Bruce Edwards / Staff Photo
Opponents of a natural gas pipeline made their views known at a public hearing Tuesday night in Middlebury.
By BRUCE EDWARDS | STAFF WRITER
MIDDLEBURY - Opponents of a proposed natural gas pipeline packed the gym at Middlebury Union Middle School Tuesday night to tell the Public Service Board they want no part of a pipeline that will bring fracked natural gas to Addison County.
One after one opponents came to the podium to denounce in often sharp terms plans by Vermont Gas Systems to extend its pipeline 43 miles from Chittenden County south to Middlebury with the prospect the pipeline could be extended west under Lake Champlain to New York and further south to Rutland.
A common theme that came across from the public comments was that the world was near the tipping point when it came to climate change and global warming. Despite supporters’ claims that natural gas is cleaner burning than fuel oil or coal, opponents were unrelenting in their criticism that emissions from fracked natural gas in particular will only add to the climate change problem.
Fracking is the process that uses water and chemicals under extremely high pressure to disgorge otherwise hard to extract natural gas beneath the earth’s surface.
But those opposed to the pipeline that would bring gas down from Canada said that the fracking process can destroy the land and pollute drinking water. Continue reading
MONTPELIER — Sen. Patrick Leahy says he’ll have some tough questions for President Barack Obama’s nominee to be the next head of the FBI.
The Vermont Democrat chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is reviewing James Comey’s nomination to replace Robert Mueller as the bureau’s director.
Leahy says he’s concerned that while serving as a deputy attorney general in the Bush administration, Comey approved a legal memo that authorized the use of waterboarding and other techniques recognized as torture under domestic and international law.
Leahy says he also wants to find out what Comey sees as the limits of government electronic surveillance programs and to get his thoughts on the government’s collection of journalists’ phone records.
MONTPELIER (AP) — Gov. Peter Shumlin has appointed a former aide to the Vermont Commission on Women.
Ariel Wengroff of Burlington joins six other members of the commission that works to reduce sex discrimination and increase opportunities for women.
Wengroff formerly worked as a constituent correspondent and then special assistant to the governor. She currently is communications and finance director for Congressman Peter Welch. She also blogs for the Huffington Post and is an award winning poet.
As a member of the commission, Wengroff says she hopes to focus on pay equity and ending workplace discrimination.
MONTPELIER — The price of gasoline is about to go up in Vermont.
On Monday, Gov. Peter Shumlin signed the transportation budget, which contains the new tax.
It will take effect Wednesday.
The tax is an increase of 5.9 cents per gallon.
The figure includes a new 2 percent assessment on the price of gas, while the per-gallon tax decreases by just under a penny.
The Burlington Free Press (http://bfpne.ws/12WZ55a) is reporting officials changed the tax from a per-gallon to a percentage amount because declining use of gas has led to a decrease in revenues used to maintain roads and bridges.
The price of diesel fuel is scheduled to increase by 2 cents July 1.
ESSEX JUNCTION — Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin and the state’s top federal judge Christina Reiss will welcome 31 people from 19 countries as U.S. citizens.
Reiss will administer the Oath of Allegiance to those who will become America’s newest citizens Wednesday during a ceremony at Essex High School.
Shumlin and Reiss will then address the new citizens.
The naturalization ceremony is being held at the Essex High School to help raise public awareness about the U.S. citizenship process. It will also allow the employees of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services the opportunity to attend a citizenship ceremony, the final step in the path to citizenship, which often begins with a visa petition processed at the Vermont Service Center.
MONTPELIER — A committee of the Vermont Senate this week is expected to complete work on a revenue bill that, among several other changes, would limit how much a homeowner could deduct for mortgage interest when filing state income taxes.
Finance Committee Chairman Tim Ashe says the committee is looking at a range of possible caps, from $10,000 to $15,000 in how much could be deducted from taxable income.
The Vermont real estate industry is complaining that the change could hurt middle-class homeowners and chill sales of homes. But Ashe says the typical Vermont homeowner pays $7,300 in mortgage interest and so would be under the cap.
Another notable change would remove the sales tax exemption from bottled water.
MONTPELIER — Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell says the state has settled a campaign finance lawsuit against the Republican Governor’s Association and the losing GOP candidate in the 2010 election, Brian Dubie.
The settlement found the RGA and Dubie violated Vermont’s campaign finance laws by exceeding the $6,000 limit on contributions from PACs to candidates.
The RGA is going to pay a civil penalty of $30,000. Dubie will pay a civil penalty of $10,000 and make a contribution of $10,000 to the Vermont Foodbank.
The state’s 2011 complaint determined the Dubie campaign shared confidential polling data with the RGA that led to media expenditures that were not reported as campaign donations.
The attorney general’s office filed suit after receiving a complaint from the Vermont Democratic Party on Oct. 21, 2010.
MONTPELIER — A Vermont House committee is taking testimony on a bill that would require the labeling of foods that contain genetically modified ingredients.
The bill, which excludes dairy products, cleared the House Agriculture Committee last month. The Judiciary Committee is taking testimony on it on Thursday, from legislative counsel and state attorney general’s office.
Even if the bill becomes law, supporters expect it to be challenged in court by the biotech industry, as the state attorney general’s office has warned.
The National Conference of State Legislatures says about 17 other states are considering some sort of GMO labeling legislation.
ROCKINGHAM — The fired municipal manager in Rockingham, says the action is unjustified and he plans to fight it.
The selectboard in Rockingham and the Bellows Falls Village Trustees exercised a no-confidence vote Tuesday night in Timothy Cullenen following his two-year review. They then terminated him.
Selectboard Chairman Thomas MacPhee declined to go into why the town and village boards made their decision.
Cullenen, the former town administrator of Ashland, N.H., was hired by the selectboard and trustees in April 2011.
In November, Cullenen took a leave of absence following comments he made to a Bellows Falls citizen about parking permits during a joint board meeting. Some trustees felt Cullenen was disrespectful.
Sandra Fluke, who was a Time Magazine “Person of the Year 2012″ nominee, will speak at Castleton on April 25 at 7 p.m., the college announced in a press release.
Fluke gained national attention after she testified before a House panel on the need to provide access to contraception, then was ridiculed on air by conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh.
She will survey ‘local, state and federal legislation and legislative trends that have the potential to advance or hinder the progress of social justice,’ according to the college, in a presentation called “Making Our Voices Heard.”
Tickets for this performance are available at the Fine Arts Center Box Office and are free of charge. For more information or to reserve tickets, please call the box office at (802) 468-1119.