Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Vermont Environmental & Land Use Law, March 21, 2012

Photo by BurningQuestion on Flickr

Vt. joins air pollution suit against power plants, WCAX
Vermont has joined 11 other states in support of a Clean Air Act rule that would reduce air pollution from power plants.

The Environmental Protection Agency recently promulgated rules that are meant to reduce toxic air pollution from coal and oil-fired power plants, known as the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. The rules are meant to curb power plant emissions of mercury and other pollutants that are known to cause cancer, respiratory illness, and other serious health effects.

Attorney General Bill Sorrell said in a news release that emissions of mercury and other pollutants travel from out-of-state power plants to Vermont and contaminate the air, soil, water and fish.

The EPA estimates that the rule will provide Vermont up to $83 million in health benefits in 2016.
Judge: State can't shut down Vermont Yankee over waste issue, Burlington Free Press
A federal judge on Monday issued another green light for the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant to keep operating, and the Vermont Public Service Board issued a separate order in which it appeared to be going along.

Judge J. Garvan Murtha ordered Monday that state law can't be used to prevent Vermont Yankee from storing highly radioactive nuclear waste at the plant after its initial license expires on Wednesday. It needs to store more waste to keep running.

The state board, meanwhile, shot down each of the arguments by lawyers for Vermont Yankee owner Entergy Corp. as to why it should approve continued operation and waste storage, and then said it would do so anyway because the federal court told it to.

"We are mindful ... that the (U.S.) District Court's decision serves to enjoin the Board from enforcing orders that would require cessation of operations at Vermont Yankee," it said. "Our Order today does not have that effect."
Vermont House begins renewable energy debate, WCAX
The Vermont House is taking up legislation calling on the state to get 75% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2032.
Rep. Margaret Cheney, vice chairwoman of the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee, tells her House colleagues the legislation is key to Vermont doing its part to slow climate change.

Business lobbyists have expressed concern about the measure, saying it's likely to drive up the cost of power and make Vermont companies less competitive.

In introducing the bill on Tuesday, Cheney told the House that the bill seeks to balance that concern against the need to get Vermont off of fossil fuels in energy production.
Vermont deadline to apply for SBA working capital disaster loans April 16,
The US Small Business Administration is reminding small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture and most private non-profit organizations of all sizes that April 16 is the filing deadline for federal economic injury disaster loans available in Chittenden and Grand Isle counties in Vermont. The SBA declared a disaster because of the excessive rain, flooding, high winds, lightning and cooler than normal temperatures that occurred from March 1 through June 1, 2011.

"These counties are eligible because they are contiguous to one or more primary counties in New York . The Small Business Administration recognizes that disaster do not usually stop at county or state lines. For that reason, counties adjacent to primary counties named in the declaration are included, "said Frank Skaggs, director of SBA's Field Operations Center East in Atlanta.

"When the Secretary of Agriculture issues a disaster declaration to help farmers recover from damages and losses to crops, the Small Business Administration issues a declaration to eligible entities affected by the same disaster," Skaggs added.

Under this declaration, the SBA's Economic Injury Disaster Loan program is available to eligible farm-related and nonfarm-related entities that suffered financial losses as a direct result of this disaster. With the exception of aquaculture enterprises, SBA cannot provide disaster loans to agricultural producers, farmers, or ranchers.
Environmentalists want 'tiered' approach to efficiency standards for biomass, through
Some wood burning plants are greener than others, and one environmental group wants the Legislature to take that into account in a renewable energy bill.

The Vermont Natural Resources Council is pushing the Legislature to prioritize more efficient biomass plants in this year’s energy bill, but its pleas seem to be falling on deaf ears.

A bill in the House Committee on Natural Resources and Energy would require utilities to buy 35 percent of the electricity in their portfolios from “renewable” sources and shoots for a goal of 75 percent renewable electricity by 2032.

The most recent version of the bill makes a distinction between new renewable projects and existing ones that went on line before 2005. It doesn’t do much to separate or prioritize different types of renewable energy.

When it comes to different types of biomass, some say this is a problem.

Jamey Fidel, forest and biodiversity program director for the Vermont Natural Resources Council, said a report to the Legislature by the Biomass Energy Development Working Group, recommended a tiered structure that would reward more efficient electricity generating biomass projects.

The idea is to encourage more efficient projects that use less wood to produce the same amount of energy through better technology, including things like combined heat and power rather than the somewhat inefficient process of burning wood just for electricity.