Category Archives: Environment

Berlin Pond issue draws heavy turnout

BERLIN – There were short lines and some waiting in the first few hours of voting in Berlin today where the fate of a non-binding referendum involving Berlin Pond was credited for a surge in early voting this year. “There were some people who voted absentee that I have never seen vote in a presidential election before,” Town Clerk Rosemary Morse said, suggesting the heightened interest could be traced the months-long debate over recreational use of a pond that serves as the drinking water supply for all of Montpelier and a portion of Berlin. According to Morse, roughly 375 local residents voted absentee – up roughly 175 from the 2008 election – and while lines were manageable today, the parking lot outside the municipal office building was packed in the early going as a steady stream of voters turned out to cast ballots. Continue reading

Town to decide on allowing ATVs on public roads

BARNET — A Vermont town is debating whether to continue to let ATVs use some town roads.
On Nov. 14, voters in Barnet will weigh in on whether to stick with an ordinance approved in 2010 that allowed All-Terrain Vehicles on some town roads. The election is not binding, but will be an advisory vote to the town selectboard.
Vermont Public Radio reports ( a petition circulated by Eric Brinkerhoff, who lives on one of the roads that ATVs may now use. He said he’s been seeing more and more of them and doesn’t like the noise and dust. He said he worries about collisions with cars and trucks. Vt.

Supreme Court rejects Lowell wind power appeals

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Supreme Court on Friday rejected a series of appeals filed by opponents of a wind-power project under construction on Lowell Mountain.
In its decision, the court rejected a series of claims by the towns of Albany and Craftsbury and a citizens group called the Lowell Mountain Group that the utility-regulating Vermont Public Service Board ignored evidence that the 21-turbine project would generate noise levels that could be harmful to neighbors and that it would despoil what was once a pristine area.
“Generally speaking, the board found that the project, consistent with the expressed intent of the Legislature, would help meet the region’s need for renewable energy, provide an economic benefit to the state in the form of jobs and tax revenues, and provide (Green Mountain Power) and (the Vermont Electric Cooperative) with a long-term source of stably priced power,” said the decision, written by Chief Justice Paul Reiber.
“The board explained that it had approved the project based on these economic benefits and because the addition of a renewable source of power in the region was consistent with the state’s legislated policy goals,” the decision said.
Construction on the project began a year after the board issued the final permit for the project, which is owned by Vermont’s largest and dominant electric utility, Green Mountain Power. The project is expected to be generating electricity soon.
Opponents argued the project despoils a natural area and creates human health risks.
But the Supreme Court rejected those claims. The decision said conditions imposed by the board are adequate to protect the public.

Company files suit over dam taxes

ST. JOHNSBURY — The owner of two dams on the Connecticut River is suing the town of Barnet, Vt., saying its tax appraisals of the structures are too high.
TransCanada Hydro Northeast is taking aim at the tax appraisals assigned to the Comerford and McIndoe Falls dams, which have seen their valuations go from a combined $33.7 million before a recent reappraisal to a combined $47.4 million now.
TransCanada spokesman Grady Semmens says the company is working to reach a settlement with the town and the state of Vermont. But it also has filed suit in Vermont Superior Court for Caledonia County.
Town officials are hoping for the state’s help in paying legal bills. The state hired and paid for an appraiser in 2010 to assign new values to the dams.
TransCanada has also filed an appeal against a tax assessment on a hydro power dam it owns near Bellows Falls.

Vt. to help communities with stormwater runoff

SOUTH BURLINGTON — Vermont’s Agency of Natural Resources is helping cities and towns control stormwater runoff.
Environmental Conservation Commissioner David Mears says the state will invest federal money to help communities.
He said in Northfield, for example, officials are considering a proposed biomass plant and a plan to treat resulting wastewater. In Isle La Motte, officials are seeking money for engineering services that might improve stormwater runoff.
Mears told Vermont Public Radio the U.S. Forest Service has given Vermont a $250,000 grant to provide technical assistance to towns to help with prevention, rather than cleanup.
Mears said one simple example in a Montpelier parking lot is swales planted with trees, flowers and shrubs, which absorb and filter runoff.

Electric dept. gets $1M grant for efficiency work

BURLINGTON — A $1 million grant will help the Burlington Electric Department provide financing to customers for energy efficiency projects.
The grant will provide “on-bill financing,” a utility-run program that offers upfront funds to customers to make improvements that save energy and lower bills. The savings on customers’ energy bills then are used to make installment payments on the projects.
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger and Public Service Commissioner Elizabeth Miller were providing details on the grant at a news conference Monday morning in Burlington.

VPR: Redeveloping brownfields presents challenges & opportunity

From Steve Zind and Vermont Public Radio:

There are an estimated four thousand sites in Vermont that are considered ‘brownfields’.

They range from old gas stations to closed down mills and factories.

Developing these properties is complicated by concerns about contaminants in the air, soil or water.

At a meeting last week sponsored by the Vermont Environmental Consortium, there was a lot of talk about how developing brownfield sites is a team sport…

Read the rest of the story, and listen to the audio clip at by clicking here.

1,800 volunteers to swarm Connecticut River for cleanup

MONTPELIER — More than 1,800 registered volunteers are expected to head out on foot and by boat next weekend to pick up trash and debris along the Connecticut River and its tributaries in Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut.
The annual Source to Sea Cleanup takes place on Saturday.
About 65 groups have already signed up.
Organizers say many businesses are forming employee cleanup groups, and some groups are joining the effort for the first time this year, like Middlesex Community College and a team from Whole Foods Market stores in Connecticut.
Last year volunteers pulled more than 51 tons of trash from about 60 miles of riverbanks and waterways.

UVM staffers vote for union representation

BURLINGTON — Hundreds of University of Vermont employees have voted in favor of union representation but haven’t given a clear majority to either union on the ballot.
Technicians, research and library support staffers and other workers cast ballots on Tuesday and Wednesday on whether they wanted to organize and, if so, whether they wanted to join a union affiliated with the Vermont NEA teachers’ union or a group based at UVM called United Staff. The votes were counted on Wednesday night. Continue reading

Car dealers to observe ‘Plug In Weekend’

BURLINGTON — Car dealerships around Vermont are partnering with the group Drive Electric Vermont to celebrate National Plug In Day by encouraging Vermonters to learn more about the electric vehicles.
As part of the effort, Gov. Peter Shumlin has declared September 22 and 23 Vermont Plug In Weekend.
Showrooms around the state are planning to let the public learn about and test drive plug-in electric vehicles that are currently available for purchase.
Officials say electric vehicles are already registered in more than 50 Vermont communities.
Participating dealers include 802 Toyota in Berlin; Alderman’s Chevrolet in Rutland; Burlington Mitsubishi, Heritage Toyota and Freedom Nissan in South Burlington; Hand Chevrolet in Manchester; McMahon Chevrolet in Morrisville and White River Toyota in White River Junction.