Friday, January 10, 2014

Vermont Environmental and Land Use Law Blog, January 10, 2014

Vt. proposing to raise renewable power limit, WCAX
The administration of Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin wants to almost quadruple the amount of electricity that small renewable energy projects can send on to the grid while receiving credit on electric bills for that power.

Currently, net metering is capped at 4 percent at a utility's peak capacity, but most of the state's utilities have reached that limit. The limit means people who want to build small-scale solar, wind, anaerobic digestion of agricultural products, biomass and fuel cells.

Deputy Public Service Commissioner Darren Springer laid out the state's proposal Wednesday to the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee.
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Former Vt. landfill to host solar project, WCAX
A solar array project has been approved for the former landfill in Townshend, Vt. The Vermont Public Service Board has approved an application to build a 149.5-kilowatt solar array at the landfill.
The town applied for the project, which will be funded by private investors and built by Westminster-based Soveren Solar. The Brattleboro Reformer reports ( the project is expected to cost just under $500,000. The town expects a 10 percent savings in electricity.
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'Massive' housing project weighed for Burlington, Burlington Free Press (pay site)
Burlington’s Development Review Board is weighing a proposed 247-unit housing complex that would replace the S.D. Ireland concrete plant — and must decide whether to side with other groups in the city that said the plans are just too big.

S.D. Ireland has proposed to develop 11 apartment buildings and a community center at the Grove Street plant, where the S.D. Ireland website says its concrete company was founded in 1974.

“I think generally it will improve the quality of life in the neighborhood once it’s complete,” said Patrick O’Brien, who is representing the Ireland family during the permitting process. “Better than having an industrial use.”

The board heard S.D. Ireland’s preliminary plat application Tuesday and announced that it would hold a second public hearing on the project before making a decision. Senior planner Scott Gustin said he believed that if completed, the S.D. Ireland project would be the largest non-student housing development in Burlington since the 1990s.
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Vernon Signs Agreement With Vermont Yankee To Stabilize Taxes, VPR
The Vernon Select Board has signed a one year contract with Entergy that will stabilize the town’s tax base through March 2015. The agreement sets the value of the Vermont Yankee plant at $280 million for the entire fiscal year. The current assessment is $300 million.
Officials say the deal is a good one for the town, since the plant will stop selling power halfway through the contract, in December 2014. Vernon Select board chairman Patti O’Donnell says the agreement buys the town some time to plan for life without its biggest taxpayer.

“We’ve met with them twice,” O’Donnell says. “We negotiated a fantastic one-year contract for the town  that really gives us some breathing space. But we all know what the future is.”

Vernon has 2,100 residents and an annual budget of $2 million. The town has a police department, a public pool and many other municipal services. O’Donnell says taxes from Entergy pay for half of it.

“We have had resources for a lot of years that other areas in our area have not had,” O’Donnell says. “So we do have a large budget that needs to be cut.”

The town is planning a public meeting on Jan. 20 to consider where those cuts should be.  O’Donnell says the board will resume talks with Entergy after town meeting to hammer out a five or ten-year tax agreement.
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EPA Awards Almost Half a Million in Funding to Three Universities for Projects to Reduce Pesticide Risk, EPA
IPM relies on easy-to-implement, environmentally-sensitive practices that prevent pests from becoming a threat. These practices involve monitoring and identifying pests and taking preventive action before pesticides are used. If pesticides are needed, methods such as targeted spraying may be used. These grants will expand public-private stewardship efforts and reduce pesticide risk in agriculture.

The Agricultural IPM Grants are awarded to:

The Louisiana State University project to minimize impacts to bees from insecticides used in mosquito control. Mosquito control is critical for public health; however, insecticides can be hazardous to bees. Bees are essential for crop production and ensuring a healthy food supply. Practices and guidelines resulting from the project will be distributed to mosquito control districts and beekeepers throughout the U.S.

The University of Vermont project to reduce pesticide use and improve pest control while increasing crop yields on 75 acres of hops in the Northeast. The awardees will also develop and distribute outreach materials to help farmers adopt these practices. The project’s goal is to reduce herbicide and fungicide applications by 50 percent while decreasing downy mildew, a plant disease.

The Pennsylvania State University project to protect bees and crops by reducing reliance on neonicotinoid pesticide seed treatments and exploring the benefits of growing crops without them. IPM in no-till grain fields will be used to control slugs and other pests that damage corn and soybeans.

Researchers will share their findings with mid-Atlantic growers and agricultural professionals.  Protection of bee populations is among EPA’s top priorities. Some of the factors that contribute to the decline in pollinators include: loss of habitat, parasites and disease, genetics, poor nutrition and pesticide exposure. EPA is engaged in national and international efforts to address these concerns.
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photo by Oregon DOT