Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Vermont Environmental & Land Use Law, February 1, 2012

photo by PASpecner on Flickr

Vermont House approves fracking moratorium,
This morning, the Vermont House of Representatives gave preliminary approval to H464, a bill which places a 3-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in Vermont.

The process of fracking entails the injection of large volumes of pressurized water and chemicals into the ground to extract oil and natural gas. Concerns have been raised about its possible contamination of groundwater. The moratorium will allow time for an U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report due in 2014 on the effects of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water. Following the completion of the report, the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation will be charged with revising its rules relating to this practice.
Hinesburg farmers join lawsuit challenging Monsanto, Burlington Free Press
Rachel Nevitt is an organic farmer in Hinesburg whose work brought her Tuesday from Full Moon Farm to new turf: the Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse in New York City.

Nevitt and her husband, David Zuckerman, are plaintiffs in a lawsuit that concerns patent rights and genetically modified organisms (GMO). The issue centers on the legal ramifications that might arise if patented genes are found on farms that don’t use GMOs, cross-pollination that can occur through the drift of seeds or pollen.

The Full Moon Farm farmers are the only Vermont farmers among the 83 plaintiffs, though two Vermont farm advocacy groups — Northeast Organic Farming Association-Vermont and Rural Vermont — are plaintiffs.

“Personally, I joined really because I want to make a difference on this planet, and because I really feel like GMOs are worse than DDT,” Nevitt said. “They’re the worst thing that has happened to our food supply in history, and people have to be made more aware of it. And if I could play some small part in that, I would.”

In all, more than 300,000 people are represented by the 83 plaintiffs, which includes 36 organizations, said their lawyer, Daniel Ravicher. He is executive director of the Public Patent Foundation, a nonprofit based at Benjamin Cardozo School of Law in New York City.

The case is called Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association v. Monsanto. The suit was filed in March by the Public Patent Foundation. It is a “pre-emptive suit” that seeks to prevent Monsanto from threatening the plaintiffs with patent infringement in the future, Ravicher said.
Vt. Yankee nuke plant seeks OK to operate longer, WCAX
The Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant is asking the state Public Service Board to issue promptly a Certificate of Public good to operate beyond its original March 21 closure date.

The move follows a Jan. 19 ruling by a federal court judge who found that the state didn't have the authority to close the plant as it had wished. But the decision said the plant needed to seek a new or amended certificate of public good from the utility-regulating board.

In its filing, Entergy says the board should have enough information to issue the certificate without taking any additional evidence.

Entergy says the plant can continue operating while the case is decided, but its employees, investors, neighbors and the public would benefit from a prompt decision.
Vermont Yankee says no to more tests in well for radioactive tritium, Burlington Free Press
The Vermont Yankee nuclear plant once again is refusing the state's request that it conduct more tests for radioactive tritium in a former drinking water well on the plant grounds.

Christopher Wamser, site vice president for plant owner Entergy Corp., says in a Jan. 20 letter to Public Service Commissioner Elizabeth Miller that such testing would be inappropriate because it could contaminate the bedrock aquifer at the bottom of the well and might not produce reliable results.

"We do not see how the incremental value of the results from such testing would outweigh the risk, particularly when there is already extensive testing information available from numerous other wells on- and off-site (including drinking water wells)," Wamser wrote in a letter released by Miller's department.

A key issue in the dispute is what type of testing would be most appropriate.

The plant says it would want to use a method that requires purging the well, which could increase the chances of the bedrock aquifer becoming contaminated. Wamser said the state's suggestion that a "grab sample" be taken from the well wouldn't produce reliable results.
Towns to decide on abandoned asbestos mine, Burlington Free Press
Voters in Lowell and Eden are going to vote on whether to request that an abandoned asbestos mine be declared a federal Superfund hazardous waste site so it can be cleaned up and eventually redeveloped as a biomass power plant.

Officials with the Lamoille Economic Development Corporation said a developer is interested in the site, but the tailings from the mine must be cleaned up first. In the past, officials have said cleaning up the mine could cost more than $200 million.

"Cleaning the mines up will take a long time, probably about 10 years," said Vermont Electric Cooperative CEO Dave Hallquist, who is working with the Lamoille Corporation. "However, at the end of that time-frame, this location will be ready, and the markets will be ready for local bio-mass to become an important part of our energy picture."

Last year people in the two towns were asked to support declaring the mine a federal Superfund site, but the Caledonian Record reports that townspeople who attended meetings on the issue last summer were opposed because they feared their property values would go down.
Vt. farmers can ask for more disaster relief funds, WCAX
There's more grant money available for Vermont farmers hurt by flooding from Tropical Storm Irene.

Farmers who need help can apply for assistance from the Vermont Farm Disaster Relief Fund.

Agriculture Secretary Chuck Ross says feed has become an urgent need for some Vermont farmers.

He says many farmers are discovering that their hay and corn was damaged by the flooding and they are faced with the unexpected cost of buying feed.

To date, the Vermont Farm Disaster Relief Fund has awarded $1.5 million to 177 farmers affected by Tropical Storm Irene. As of January 25, the fund had received or been pledged to receive more than $2.4 million.
Wind firm says Vermont project exceeding expectations, Burlington Free Press
Vermont's newest commercial wind power project is starting to pay dividends to the town where it's located.

Earlier this month the town of Sheffield received a payment of $117,000 for hosting the First Wind project on Sheffield Heights. The project is obligated to pay $520,000 a year for the life of the project, which began producing power in October.

The Caledonian Record reports operations Manager Andy Doak says the project has generated enough energy since October to power the equivalent of 16,500 homes daily.

On Town Meeting Day in in March, Sheffield voters will be asked about how they would like to begin spending the town's income from the project.
Target meets Williston opposition, Burlington Free Press
The prospect of a Target store’s locating in town drew negative reviews among residents who attended an informal Williston Planning Commission meeting Tuesday evening.

Target representatives were there to give the public a first peek of the retail giant’s broad outlines of a proposal. Target has submitted no formal documents to the Williston planning office. Tuesday’s meeting was a chance for the commission and Target officials to gauge initial public reaction to the proposal.

If Target follows through with a concrete development application, the issue faces years of scrutiny. If Target does locate in Williston, Vermont will become the 50th state with a Target.

The proposed 136,000-square-foot Target would be built on what was once a golf driving range just east of the Shaw’s supermarket near Taft Corners. Affordable housing and a small park would go on the site. That’s because a zoning change would be required to allow the Target to be built, and the zoning change must produce a public benefit, Williston Director of Planning and Zoning Ken Belliveau said.