Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Vermont Natural Resources Board Issues 2010 Annual Report

The Natural Resources Board (NRB or Board) published its annual legislative report on February 17, 2011. The Report summarizes the activities of the Board’s two panels, the Land Use Panel (LUP), which administers Act 250, and the Water Resources Panel (WRP), which carries out rulemaking having to do with water and wetland quality.

Of particular note in this report was continuing decline in the number of Act 250 applications filed over the past two years. In 2009 applications dropped off 13.4% compared to 2008, and that trend continued in 2010, with an additional 6.6% decrease from 2009 (there were 439 applications in 2008 and only 355 in 2010). Major applications requiring a hearing declined even more steeply.

In general, applications were processed more quickly in 2010 than in previous years. Only 14% of applications took over 119 days for review, as compared to 19% in 2009 and 23% in 2008. The number of applications that were processed in fewer than 60 days went up 3%.

Two permit applications were denied in 2010 (0.5% overall, 3.3% of major applications) compared to 5 denials in 2009 (1.2% overall, 5.5% of major applications).

There were 12 commission opinions for major applications appealed this year, representing 18% of total decisions made. This percentage has remained constant for the past 5 years. However, appeals of jurisdictional opinions were halved in 2010; there were only 3 compared to 6 in 2009.

In the Environmental Division of the VT Superior Court last year, the Land Use Panel elected to participate in 7 of the 16 appeals that it reviewed, whereas the Water Resources Panel declined to participate in all 9 appeals it reviewed. Details of these appeals are available in the report’s appendix.

The NRB is also responsible for enforcement of their Act 250 permits once issued. In 2010 they opened 36 administrative enforcement files, 12 more than in 2009, for violations and compliance issues.

The report also discusses various petitions submitted to NRB, revisions to Act 250 rules, revisions to the Vermont wetland rules, and other initiatives that the Board addressed during the year including a database and imaging project and case management software.

Full text of the report can be found here: http://www.leg.state.vt.us/reports/2011ExternalReports/265947.pdf