Friday, February 17, 2012

Vermont Environmental & Land Use Law, February 17, 2012

Photo by Muffet on Flickr

Bill allows for public comment in pollution settlements, Burlington Free Press
For six years Anthony Iarrapino has been trying to make it so the public can have a say in environmental enforcement cases the state initiates against polluters.

The lawyer for the Conservation Law Foundation finally got his way Thursday, as Gov. Peter Shumlin signed into law a bill that allows members of the public to comment on enforcement actions and have those comments considered by a judge before signing off on a case.

“This is a big step forward for Vermonters to participate in their government,” said Chris Kilian, CLF’s Vermont director.

His organization is among those frustrated that environmental-enforcement cases have been behind-closed-door agreements between the state Agency of Natural Resources and polluters. Other parties, such as neighbors affected by the pollution, had no means of input.

The law that takes effect July 1 will allow time for those other parties to comment on proposed penalties and remediation plans, which the judge may take into consideration.
Vermont, 10 other states sue EPA over soot,
Vermont and 10 other states sued in federal court today to force the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to adopt more protective national air quality standards for fine particulate matter, also known as "soot" or "PM 2.5," pollution. The Clean Air Act and a 2009 federal court order require EPA to adopt more protective soot standards.

"Although EPA has taken steps to address air pollution in recent years, Vermont can not overlook its failure to adopt more protective standards for fine particulate matter or soot," said Attorney General William H. Sorrell. "It is well-established that this pollution is especially harmful to children, senior citizens, and people with existing lung and heart conditions. It is clear that exposure to fine particulates can cause serious health problems, including chronic respiratory illness, decreased lung function, cardiovascular disease, asthma, and premature death."
The federal Clean Air Act expressly requires EPA to update federal standards for several pollutants, including fine particulate matter, every five years. The Act's deadline for EPA to adopt new standards passed on October 17, 2011.

The lawsuit is the second of two legal actions taken by Vermont to force EPA to adopt more protective standards on soot. Vermont, other states, and public health organizations challenged lax soot standards adopted by EPA in 2006 against the advice of EPA's professional staff and its own scientific advisory committee. In 2009, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals held that EPA failed to justify its decision not to strengthen the soot standards and remanded the standards to EPA. On November 16, 2011 Vermont and nine other states filed a mandamus petition asking the D.C. Circuit Court to order EPA to comply with its order in that case. The mandamus petition argues that EPA has failed to take action in response to the court's 2009 order and asks the court to order EPA to adopt new standards later this year.
Proposed Vt. biomass energy plant gets air permit,
The developer of a proposed wood energy plant in Fair Haven has received the air pollution control permit it needs from the state of Vermont.

The plant proposed by Beaver Wood Energy would produce 29.5 megawatts of electricity from biomass and manufacture wood pellets for heating fuel.

Beaver Wood had proposed building a second facility in Pownal, but that idea was abandoned.

Beaver Wood managing director Tom Emero said that before construction can begin on the Fair Haven project, it still needs a certificate of public good.

The Bennington Banner...says the facility is expected to create about 50 jobs at the facility and 140 jobs in the forest products industry. It would also generate an estimated $1.1 million in tax revenue.
Vermont ANR releases climate change report 'Lessons from Irene',
Vermont’s Agency of Natural Resources Climate Change Team today released “Lessons from Irene: Building Resiliency as We Rebuild,” an interdisciplinary look at Irene’s many impacts and challenges. Secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources, Deb Markowitz said, “Climate data shows that Vermont is experiencing more extreme rain events, and because of this we can expect to see more frequent flooding. This is why it is so important for us to learn from Irene so that our communities can be better prepared for future floods.”

This new report points out that flood resiliency may be a critical part of Vermont’s adaptation to climate change, given that 1) many Vermont communities are built along rivers and 2) climate change predictions call for more intense storms and precipitation events in Vermont over the coming decades. The report illustrates the vulnerability of Vermont's river valley communities and natural resources to intensive flood disasters, begins to count the costs associated with that vulnerability, and poses some of the hard questions the state and communities will need to answer in order to build flood resiliency.
Burlington among six New England communities to get EPA 'smart growth' assistance,
Six New England communities will benefit from EPA technical assistance through the “Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities” program. The communities, Simsbury, Conn., Fall River, Holyoke, Northampton and Roxbury, Mass., and Burlington, Vt. were among 56 communities in 26 states that will receive technical assistance under this program.

Each community will receive the assistance from EPA-funded private-sector experts. The technical experts will work with the communities on actions they can take to improve the economy, the environment, and quality of life. Some examples may include improving pedestrian access and safety, incorporating green infrastructure, or conducting an economic and fiscal health assessment.

“EPA is very pleased to be part of a coordinated effort to help these six New England communities develop practical and sustainable approaches that can lead to quality of life improvements for citizens, and which can help bolster our economy,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office.

Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities is a project of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities among EPA, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). The interagency collaboration coordinates federal investments in infrastructure, facilities, and services to get better results for communities and use taxpayer money more efficiently. The partnership is helping communities across the country create more housing choices, make transportation more efficient and reliable, reinforce existing investments, and support vibrant and healthy neighborhoods that attract businesses.
Shelburne gets biggest of Vermont development grants, Burlington Free Press
A Shelburne housing project is getting a $1.25 million federal community development block grant to help develop 78 units of family and senior housing on the Dwyer property in the Vermont town.

The money is part of $2.2 million in Community Development Block Grants that were announced Wednesday by Gov. Peter Shumlin and other officials.

The funding is for affordable housing, economic development projects in six Vermont communities.

The grant money will be used to help obtain $20.5 million in other public and private resources.

Other communities getting funding from the grants are Peru, the city of Barre, Saxtons River Village, St. Johnsbury and the city of Newport.
$1.65 million stormwater project planned in South Burlington, Burlington Free Press
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and South Burlington are partnering on $1.65 million in stormwater management projects aimed at reducing the flow of pollutants into the Lake Champlain watershed.

Stormwater runoff contributes to the polluting of the lake by phosphorous and other chemicals.

Bartlett Brook has been identified as not meeting Vermont water quality standards because of such unmanaged runoff, a news release stated.

Some of the work will take place in the city's Stonehenge neighborhood and will include the construction of a stormwater treatment pond in nearby Szymanski Park, construction of bioretention facilities (which use plants and soils for filtration) and improvement of existing drainage swales and ditches.

In the Laurel Hill South neighborhood, the capacity of the drainage pipe network will be increased. This network becomes overwhelmed during storms because of high stream flows in Bartlett Brook.
Vermont Yankee owner wants $4.6 million for legal fees, Burlington Free Press
Entergy Corp. wants more than $4.6 million in legal fees to cover what it says were its costs in fighting off the Vermont's effort to close the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant.

In a filing in U.S. District Court in Brattleboro on Friday, Entergy says that it is entitled to collect that amount from the state under various previous court rulings tied to the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution.

Vermont passed a law in 2005 saying the Legislature had to give its approval before the Public Service Board could issue a license for Vermont Yankee to operate for another 20 years. The Legislature has declined to give its approval, and Entergy sued.

Last month, a federal judge in Brattleboro ruled for the company.