John Dillon

Senior Reporter, New England News Collaborative

A veteran Vermont reporter, John joined VPR in 2001. Previously, John was a staff writer for the Sunday Times Argus and the Sunday Rutland Herald, responsible for breaking stories and in-depth features on local issues. He has also served as Communications Director for the Vermont Health Care Authority and Bureau Chief for UPI in Montpelier. John was honored with two regional Edward R. Murrow Awards in 2007 for his reporting on VPR. He was the lead reporter for a VPR series on climate change that in 2008 won a national Edward R. Murrow award for continuing coverage. In 2009, John's coverage of an asbestos mine in northern Vermont was recognized with a regional investigative reporting award from the Radio-Television News Directors Association.

 

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Lawyers for Gov. Peter Shumlin and his neighbor have worked out an agreement to unwind a controversial land deal that threatened to become a political liability.

The neighbor will get his land back while Shumlin will be repaid about $30,000.

The land deal drew attention earlier this summer when Jeremy Dodge and his family complained that the governor took advantage of him.

AP/Toby Talbot

State utility regulators are considering sanctions against Green Mountain Power for violating sound limits at its Lowell wind project last winter.

GMP says the problem was caused by snow build-up on the turbine blades. It says the violations were extremely limited and that monitoring now shows that it’s in full compliance.

Don Nelson and his wife Shirley live just below the Lowell ridgeline. He doesn’t have sound monitoring equipment at his farmhouse, but he describes a thunderous noise from the turbines one weekend in early November last year.

AP/Toby Talbot

A Mexican farmworker who became a leading advocate for undocumented migrant workers in Vermont has been granted a year-long stay from deportation.

Danilo Lopez won support from Vermont politicians who urged federal officials to let him remain in the country.

Two years ago, Lopez became the face of Vermont farmworkers who often live in the shadows when a car he was riding in two years ago was pulled over for speeding by state police.

VPR/Annie Russelll

IBM still has not disclosed the exact number of employees it has laid off from its Essex manufacturing plant.

The company told the workers a month ago that their jobs were being eliminated. And the state expected to know by now the exact number who were let go.

The lack of detailed information frustrates some of the former IBM workers who attended a job fair on Monday.

The job fair drew about 80 Vermont companies and several hundred job-seekers who were recently separated from IBM.

With the use of drones increasing by law enforcement and private industry, Congressman Peter Welch wants the public’s privacy protected as the unmanned machines take to the sky.

Welch, D-Vt., has introduced legislation that says the Federal Aviation Administration must require operators to disclose where the drone will be flown and what kind of data will be collected.

Welch says the FAA estimates that 30,000 drones will operating in the country over the next 20 years.

John Dillon- VPR

Parts of Lorenzo Whitcomb’s corn fields in Williston look like rice paddies. Muddy water has swamped the spindly stalks.

Whitcomb said the worst case scenario is that he’ll lose 25 percent of the crop he uses to feed his dairy cows.

“We grow about 300 acres of corn, probably 50 acres were directly affected by high water, flooding, the rain,” he said. “Of that 50 acres, probably about 10 acres are dead. They won’t produce anything at all.”

The Vermont Labor Relations Board has rejected an attempt by 63 state employees to get double time pay for their work in the weeks following Tropical Storm Irene.

The board turned aside the union’s main legal argument. And the board also said it would have been better if the employees union and the Shumlin Administration had resolved the matter informally, without a legal case being filed.

VPR/John Dillon

It’s an hour or so after dawn in the Sterling Forest -- 1,500 acres of mixed northern hardwoods that belongs to the town of Stowe.

The lush woods are crisscrossed with hiking, skiing and mountain bike trails. The forest is also actively managed for timber production. But the morning chorus indicates there’s another beneficiary of this hilly timber lot: songbirds.

VPR/John Dillon

The Public Service Board is faced with conflicting studies on the greenhouse gas impacts of a proposed Addison County natural gas pipeline.

A study filed last month by an environmental group says the pipeline would increase global warming emissions. But Vermont Gas Systems has now produced its own research, showing a net reduction in greenhouse gases.

