Thursday, May 28, 2009

Vermont Economic Recovery Legislation - The Green Provisions

The Vermont Economic Recovery Act of 2009 contains numerous provisions that pertain to environmental and land use issues. Some of these provisions are identified below:
  • Green Work Force Collaborative: The Workforce Development Council and the Commissioner of Labor are charged with convening a green work force collaborative. The purpose of the collaborative is to create training and employment opportunities, taking advantage of ARRA funds (federal stimulus funding), in "green industry" jobs. "Green industry" sector jobs include work in the following fields: energy efficiency, renewable energy, clean vehicles, biofuels, manufacturers of products for and service providers of environmental mitigation and prevention, and soil and water conservation;

  • The Department of Public Service is charged with taking full advantage of any ARRA funds available to explore opportunities to advance smart grid technologies in Vermont;

  • The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets is charged with taking full advantage of any ARRA funds available to support agriculture activities, including soil conservation funds, methane/biogas energy projects, and implementing foodhub distribution centers;

  • Limitations on downtown and Village tax credits are altered and expanded;

  • A "farms to plate" investment program is created to be run by the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund in consultation with the Vermont Sustainable Agriculture Council. The purpose of the program is to expand economic development in the food and farm sector, create jobs, and expand access to healthy locally grown food;

  • The Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) is charged with developing rules to allow small hydroelectric facilities to obtain 401 certifications under the Clean Water Act in a timely, predictable and affordable manner;

  • The sunset provision previously set for stormwater-impaired waterways is extended from January 15, 2010 to January 15, 2012. Other provisions are also extended;

  • ANR is charged with drafting rules for operational stormwater permits for high elevation wind farms;

  • Act 250 is amended to exempt certain work performed at contaminated properties and brownfields, including abating a release or threatened release of hazardous materials, and cleanup activities completed pursuant to a corrective action plan;

  • Act 250 is amended to exempt from review certain improvements to existing state, county and municipal projects, including projects involving the expansion of wastewater treatment facilities by up to 25 percent and public school reconstruction expanding student capacity by up to 25 percent;

  • ANR Clean Air Act rules governing indirect air pollution permits (permits for large parking lots and highways) are repealed;

  • ANR and the Natural Resources Board are authorized to write rules for a process whereby civil complaints for violations of environmental laws resulting in a fine not exceeding $3,000 are under the jurisdiction of the Judicial Bureau. The Judicial Bureau is part of the Vermont judiciary and routinely handles civil violations of traffic laws and certain municipal ordinances, such as health code violations;

  • Certain state, county and municipal projects receiving ARRA funds are eligible for expedited review of any necessary ANR, Vtrans, Act 250 and municipal permits;

  • Lapsed or expired permits or approvals for projects receiving ARRA funds will be deemed valid if: 1) the lapsed or expired permit was issued within the past 5 years, and 2) there is no change in the project from what was originally approved;

  • Creation of the Vermont Village Green Renewable Pilot Program: A pilot program is created for Montpelier and Randolph to advance district heating projects;

  • ANR granted authority to promulgate rules for the broader use of general permits for air, water supply, and solid waste permits;

  • Statute provisions regarding new funds available through the Vermont Clean Energy Fund have been covered in posts on the SDRS Renewable Energy Law Blog. Additional details of new tax provisions designed to advance renewable energy and energy efficiency will also be covered on the Renewable Energy Law Blog.
There are numerous other provisions in the bill that could directly and indirectly pertain to environmental and land use issues. We will explore these provisions and the ones identified above in future posts.