Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Vermont Environmental & Land Use Law, November 3, 2011

Photo by USACEpublicaffairs on Flickr

Shumlin appoints attorney Thomas Walsh as environmental judge
Governor Peter Shumlin today announced he will appoint Burlington attorney Thomas G Walsh to the Environmental Division of the Superior Court. Walsh, who has practiced environmental law for 18 years, will replace retiring Judge Merideth Wright.

“It is a great honor to be appointed by Governor Shumlin as an environmental judge,” Walsh said. “The Environmental Division is important to our State's natural resources and our economy. I look forward to serving our State and applying my energy and experience to ensure that the Environmental Division is regarded with integrity and fairness."

“Tom will bring strong experience in all facets of environmental practice and a common sense approach to the bench,” Shumlin said. “I’m sure that he and Judge Durkin will ensure decisions are issued in a timely manner and are consistent with the law.”

Walsh is a founder and managing partner in Walsh & Monaghan LLP, a full service law firm focusing on land use and environmental law. Prior to law school, he practiced environmental engineering for four years with a national environmental consulting firm.

New estimate lowers Vermont Irene recovery costs, Burlington Free Press
MONTPELIER — Fixing the state's roads and bridges after Tropical Storm Irene has cost much less than expected, with state officials lowering the estimated price tag for the largest portion of it Monday from $620 million earlier to $175 million to $250 million.

"When you bring in the National Guard, and you don't have to hire flaggers, and you don't have to keep roads open while you're rebuilding, and you can take the gravel and the rock from the brooks and rivers that it got washed into, you drastically reduce the cost of rebuilding," Gov. Peter Shumlin said at a news conference.

A statement released by Shumlin's office noted that the construction engineers with the Vermont Agency of Transportation "are trained to estimate construction costs based on standard construction practices, not emergency construction practices."

Steps reduced or eliminated included federal and state permitting, utility relocation, environmental mitigation, design reviews, planning, right-of-way acquisition and legal proceedings, Transportation Deputy Secretary Sue Minter said.

Minter also credited state road workers with leading restoration efforts that involved contractors, town employees and National Guard troops who were called in initially to respond to the emergency but ended up devoting personnel and heavy equipment to helping the rebuilding effort.

Rockingham to rebuild covered bridge lost to Irene, Burlington Free Press
ROCKINGHAM — A Vermont covered bridge whose destruction during flooding caused by Tropical Storm Irene was captured on video is going to be rebuilt.
The select board in the town of Rockingham agreed Tuesday to build a new covered bridge over the Williams River in the hamlet of Bartonsville, not far from Bellows Falls.

The much-publicized destruction of the 141-year-old covered bridge came to symbolize the pounding Vermont took during Irene.

Vermont Public Radio says the selectboard's decision was made easier by a report by engineers that said it would cost almost as much to build a modern concrete span as to build a new covered bridge.

Irene-damage mobile homes razed in Berlin, Burlington Free Press
Pete Ainsworth snapped photos Monday of the excavator chomping through the roof of his neighbor’s trailer. Ainsworth’s mobile home, which had also been flooded by Tropical Storm Irene, was next on the chopping block.

“We tried to save what we could, some of the stuff that was hanging on the walls,” Ainsworth, 35, said. “But pretty much everything was no good.”

Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, standing in front of the wreckage at Weston’s Mobile Home Park in Berlin, implored Vermonters to continue to help the people who lost their homes in the storm two months ago. A task force, organized by Scott and Secretary of Commerce and Community Development Lawrence Miller, has raised more than $150,000 to demolish uninhabitable mobile homes for their owners across the state. However, the group says it still needs another $150,000 to carry out its campaign.

The owners of 20 mobile homes at the trailer park in Berlin released their homes to the task force for demolition. Scott said the group initially figured each trailer would cost about $1,500 to destroy. However, workers uncovered asbestos in the floors of five of the trailers, putting the cost to destroy those homes at roughly $4,000 apiece, he said.

Discovery Of Asbestos Drives Up Mobile Home Cleanup Costs, VPR News
(Host) The unexpected discovery of asbestos in some flood damaged mobile homes is driving up the cost of removal.

So state officials and a private philanthropy are asking the public for help. The goal is to raise enough money so that mobile home residents don't have to use their own savings to dispose of their damaged property.
VPR's John Dillon reports.

(Dillon) Two by fours snap like matchsticks as heavy equipment demolishes a gutted home at the Weston Mobile Home Park in Berlin.
Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott - who also runs a construction company - is coordinating the removal work. He said the discovery of asbestos in about a quarter of the homes they've inspected is complicating the project.

(Scott) "What that's done to our project is that it's increased the cost a bit. For those units that have asbestos, where we've been able to reduce the cost to $1,500 per unit, that has the potential of increasing that to a total cost of possibly $3,500 to $4,500."

Burlington’s Proposed Skatepark Hits a Big Bump — a Legal Appeal, Seven Days
The escalating tension over a proposed new waterfront skatepark has all the elements of a classic Burlington development battle: generational antagonism, class issues, environmental concerns, arguments over aesthetics and, of course, litigation.

At issue is a replacement for the existing facility for skateboarders — a set of fenced-in wooden and metal ramps situated just east of the bike path near the Moran Plant. The envisioned skatepark would be nearly double the size and more than twice as expensive as the existing 10,000-square-foot facility that cost $326,000 to build 11 years ago.

Metal strips peeling off rotting wood in the current park pose dangers for skaters and bikers, warns James Maguire, a University of Vermont senior interning at the Ridin’ High skateboard shop on the corner of Pearl and Battery Streets. “A cut from a piece of metal sheeting can go pretty deep,” says Maguire, who skates “a healthy amount” at the waterfront park, which, he adds, “is not being properly taken care of.”

The city has done what it can to maintain brittle materials weathered by 11 Vermont winters, responds Kirstin Merriman Shapiro, special projects manager in the Community and Economic Development Office.

Vermont's senators co-sponsor a bill to make selling fake maple a felony
To protect the purity of Vermont's signature crop and to dissuade others from passing off fake maple syrup for the real thing — which sells for about $50 a gallon — Vermont's two U.S. senators have co-sponsored a bill that would make it a felony to sell fake maple syrup as the real thing. It would also increase the penalties in existing law from one year to five years in prison.

"Vermonters take pride in the natural products our state produces," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. He says the growing number of individuals and businesses selling fake maple syrup alarms him.

"This is fraud, plain and simple, and it undermines a key part of Vermont's economy," he added.

Co-sponsoring the bill — the Maple Agriculture Protection and Law Enforcement (MAPLE) Act with Leahy are Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, and New York Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.

VNRC, Bennington Citizens, File Appeal in Wal-Mart Case, Press Release at VNRC

Citizens for a Greater Bennington and the Vermont Natural Resources Council today appealed a ruling by the local Act 250 District Commission that denied them full party status in a case involving the proposed expansion of a Wal-Mart in Bennington. The appeal is to the Vermont Environmental Court.