Monday, March 4, 2013

Vermont Environmental & Land Use Law, March 4, 2013

Vt. House committee approves GMO food bill, WCAX
The Agriculture Committee in the Vermont House has approved a bill calling for genetically modified foods to be specially labeled.

The bill lays out technical definitions for what constitutes genetic modification, and says food that has been subject to those techniques must bear a label saying so.

The legislation faces an uncertain future, and is expected to go next to the House Judiciary Committee, before being debated by the full House.

Supporters of the House bill say consumers want information about what's in their food. The bill has drawn warnings from the attorney general's office that it's likely to be challenged in a lawsuit brought by industry.

2 Ohio power plants to stop burning coal in deal, WCAX

Eight East Coast states, the federal government and citizens groups from Indiana have reached an agreement with 1 of the country's largest electricity producers to stop burning coal at two Midwest power plans.

American Electric Power agreed late Friday in federal court in Columbus, Ohio, to retire or switch to natural gas two coal-burning units at power plants in Ohio and Indiana by the end of 2015.

As part of the settlement, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maryland, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey will receive a total of $6 million. The Indiana groups will receive $2.5 million. Cheap natural gas and environmental regulations are causing utilities to shut down coal-fired power plants. AEP had previously planned to stop coal at one unit.
Vt. panel debates lakeshore protection bill, WCAX
A proposed state law creating new protections for Vermont's lakeshores is drawing support from environmentalists and criticism from some lakeside property owners and municipal officials.

The bill before the House Fish, Wildlife and Water Resources Committee calls on the Agency of Natural Resources to draft new rules restricting what can be built at the edges of lakes and requiring a buffer of vegetation between the water's edge and built-up structures.

The committee heard Thursday from Karen Horn of the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, who said towns are worried about the state intruding in an area of regulation traditionally left to them. It also heard from people worried about property rights and from environmentalists who said Vermont has fallen behind neighboring states in protecting its lakes.
Vt waste hauler gets permission for composting biz, WCAX
A Vermont waste hauler has won state approval for a commercial composting operation in Bennington.

Trevor Mance, the owner of TAM Waste Management, says he was granted an Act 250 land-use permit last week, his last regulatory hurdle. Mance had hoped to build a compost facility in his home town of Shaftsbury, but the town imposed a moratorium on commercial composting that is still in effect.

Mance tells Vermont Public Radio Bennington officials not only welcomed the facility, but approved its location on ten acres of town-owned land.

He says the compost project is part of a larger effort to reduce the amount of waste his company is hauling to increasingly distant landfills. Mance says it could be a year before the company has compost to sell.
Vermont panel rejects some of Vermont Yankee critic's evidence, Burlington Free Press (pay site)
The Vermont Public Service Board agreed Monday to consider some, but not all, of a prominent nuclear critic's testimony as it weighs whether to give the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant a new state permit.

Plant owner Entergy Corp.'s lawyers objected to testimony from Raymond Shadis of the anti-nuclear group New England Coalition. In the end, the board said it would hear some of the points Shadis wanted to make, but not his testimony on the plant's effects on fish in the Connecticut River.

"In anything I've ever read about your qualifications, being a fish biologist was never one of them," board member John Burke said to Shadis during a series of questions the board used to examine his qualifications.

Shadis got his formal training in fine art, teaching and rehabilitation counseling, but has "engaged in self-directed concentrated studies in commercial nuclear power issues for the last 30 years," according to a resume he filed with the board. The board, however, said it would consider Shadis' testimony on the environmental effects of mist from the plant's cooling towers.
Vt report says Springfield power plan lacks buyers, WCAX
A Vermont official says the proposal to build a 35-megawatt wood-fired power plant in Springfield won't help meet the state's renewable energy goals because none of the state's electric utilities has agreed to buy any of the power it would produce.

The comments were contained in testimony filed with the Public Service Board by Asa Hokkins, the director of energy policy and planning for the Department of Public Service, which advocates for ratepayers before the utility-regulating board.

The Rutland Herald reports that 1 of the developers of the proposal, Dan Ingold, called the comments "a kick in the pants." He says the two companies working on the project are working with utilities to reach agreements.