Friday, March 2, 2012

Vermont Environmental & Land Use Law, March 6, 2012

photo by Flyinace2000

Administration produces renewable portfolio standard proposal,
(by Alan Panebaker
Two months into the legislative process, the Vermont Department of Public Service weighed in this week with a proposal for the renewable portfolio standard bill that has ping-ponged back and forth in the House Committee on Natural Resources and Energy.

The department proposes a goal for the state of 75 percent renewable energy by 2032, including 35 percent “new renewable” and 10 percent small-scale generation.

The committee has seen multiple drafts, some more stringent than others in moving Vermont toward a law that would require utilities to provide a percentage of their electricity portfolio from renewable sources.

The department’s proposal is less aggressive than the original bill introduced by Rep. Tony Klein, D-East Montpelier, who chairs the committee. Klein’s bill would have required each electric utility to own the “environmental attributes” for 80 percent of its power by 2025.

Klein says the differences in the proposals are not significant, and either proposal would promote the local renewable energy industry.
Vermont gets $2.4 million to help storm victims, Burlington Free Press
Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin says the state will receive a $2.4 million grant from Federal Emergency Management Agency for recovery services for survivors of Tropical Storm Irene. The funds will assist with unmet needs, including housing, social services and more.

The grant will be managed by the Vermont Agency of Human Services, which will contract with three Community Action agencies to hire 11 case managers through August of 2013.

Those case managers will work with the same clients from start to finish, identifying the assistance already received, what needs remain and what resources are available. Those who still have Irene-related needs should call the 2-1-1 human services phone line.
Vermont outlines Irene aid plan, Burlington Free Press
Jamaica, a small Vermont town with big damage from Tropical Storm Irene, faces $5.47 million in flood-repair costs to public property.

Even with federal and state governments paying a large part, it won't take long for the local share to drive up taxes in a town with a $2 million annual budget.

Thursday, the state unveiled a plan intended to help towns pay the bills.

The state will cover anything over a 3-cent increase in the property tax rate caused by federally approved repairs to public infrastructure, said Sue Minter, the state's Irene recovery officer.

In Jamaica's case, that will bring the local costs down by as much as $475,000.

Minter explained the plan to legislators Thursday as they head home for town meeting next week and face inevitable questions from officials and residents about Irene costs. The plan covers towns hit by flooding in April and May along with those damaged by Irene in August.

The move will cost the state an estimated $1.5 million to $5 million, depending on how much the federal government ends up paying, according to figures provided by the state Finance Department. The spending had been approved by the Legislature, but the details of how the help would be triggered were pending.
Entergy appeals Vermont Yankee ruling, WCAX
The company that owns the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant is appealing a federal court order allowing the plant to stay open past its originally scheduled shutdown date of March 21.

Entergy Corp. filed notice with the U.S. District Court in Brattleboro Monday evening saying it would ask the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to review a decision from a federal district court that was widely perceived as being strongly in the company's favor.

The company says the court didn't address the possibility that state regulators could close the plant by denying it permission to store high-level radioactive waste on its property in Vernon past its originally scheduled March 21 shutdown date. At the same time it files the appeal, it's asking the district court to keep the plant open.
Administration Proposes Fee Increase For Vermont Yankee, VPR
(Host) The Shumlin Administration has proposed a steep increase in the fee Entergy Vermont Yankee pays to discharge heated water into the Connecticut River. Yankee now pays about $105,000 for a discharge permit. Under a fee bill now under consideration in the Statehouse, the charge would go up to $543,000.

Governor Peter Shumlin says that charge is justified because other water users pay on a per-gallon basis and Yankee uses about 543 million gallons per year.

(Shumlin) "Right now under Vermont law larger dischargers pay a lower rate than smaller people that are discharging water into our rivers and lakes. I'm for equity. I believe that if you're going to discharge water into Vermont's waterways you should pay the same rate regardless of whether you're deep-pocketed company or a smaller Vermont employer."

(Host) But Yankee's supporters in the Legislature say the fee hike is unfair.

