Thursday, November 17, 2011

Vermont Environmental & Land Use Law, November 17, 2011

Photo by Julian Rotela Rosow on Flickr

Vt. environmental agency admits breaking waste laws, WCAX
The agency charged with policing the Vermont's environmental laws admits it broke them. The Agency of Natural Resources agreed to pay a hefty fine for mishandling hazardous materials.

The investigation began during the first days of the Shumlin administration when the attorney general began looking at how hazardous materials were handled at the Department of Environmental Conservation lab in Waterbury.

"Ordinarily it's our enforcement division that would investigate and enforce... obviously could not do that to ourselves as an agency, so we directed it immediately to an independent investigation to the AG's office," Vt. Natural Resources Secretary Deb Markowitz said.

The DEC lab is used to test materials from the field to troubleshoot any problems that may impact the environment. Well, as it turns out the state was not following its laws when handling and storing hazardous waste. An inspection found a host of problems-- 23 violations in all.

"It is sort of like you can't have the cop on the beat committing crimes; well here you have the lab from the Agency of Natural resources out of compliance. They took it seriously to their credit," said Bill Sorrell, D-Vt. Attorney General.

New $70M NY-Vt. bridge over Lake Champlain opens, WCAX
(AP) - Hundreds of people poured onto Lake Champlain Bridge on Monday, taking photos and laying on the center line in sheer joy over the opening of the new span and the reconnection of the communities on either side of the lake.

The first vehicle to cross from Crown Point to West Addison, Vt., after the ceremonial ribbon cutting was a 1929 Pierce Arrow, a classic vehicle built in New York the same year the previous bridge was completed.

New York Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy and Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin stood on the running boards.

The new bridge is a welcome relief for residents whose lives were upended when the old bridge closed in October 2009, after engineers determined it was unsafe.

A free, 24-hour ferry was put into place to carry commuters and others back and forth, but it didn't have the convenience of the bridge.

State appeals Vermont Yankee permit extension, Burlington Free Press, Burlington Free Press
The state of Vermont says the owner of the Vermont Yan­kee nuclear power plant didn’t prove to federal regu­lators who extended the plant’s operating license that it is in compliance with the federal Clean Water Act.

In documents filed Mon­day in the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the Vermont Department of Public Service argued that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission violated the Clean Water Act when it approved the permit exten­sion without proof the plant was in compliance.

The Brattleboro Re­former reported that the state and the anti-nuclear group the New England Co­alition claim the NRC ig­nored its regulations requir­ing a clean water certificate. Entergy’s application for its license extension failed to demonstrate, as required, that the plant was comply­ing with the Clean Water Act, and the NRC “simply ignored” that shortcoming when it issued the license extension in March, the state’s filing said.

The state has been joined in the lawsuit by the NEC, represented by the Conser­vation Law Foundation.

“We are still saying they unlawfully issued a re­newed operating license,” said Christopher Kilian of CLF.

Experts: Post-Irene river repairs harmful in Vt., WCAX
(AP) - In the days and weeks following Tropical Storm Irene's flooding, Vermont became what one lawmaker called a "lawless state" concerning its rivers, with crews digging gravel from stream beds and piling boulders on river banks to strengthen them.

Environmentalists and some state officials say the result is serious environmental damage, especially to fish habitats, as well as a possible worsening of future floods.

Vermont lawmakers heard testimony Tuesday that efforts to put rivers back in the courses they ran before the Aug. 28 storm may have done more harm than good in some instances.

In addition to hurting fish habitats with the digging, river experts say efforts to strengthen river banks can increase the speed at which the river flows, which can make future floods more damaging.

Vermont 'tar sands' pipeline opponents cautiously hail delay,
The US Department of State is delaying its decision on a controversial pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to Texas. In a statement issued today, it said that it needed more time to review the environmental implications, especially those in Nebraska. Vermont's congressional delegation has been opposed to the pipeline, which would bring "tar sands" oil into the United States for refining.

Representative Peter Welch (D-VT) issued the below statement following the announcement by the State Department that it will delay a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline.

“The State Department today raised the correct concerns, but reached the wrong conclusion. The catastrophic environmental risks of this proposed pipeline dictate the project be rejected, not delayed. I look forward to a swift and thorough investigation by the inspector general into the State Department’s review process.”

Welch led efforts in the House demanding an investigation into whether conflicts of interest tainted the State Department’s process for reviewing the proposed crude oil pipeline. On Monday, the State Department Inspector General agreed to open an investigation.

US Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) also commented: “While this is a sign that the State Department has been listening during the comment period, there are many problems with this pipeline, and the tar sands project behind it, that go far beyond the particular route it would take. This pollution-ridden project and its path through our country should not go forward at all. The environmental harm and risks that are inseparable from this project far outweigh any benefits, and I hope the Administration will pull the plug on an inherently bad idea."

Burlington housing project gets $4.8m federal grant, WCAX
(AP) - A housing project under way in Vermont's largest city is going to get even bigger thanks to a $4.8 million federal housing grant.

The state's congressional delegation announced Wednesday that the Cathedral Square Thayer Commons project in Burlington's New North End would add 28 additional rent-subsidized units with help from the grant.

Cathedral Square Executive Director Nancy Eldridge says the grant will be used to meet the huge demand for affordable senior housing at Thayer Commons.

The location of the project on Burlington's North Avenue where the Department of Motor Vehicles once operated will offer seniors access to public transit, shopping, health care and other services.