Vermont Gas spokesman Steve Wark says the utility’s consultant found that greenhouse gas emissions will drop if consumers convert from burning fuel oil to natural gas provided by the proposed 42 mile pipeline.

Sen. Patrick Leahy says Congress needs to closely scrutinize government surveillance programs.

Leahy has introduced legislation to allow for more congressional oversight.

It’s been a productive few months for the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Leahy chairs, capped by the Senate’s vote this week on comprehensive immigration reform.

AP/Toby Talbot

One year after a Thetford man died from a state police stun gun, advocates renewed their call for more law enforcement oversight and training in the use of the weapons.

Standing before a picture of Macadam Mason, legislators and others representing people with disabilities said they hoped the lasting legacy of his death would be reforms in police use of electronic stun guns such as Tasers.

State and local officials are bracing for flooding in northern Vermont over the next few days as more thunderstorms are expected to dump heavy rain on already saturated ground.

Scott Whittier is the warning coordinator for the National Weather Service in Burlington. He said scattered rain is expected this afternoon, but officials are more worried about tonight and Friday.

AP/Toby Talbot

Opponents of basing the F-35 fighter jet at the Burlington airport cranked up the volume Tuesday in Montpelier and Burlington to give the public an audio preview of what they say the planes would sound like.

Chris Hurd is a member of the Stop the F-35 coalition. He apologized in advance to shattering the calm of a Montpelier street at lunch time.

VPR/John Dillon

Opponents of a proposed Addison County natural gas pipeline brought their concerns to Montpelier on Monday with a street protest that targeted the Shumlin Administration’s support for the project.

The group says the administration has downplayed the pipeline’s impact on climate change.

AP/Jason R. Henske

The Public Service Board has cleared the way for critics of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant to examine the plant’s impact on water quality.

The ruling was a reversal for Entergy Vermont Yankee, which tried to keep water pollution issues out of the ongoing hearings over the nuclear plant’s future.

The PSB this week rejected Entergy’s argument.

The board said it was allowed to independently examine water impacts, even though Yankee must also get a separate permit from the state Agency of Natural Resources.

AP

Gov. Peter Shumlin has asked for a detailed federal environmental review if an oil pipeline than runs through the Northeast Kingdom is reversed to carry tar sands crude.

The governor has written to Secretary of State John Kerry about the issue, since the State Department has jurisdiction over a project that crosses the U.S.-Canada border.

Shumlin’s letter to Kerry asks for a presidential permit for the pipeline and an impact statement to assess the environmental costs of reversing the pipeline.

State agencies are investigating whether a pesticide sprayed for mosquito control caused a fish kill in an Addison County lake earlier this month.

The fish die-off was seen in Fern Lake a few days after trucks applied a chemical in the area to kill adult mosquitoes.

Leicester resident Zachary Saxe has lived near Fern Lake for a decade. He often fishes and swims there, and the first weekend in June his swim was interrupted by the sight and smell of dozens of dead fish. Saxe, who once worked as a wildlife technician, went out to collect samples in plastic bags.

AP/Toby Talbot /

Critics of a proposed Addison County natural gas pipeline say the developer has exaggerated the project’s environmental and economic benefits.

The latest arguments come in testimony filed with the Public Service Board.

Vermont Gas Systems says its proposed 41-mile Addison pipeline project will bring cheaper, cleaner-burning fuel for homes and businesses along the route.

The testimony filed by opponents late last week aims directly at those arguments.

How much is a little brown bat worth? According to Green Mountain Power’s calculation, about $1 million a year.

The utility has asked for a state permit to kill four of the endangered creatures a year at its 21-turbine Lowell wind project. GMP says if it has to follow all the protections needed to spare every bat from getting thrashed by the turbine blades, it would cost the utility $4 million a year in reduced power output.

The town of Monkton has signed an agreement with Vermont Gas Systems that sets out the conditions the company must follow if it’s allowed to build a natural gas pipeline through the community.

Vermont Gas wants to extend its line 41 miles south to Addison County. Some residents in Monkton oppose the project. The town selectboard last week voted to reject a legal agreement – called a memorandum of understanding – between the town and the company.

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