Thursday, September 12, 2013

Vermont Environmental and Land Use Law Blog, September 12, 2013


Health officials to monitor Vt. Yankee closing, WCAX
The state's health department says it will be watching as Vermont Yankee shuts down starting next year.

The Vermont Department of Health will continue to monitor the environment around the plant and keep an eye out for possible radiation leaks. But in general, they say a shutdown plant only gets safer as the years pass and the radioactive material decays.

"With the shutdown there's no pressure inside, there's no boiling water inside, there's a lot less chance of a release of significance," said Dr. Bill Irwin, the chief of radiological and toxicological sciences for the Vt. Department of Health.

The plant doesn't have enough storage right now to hold all of its spent nuclear fuel casks, so Entergy will have to build new space.The Health Department says it will continue to get reports on those casks and keep an eye on their safety.

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Pipeline project ignites debate, Burlington Free Press
The proposed pipeline, which needs approval from the state Public Service Board, has set off a debate in Vermont. Should Vermont embrace natural gas as a cheaper, cleaner, closer-to-home source of energy? Or does this source of energy come with hidden costs?

Up and down the proposed route, towns and property owners are weighing those issues. Even as some fight for access to the gas, they harbor questions about its impact and push for modifications in the route.

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Vt. to clean up property contaminated with cancer-causing chemical, WCAX
State experts say a Rutland eyesore is an environmental emergency. Tetrachloroethylene-- a dry cleaning solvent also known as perc-- is buried underneath and plunging toward the water-table.

"Our concern is most specifically related to migration of groundwater contaminated with perc," said George Desch, of the Department of Environmental Conservation.

The tab for cleanup should fall on the building's owner, John Ruggiero, who paid $10 for the property in a 2002 tax sale. But he's $170,000 behind on his taxes as of June 30, and says he can't afford it. So, the state is spending $1.2 million to clean it up.

"A lot of times we find it in groundwater but it's not affecting anybody. This one we're hoping to get out ahead of it before it actually gets to the residential area," Desch said.

The state installed wells to monitor the spread of the cancer-causing chemical and found it's spreading to a residential neighborhood.

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Windham County gets ag energy-related grants, WCAX
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is awarding more than $123,000 in alternative energy grants to projects in Vermont's Windham County that convert methane gas into energy and use solar panels to help a dairy farm.

The bulk of the money, $109,000, goes to the Goodell family at Westminster Energy to convert methane gas released from manure from 1,200 cows into power. Westminster produces enough energy to power about 250 homes daily.

The rest of the funds from the USDA Rural Energy for America Program go to Big Picture Farm in Townshend, which produces gourmet caramels from goat milk.

The Brattleboro Reformer reports farm co-owner Lucas Conrad says the grant will help pay for a solar array to provide over half of the farm's dairy and confectionary energy needs.


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Canadian Documents Suggest Shift on Pipeline, NY Times
Ever since President Obama said in June that a litmus test for the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada was whether it would “significantly” worsen global warming, Canadian government officials have insisted it would not.

 They reasoned that because the pipeline would not have any major effect on rate of development of Canada’s oil sands, as a State Department environmental review concluded in March, it would not significantly raise the amount of carbon emitted.

But documents obtained by a Canadian environmental group suggest that the staff at Natural Resources Canada viewed Keystone XL as an important tool for expanding oil sands production. The documents were released to the Pembina Institute, a group based in Calgary, Alberta, after a request made under Canada’s Access to Information Act.

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Next forest project eyed in southern Vt. towns, WCAX
The Green Mountain National Forest is expected to focus its next forest management project in southern Bennington County.

Melissa Reichert, project team leader for the Green Mountain National Forest, says public meetings are expected to be held early in October in Pownal, Stamford and Readsboro.

The meetings allow the public to offer suggestions or comments and concerns on actions proposed by forest staff members. Forest officials say a scoping report will be released to the public, after the input from the public meetings and other investigations, giving people a chance to make written comments and suggestions.

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House members take up bipartisan effort to support renewable energy, Into the Wind blog
House Republicans and Democrats joined together last week to co-sign a letter to the House Committee on Ways and Means recommending that renewable energy development receive continued support in any forthcoming comprehensive tax reform debate. The effort was led by Representatives Paul Ruiz (D-CA), Jon Runyan (R-NJ), and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), and was signed by 60 Representatives.

In a statement released with the letter, Rep. Ruiz commented, “Renewable energy is a critical area of economic growth … We have to work together to advocate for renewable energy jobs, domestic manufacturing and American energy independence.”

The bipartisan letter noted, “While investment in a number of countries has increased in recent years, the United States saw a 34% decrease in renewable energy investment last year due to policy uncertainty. Maintaining policies in the tax code that promote investment in and deployment of renewable energy technologies will help ensure that the American consumer continues to benefit from renewable energy innovations while also reaping the benefits of a diverse energy economy.”

The wind industry has long advocated for the kind of policy certainty that has been enjoyed by other domestically produced energy sources. While the American wind industry has recently grown at a record pace – an average of 30 percent annually over the last five years—almost no new wind farms were built in the first half of 2013 because of Congress’s delay in extending the federal wind energy production tax credit (PTC). This abrupt slowdown vividly demonstrates the importance of consistent long-term policy.

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Biomass Energy Resources: Vermont’s Sustainable Energy Model, My alternative energy
Biomass energy resources and case studies are growing vastly across the planet. Most of the projects are locally based, and prove that local communities can find new and innovative methods of creating a sustainable future for themselves.

Rather its America or Europe, these biomass case studies are a shining example of humanities ability to adapt and evolve when faced with economic and environmental hardship.

One of the best examples to use (among many that are covered in other articles), is the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative, which is a part of the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund.  They provide technical support, research, and funding to help promote job growth in the biomass energy job sector. Their primary focus is on converting algae to biofuel, grass energy for heating, and oil seed crops for biodiesel and livestock feed.


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photo by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission