plant is still operating while the North Bennington facility, which was purchased by Saint-Gobain in 2000, was closed in 2002. Continue Reading →

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Rally for greater local voice in renewable energy projects

MONTPELIER — Local residents are calling for a greater voice in the siting of renewable energy projects in their communities, and one Senate lawmaker is looking to ban industrial-scale wind projects altogether. More than 100 people packed into the Cedar Creek Room at the State House on Wednesday to protest the current method used by the state to approve renewable energy projects. “Our energy-siting policies and processes have become anti-environmental and anti-democratic,” said Sen. John Rodgers, D-Essex-Orleans, a remark that drew 20 seconds of applause from the gathered crowd. Rodgers argued that renewable energy projects should be treated the same way as any other form of development and should be subject to the provisions of Act 250, which includes a host of criteria such the overall impact a development would have to the aesthetics of the environment. “The process we use to site energy in Vermont is broken and it’s long past time to fix it,” Rodgers said. Continue Reading →

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Commentary: Vermont Should Divest from Coal and ExxonMobil Stocks

n Christmas Day, I burned brush on my farm in Putney — in a t-shirt. My experience was not unlike that of many Vermonters as we all lived through Vermont’s most tropical Christmas in memory, capping off the world’s warmest year on record. Climate change is here, and it is affecting the Vermont that we love, from our ski areas to our lakes. Now is the time to take every sensible action to combat it if we’re to have a shot at preserving a livable planet for our kids and grandkids. At home, we’ve done a lot; from increasing by ten and 20 times the amount of solar and wind in Vermont, respectively, to investing in energy efficiency to help Vermonters use less energy and save money. Continue Reading →

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ATV use on state land rejected by legislative panel

MONTPELIER — A legislative panel has rejected a rule that would have allowed the limited use of all-terrain vehicles on some state lands. The Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules voted 5 to 3 Thursday to oppose a rule submitted by the Agency of Natural Resources to establish a connector trail on state-owned land in the town of Stockbridge. A majority of the committee agreed that the proposed rule is contrary to legislative intent, that ANR lacks the statutory authority to implement it and did not offer a complete economic impact study. The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources wrote a letter to LCAR questioning ANR’s authority to propose the rule under existing statute. Sen. Mark MacDonald, D-Orange, said relevant legislative committees should clarify statute before LCAR acts. Continue Reading →

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Experts debate carbon tax in Vermont

MONTPELIER — Can 600,000 Vermonters slow the effects of climate change? That was the essential question posed Thursday night before a standing-room-only crowd of more than 100 during a debate on the merits of imposing a tax on carbon emissions. During the upcoming legislative session that begins in January, lawmakers are expected to discuss a pair of carbon tax proposals offered by Rep. Christopher Pearson, P-Burlington, and Rep. David Deen, D-Putney. Thursday’s discussion was set against the backdrop of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, where, next week, Gov. Peter Shumlin will discuss Vermont’s efforts to curb carbon emissions and encourage the creation of renewable energy. Speaking in favor of a carbon tax were Paul Burns, of the Vermont Public Interest Research Interest Group, and Jon Erickson, an economist and a fellow with the University of Vermont’s Gund Institute. Continue Reading →

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