Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Vermont Environmental & Land Use Law, April 4, 2012

Photo by Rob Shenk on Flickr

Vermont Senate panel considers ban on fracking, vermontbiz.com
by Alan Panebaker vtdigger.org A bill that originally would have banned the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing passed by the Vermont House as a three-year moratorium.

Now the chair of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy says she wants to put the teeth back in the bill and switch it back once again to an all-out ban.

Sen. Ginny Lyons, D-Chittenden, said with all the unknowns about the process for extracting natural gas and the environmental problems that can occur, a ban made more sense than a moratorium.

“If you put a moratorium in place, people are just waiting for the gates to open, and we don’t want that to happen,” she said.

The practice of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” involves injecting a pressurized mix of chemicals, sand and water into a well. The slurry essentially props up shale rock, which contains the resource, and it is released.

Critics of the practice in places like Pennsylvania and Wyoming say it can lead to air and water pollution as well as industrialization of rural areas through things like increased truck traffic. Supporters say the process is safe, creates jobs and accounts for nearly half of the natural gas produced in the United States.
Vt. fight over development reviews comes to head, WCAX
A decade-old effort to streamline environmental reviews of developers' projects is coming to a head in the Vermont Legislature.

A sharply divided committee of the Vermont Senate voted 3-2 Tuesday to advance legislation to launch a pilot project to study which side in the debate is right.

The debate centers on whether the Vermont Environmental Court should effectively start a case over from scratch when it gets an appeal from a decision of a District Environmental Commission's review of a development project.

Gov. Peter Shumlin has sided with developers, saying the process would be less cumbersome if the Environmental Court could hear appeals based on the record of the case from the District Commission.

Environmental groups say that would make the process too legalistic, curtailing citizen participation.
Vermont regulators: Start over on Vermont Yankee nuke review, Burlington Free Press
Vermont utility regulators have determined they must start over in their review of whether the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant should get a new state permit for continued operation.

The Public Service Board had been trying to decide whether it should revive a 3-year-old review stalled when lawmakers intervened in 2010 and blocked the board from issuing a decision on a new permit.

A federal judge has ruled the Legislature overstepped its bounds and has put the matter back in front of the board. The board issued an order late Thursday saying that rather than pick up where it left off it would start anew.
Vt lawmaker travels to see New Mexico waste site, WCAX
A Vermont lawmaker travels to New Mexico this coming week for a look at a radioactive waste disposal site.

Rep. Sarah Edwards, a Brattleboro Progressive and member of the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee, is set to travel Monday to the Waste Isolation Pilot Project near Carlsbad, N.M.

Edwards says she wants to learn all she can about radioactive waste because some is being stored at the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant in Vernon, which is near her district.

The trip is being organized by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Edwards says she's been told local officials in New Mexico have welcomed the waste site, where the material is buried deep underground in salt deposits.
Vermont House supports Working Lands bill, vermontbiz.com
The Vermont House of Representatives gave initial approval for the Working Lands Enterprise Investment bill (H.496) on Thursday afternoon with a 131-5 vote. The bill includes a little more than a $2 million appropriation for a new fund to be directed toward economic development investment in agricultural and forest products enterprises. The bill will be considered for final passage in the House on Friday, and then will move on to the Senate for consideration.

The bill had overwhelming non-partisan support, with an 11-0 vote in the Agriculture Committee, and several members speaking for the bill on the floor. Rep. Duncan Kilmartin (R-Newport) said he thought the bill was “one of the best bills I’ve seen” during his years as a House Representative.
Rising dairy feed prices trigger 1st MILC payments to dairy farmers since 2010, vermontbiz.com
USDA Thursday announced the first payments to farmers since April 2010 under the basic dairy safety net program, the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) Program. The new payments are triggered mostly by rising feed prices. The MILC Program kicks in when milk prices fall substantially below the costs of production. US Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency Administrator Bruce Nelson announced the February payment rate for the MILC program is $0.3895043 per hundredweight.

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) says the cost pressures facing farmers spotlight the need for effective reforms in dairy programs in the upcoming 2012 Farm Bill. Leahy is the most senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, which has begun the process of putting the Farm Bill together. Leahy, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) are working together on dairy components of the Farm Bill and also have proposed a short-term extension of the MILC Program to bridge dairy farmers’ needs before a new Farm Bill is in place.