Michael Hebert is a Republican from Vernon, where Vermont Yankee is based. He says a 417 percent increase is not justified.
Vermont wins $35 million in tax credits for economic development,
Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Representative Peter Welch (D-VT) announced today that Vermont Rural Ventures will receive $35 million in federal tax credits to spur economic development projects throughout the state.

“These tax credits will leverage private investment dollars, creating jobs for Vermonters and supporting long-term economic growth in our communities,” Leahy said.

“This award is particularly timely for Vermont, given the economic impact and loss of jobs due to Irene. These funds will be used to create good-paying jobs where we need them most,” Sanders said.

“This is great news,” Welch added. “With a tough economy and rising gas prices squeezing family budgets, many Vermonters are struggling to find good paying jobs and make ends meet. These targeted investments will give a much-needed economic boost to parts of the state that need it most.”

“We are thrilled that Treasury made this award to Vermont,” said Nancy Owens, president of Vermont Rural Ventures. “The program has meant jobs for Vermonters and opportunities for people in low-income communities. Vermont Rural Ventures staff and board are eager to invest these dollars to support community development, manufacturing, and added-value farm and forest businesses.”

A subsidiary of the Burlington-based nonprofit group Housing Vermont, Vermont Rural Ventures previously received $30 million in credits from the program administered by the U.S. Treasury Department. The tax credits helped finance a significant expansion of the Weidmann Electrical Technology manufacturing facility in St. Johnsbury, a new Community College of Vermont building in Rutland, and a new campus for Laraway Youth and Family Services in Johnson.
USDA to guarantee loan to Vt. cheese producer, WCAX
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is going to guarantee a $930,000 loan to a Vermont cheese producer.

The state's congressional delegation says the loan guarantee for Jasper Hill Farms in Greensboro will support 20 existing jobs and create 14 new ones.

The money will be used to finalize construction of 2 areas where cheese is aged, space known as cheese cave vaults.

Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch said Wednesday that the Greensboro project represents the bright future of Vermont's dairy industry.

In 2007, Jasper Hill Farms received a $500,000 loan guarantee through the same branch of the USDA, which helped construct a 21,000-square-foot cheese aging facility. Without the guarantee construction would not have gone forward.
Plans for Vt. circus project delayed, WCAX
Plans to tear down a former automotive building in Vermont to make way for a performance space for a circus group have been delayed after more contaminants have been found at the site.

The New England Youth Theater wants to demolish the former Tri-State Automotive building to create a trapeze center for the New England Center for Circus Arts. Project manager Bari Shamas said environmental consultants' discovery of PCBs in the soil and a $200,000 price tag increase have caused delays in the project.

The Brattleboro Reformer reports ( the total cost of the project has increased from about $1.2 million to $1.65 million to remove the building and cap the site. That doesn't include building the new center.
Vt. health chief grilled on water testing, WCAX
A Vermont senate committee is trying to resurrect legislation passed last year but vetoed by Gov. Peter Shumlin that would require testing of private wells when they are drilled or when a home is sold.

In committee testimony Wednesday before the Senate Education Committee, Health Commissioner Harry Chen took tough questioning over a change in position on the mandate since last year.

Chen told lawmakers last year that testing should be required. Now he favors disclosure to home buyers and people having wells drilled that testing is a good idea.

He agreed under questioning from Sen. Randy Brock that his department already can do that kind of public education.

Shumlin - Chen's boss - vetoed mandatory testing last year, saying he did not want to impose new costs on Vermonters.
Vermont won't make renewable energy goals, Burlington Free Press
Two key lawmakers say Vermont won't meet its goal of getting 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2017.

And the chairman and vice chairwoman of the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee say they're scaling back a goal of 30 percent renewable by 2025 that had been outlined in legislation pending before the panel.

Reps. Tony Klein and Margaret Cheney say they were surprised to learn from the Department of Public Service that a renewable energy program set up in 2005 won't meet its 2017 goal. When renewable projects currently in the pipeline are built, Vermont will be 16.5 percent renewable. Klein and Cheney say building that up to 20 percent in five years is unlikely. Vermont has a goal of being 90 percent renewable by 2050.