Friday, August 12, 2011

Vermont Environmental & Land Use Law, August 12, 2011

Vermont Climate Activists Oppose Canadian Crude Oil Pipeline, Burlington Free Press

America is poised to tap into a mother-load of crude oil from the Alberta tar sands. Those reserves, experts say, could keep Texas refineries humming well into the next several decades. What's wrong with this picture?

Plenty, argue opponents of the proposed TransCanada "Keystone XL" pipeline. Dozens of activists — including some of this country's most respected scientists — have written to President Barack Obama to nix the project when it comes up for a presidential permit later this year.

You'd think a steady infusion of oil from Canada (about 1 million barrels a day, or about a tenth of the crude imported by the U.S.) would get a warmer welcome, TransCanada spokesman Terry Cunha says.

"This is an option for Americans about where they want their oil to come from," he says. "They can get it from the Middle East or from Libya, or they can get it, conflict-free, from Canada."

Opponents, including Vermont’s own Bill McKibben, cite broader security concerns: The project runs afoul of both nations' commitments to reduce, rather than expand, dependence on fossil fuels; the further extraction, refining and burning of Alberta's reserves significantly would increase greenhouse gases and contribute to more rapid climate change.

VHCB Americorps Program get $1.1 Million, 3-Year Renewal Funding,

The Vermont Housing & Conservation Board (VHCB) announced today a $1,134,000 grant award from The Corporation for National and Community Service. The funding will allow VHCB to sponsor nearly 100 AmeriCorps members over three years to serve at more than 20 non-profit organizations throughout Vermont, addressing community needs in the areas of housing and homelessness, energy savings, and environmental protection.

Governor Peter Shumlin said, “In 2010 the VHCB AmeriCorps Program was honored as one of the most innovative AmeriCorps programs in the United States. This grant renewal funding reaffirms the value of this important program to our communities. I congratulate the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board for receiving this grant and thank all those who have answered the call to service by joining AmeriCorps.”

Program Director Joan Marie Misek said, “In a difficult budget year and through a very competitive application process, we are thrilled to be able to continue this successful program, now entering it’s 15th year. Our members provide exemplary public service at non-profit housing development organizations, homeless shelters, home ownership centers, and at conservation organizations such as the Catamount Trails Association, the Green Mountain Club, the Nature Conservancy, the Vermont Institute of Natural Science and the Vermont Natural Resources Council.”

Proposed St. Albans Walmart Clears Final Hurdle, Burlington Free PressLink

A Walmart store in St. Albans could be open for holiday shoppers in 2012, developers say, now that the Vermont Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the retail giant, capping a nearly 20-year battle about whether the discount chain could build a Franklin County outpost.

Jeff Davis of the development company JLD Properties, which is planning the Walmart project, said Friday’s court decision was the final major hurdle he needed to cross before construction can begin. “As far as we understand it, this is the end of the road,” he said.

The Supreme Court in a unanimous ruling Friday — the high court’s second in the case since 1997 — gave the go-ahead for construction by upholding a 2010 decision from the Vermont Environmental Court. The nearly 147,000 square-foot store would be built off Interstate 89 exit 20, near the Price Chopper supermarket and the Swanton town line.

Since 1993, Franklin County residents have debated the project. Advocates say Walmart would bring low prices and convenience to low-income people and to bargain-hunters who otherwise would drive to Chittenden County to shop. Opponents claim Walmart would suck the life out of downtown St. Albans, forcing small shops out of business from the overwhelming force of competition from a box store two miles to the north. Opponents said they wanted Walmart to build its store in downtown St. Albans — a move the retail giant rejected.