Paul Burns

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Scott forms panel on chemical oversight

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott signed an executive order Tuesday to create the Vermont Interagency Committee on Chemical Management, which will review chemical regulations and policies in Vermont. The committee created by executive order will look to ensure compliance with laws regulating chemical use in the state and try to reduce risks posed to Vermonters from the use or storage of unsafe chemicals. The committee “will incorporate the expertise of state agencies and outside experts who will participate in the citizen advisory panel,” according to Scott’s office. “The discovery of PFOA contamination of the drinking water in Bennington County was a wake-up call for Vermont,” Scott said in a statement. “I am directing this committee to find solutions that will ensure proactive coordination among the agencies charged with chemical oversight to protect Vermonters from unsafe chemicals, increase public access to information about chemicals in our communities, and help Vermont businesses comply with existing law.”

The committee will be chaired by Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore or her designee. 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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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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Lt. gov casts vote, helps kill changes to law regulating chemicals

MONTPELIER — Lt. Gov. Phil Scott cast a rare vote in the Senate Thursday to break a tie and kill off proposed changes to legislation passed last year that allows the state to regulate “chemicals of concern to children.”

Scott, a Republican, said he has cast fewer than six votes in the Senate since taking office in 2010. The state’s constitution requires the lieutenant governor, the presiding officer of the Senate, to vote when there is a tie. The Senate Health and Welfare Committee was proposing to make changes to Act 188, which passed last year. The law created a reporting mechanism for manufacturers that use certain chemicals in children’s products. Beginning in July of next year, manufacturers that use chemicals designated by the state as “chemicals of high concern to children” must disclose information about those chemicals to the Department of Health. Continue Reading →

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Toxins debate reignited in Senate

MONTPELIER — A host of industry representatives are pushing back against language inserted into a Senate health care bill late last week that would alter a 1-year-old law that looks to regulate toxic products in commercial products. The Senate Health and Welfare Committee heard testimony from several people Wednesday looking to scrap the language added to S.139 on Friday. It would make changes to Act 188, which was signed into law last year by Gov. Peter Shumlin following an arduous back-and-forth process that was finalized in the waning hours of the previous biennium. The law created a reporting mechanism for manufacturers that use certain chemicals in children’s products. Beginning in July of next year manufacturers that use chemicals designated by the state as “chemicals of high concern to children” must disclose information about those chemicals to the Department of Health. Continue Reading →

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Sanders’ opposition notwithstanding, testimony on wind moratorium begins

Undaunted by the public recriminations issued by Sen. Bernard Sanders Monday, proponents of a moratorium on mountaintop wind began taking testimony Tuesday on a bill  that would halt new development for three years. The bill suffered a tongue-lashing in Sanders’ Burlington office. It found a more hospitable host in the Senate Committee on Natural Resources today, where three of the committee’s five members – including chairman Bob Hartwell – have signed on as co-sponsors. First up to testify on the record was Paul Burns, the same wind-energy advocate who had hours earlier suggested that supporting the moratorium was tantamount to rejecting the science behind climate change. The senators didn’t appreciate his tone. Continue Reading →

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