Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Vermont Environmental and Land Use Law, May 1, 2012

 Photo by Muffet on Flickr

Vermont Superior Court rules in favor of citizen access in Bennington Act 250 case, vermontbiz.com
The Environmental Division of the Vermont Superior Court today ruled decisively in favor of citizen participation in Act 250 proceedings in a case involving a proposed development in Bennington.

The Vermont Natural Resources Council and a group of Bennington residents who last year had been denied a full seat at the table in the Act 250 process hailed the decision.

“This ruling clarifies that Act 250 is fully open to citizens,” said Brian Shupe, VNRC’s executive director.

Shupe continued: “The ruling in favor of the rights of citizens to fully participate in decision-making in their own communities is precisely in line with the vision of Act 250’s founders, as well as Vermont’s strong tradition of accessible government,” he said. “This is good news.”

Meg Campbell, a representative of the citizens group, said she also was pleased with the decision.

“As a group, we had information and a viewpoint to bring to the table. Being denied party status in the case effectively shut us out and, as a result, the review of the project was compromised."

VNRC represented a group of Bennington residents who were concerned about the impacts of a proposed expansion of a Wal-Mart in Bennington.  Their concerns included impacts on water quality, potential harm to the economic viability of downtown businesses, and traffic congestion.
Vermont Agency of Natural Resources resumes state stream alteration permit program, vermontbiz.com
The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) announced today the resumption of its normal stream alteration permit procedures.

“During the months following Tropical Storm Irene, the State of Vermont, municipalities, and private landowners were faced with the tremendous challenge of protecting public safety and restoring thousands of stream and river sites where property was damaged or imminently threatened with damage.  In order to provide assistance to such a large population of Vermonters in need of technical help, the normal administrative procedures of the stream alteration permit program were suspended,” said Vermont Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Deb Markowitz. 

“On September 3rd, my office issued a press release explaining that people may work in streams if they consulted with DEC River Engineers and had received verbal authorization.  On October 3rd a second phase of the recovery commenced with an announcement that written authorizations were required to conduct any non-emergency instream work.”

Effective immediately, the Agency will no longer be using these expedited stream alteration procedures and all non-exempt stream alterations in perennial streams will require a State permit.
Deadline to apply for SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans in Vermont due to Tropical Storm Irene is May 22, vermontbiz.com
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 May 22 is the filing deadline for federal economic injury disaster loans available in Bennington and Windham counties in Vermont as a result of excessive rain and high winds associated with Tropical Storm Irene that occurred on August 28-31, 2011.

"These counties are eligible because they are contiguous to one or more primary counties in Massachusetts. The Small Business Administration recognizes that disasters 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.
Vt. produce company teams up with solar business, WCAX
A Vermont produce company is working to install solar panels with the goal of cutting its utility bill in half.

Black River Produce of Springfield sells fruit, vegetables and seafood, and is expanding its meat processing and shipping.

The Eagle Times reports (http://bit.ly/Ksp78q) a Windsor-based company has won a $1.3 million bid to handle the project. It's called Prudent Living.

The 3-year-old company has completed multiple solar projects, including one near Black River Produce. Company Vice President Tim Biebel believes the Black River system would be the largest privately owned solar network in Vermont.
Key Vermont lawmaker: GM food labeling bill dead, Burlington Free Press
The chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the Vermont House says a bill calling for labeling of genetically modified food won't pass this year.

The House Agriculture Committee strongly supported the measure, but then it went to Judiciary, where Chairman William Lippert says there isn't time to act on it before lawmakers adjourn for the year.

Lippert says he's generally supportive of the idea of labeling genetically modified food, but with lawmakers hoping to adjourn next week, it will have to wait until next year.

More than 300 supporters of labeling turned out for a public hearing on the issue earlier this month. Some lawmakers said they were worried the state would face a lawsuit by the biotechnology industry if the bill became law.
$12.5 million generating tax on Vermont Yankee approved by Senate finance committee, vermontbiz.com
by Alan Panebaker vtdigger.org On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Finance approved a miscellaneous tax bill that includes a proposal offered by the Shumlin administration that would reshape the tax Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant pays on the electricity it generates.

The tax would charge $0.0025 per kilowatt hour produced by Vermont Yankee. The tax would raise about $12.5 million annually.

Louisiana-based Entergy, the plant’s owner, pays $5 million currently in the generating tax. The company also pays about $6 million annually into the state Clean Energy Development Fund, which helps pay for renewable energy projects. The funding for the CEDF is required by two agreements with the state. Those agreements expired this year.

Entergy is seeking a new operating license from the Vermont Public Service Board. The Department of Public Service has asked that the board require Entergy to continue making those payments, but Entergy says it will put the money in escrow until it gets assurance that it can continue operating and that the state does not impose a tax to replace those monies.