John Dillon

News Director

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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A large scale wind development planned for a remote part of the Northeast Kingdom is on hold for now.

Eolian Renewable Energy of Portsmouth, N.H, the developer of the Seneca Mountain wind project, has withdrawn its request to connect to the New England electric grid. The company faced expensive upgrades to the regional transmission network before it could distribute its power.

The problems with the regional electric grid were highlighted last summer when some wind projects in Vermont and Maine had to be dialed back because the system couldn’t handle the load.

Entergy Vermont Yankee has begun the process to gain regulatory approval to move spent fuel from a pool inside the reactor building to another area on the property.

Entergy wants to store the highly radioactive waste in steel and concrete casks on the plant grounds. But first it must construct a large, flat concrete pad to accommodate the new waste facility.

The company filed notice this week with the Town of Vernon and the Windham Regional Commission of its plans for the concrete pad. It plans to file a formal request with the state Public Service Board on June 30.

Toby Talbot & Sandy Macys / AP

More flooding, more heat, more air pollution, more damage to aging transportation infrastructure. These are just a few of the bleak predictions about how climate change will affect the Northeast and New England.

Angela Evancie / VPR/file

Developers of high voltage power lines are starting to stake out routes in Vermont to import electricity from Canada to markets in southern New England.

The interest in Vermont as a transmission corridor is unprecedented. State and utility officials are approaching the projects cautiously, but they say they could represent a unique opportunity to win financial benefits for the state with minimum environmental cost.

Jason R. Henske / AP

The Vermont Yankee nuclear plant experienced a small leak of radioactive steam last week. But state and Yankee officials say the leak was contained and the public was not in danger.

Yankee spokesman Rob Williams said the leak was discovered by a worker doing maintenance.

"It was work on a pipe and during that process there was a malfunction of a filter, and that has since been corrected. It was corrected immediately," Williams said. "There was this air sampling monitoring during that the time, and it confirmed that the radioactivity was extremely low."

The emergency room at Fletcher Allen Health Care treated eight heroin overdose cases Tuesday - more than the hospital normally sees in three months.

Dr. Steve Leffler is an emergency room physician and the hospital's chief medical officer. He said the eight cases on Tuesday were all treated with Narcan, which restores breathing in the case of an overdose.

"Our big concern is that whatever is out there is very potent," he said. "Some of them have required multiple doses of Narcan and we're concerned that there could be fatality."

A cold winter and a revenue-sharing agreement with the owners of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant will mean a big windfall for many Vermont electric customers.

When the Entergy Corporation bought the plant in 2002 from Vermont utilities, the company agreed to share revenues from its sales above a certain wholesale electric price.

That price was exceeded this winter as wholesale power costs skyrocketed in New England. And that means Entergy will pay Green Mountain Power as much as $17.8 million.

VPR/John Dillon

Officials with the Shumlin Administration are warning that some road projects scheduled for this summer may have to be scaled back if Congress does not replenish the federal Highway Trust Fund.

The state relies on the trust fund to match state dollars for transportation projects.

Gov. Peter Shumlin is dismissing a legislative consultant’s plan that lawmakers could use as an alternative to the administration’s single-payer health proposal.

The concept memo was drafted for the Legislature by health care economist Ken Thorpe. His plan was conceived as an alternative to single-payer, and would extend health coverage for more Vermonters by relying on state and federal subsidies as well as the existing insurance-based system.

At his weekly news conference, Shumlin said Thorpe’s ideas were based on “a failed model” of health care financing.

State utility regulators have allowed Entergy Vermont Yankee to operate the state’s only nuclear plant through the end of the year.

The Vermont Public Service Board on Friday also approved an agreement between the state and Entergy that requires the company to pay $10 million for economic development in Windham County and to set up a $25 million fund to restore the Vernon site after decommissioning.

The Vermont Land Trust has withdrawn support from legislation it was backing that would allow conservation easements to be altered or lifted after a legal review.

The move Friday followed criticism by others in the conservation community that the bill opened the possibility that a donor’s intent to preserve a particular piece of land would not be fulfilled.

John Dillon / VPR

Conservation easements are legal agreements designed to protect land from development forever. But a bill under consideration in the Statehouse would allow those restrictions to be amended, or lifted entirely.

The bill has sparked a fierce debate among land conservation advocates. Opponents argue the legislation could lead to circumstances in which land that was supposed to be protected "in perpetuity” no longer would be.

VPR News Director, John Dillon talks with Vermont Edition about the big stories from Town Meeting Day around the state.

Flickr/Coldwell Banker Realty

Voters in several of Vermont’s larger communities have rejected school budgets, sending a message to local school boards and perhaps to Montpelier that the proposed tax rates were too high.

The school spending plans went down to defeat in Burlington, Bennington, Rutland and Montpelier. Other communities where budgets were voted down include Colchester, Milton, Westford and Underhill.

A federal inspection of flood prevention measures at the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant has found several deficiencies but none requiring enforcement action.

A team from Nuclear Regulatory Commission arrived at the reactor last July to conduct the on-site audit. The NRC required the inspections after an earthquake and tsunami crippled several reactors in Japan in 2011.

NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said the team did identify some problems with Yankee's record-keeping and flood-assessment calculations. He said the observations were similar to what NRC teams found at other 

Matt Parrilla / VPR

In response to a Feb. 7 story on the connection between gun trafficking and drug trafficking in Vermont, a number of readers have written to VPR to call attention to statistics generated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that show the number of firearms recovered by law enforcement in other states and traced back to Vermont.

VPR/John Dillon

A coalition of lawmakers and anti-poverty advocates wants Gov. Peter Shumlin's administration to increase funding for a program that helps low-income people insulate their homes.

The advocates make a common sense argument: As every Vermonter knows, when you heat your house, you don’t want to heat the outside as well. The advocates say weatherization is an investment that saves people money and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

Angela Evancie / VPR

In a day marked by ceremony and substance, lawmakers returned to Montpelier on Tuesday, greeting each other like old classmates and then getting right to work on the vexing issue of health care.

House Speaker Shap Smith banged his gavel shortly after 10 a.m. to call the House to order for the second half of the biennium. The speaker made a reference to the first day of school as he reminded the 150 House members to be on time.

VPR

VPR continues to update the power outage situation, with the latest information from utilities, the Red Cross and state agencies. 

Updated De. 30, 9:46 a.m.

Heavy, wet snow and rain that froze overnight caused a new round of outages going into Monday morning, with 3027 outages reported on vtoutages.com, a utility-run website that tracks problems across the state.

Updated Dec. 27, 2:30 p.m.

The federal government has determined that about a quarter of the 419 IBM workers laid off last summer lost their jobs due to foreign competition and imports.

The state Department of Labor had petitioned the federal government for the ruling.  The decision entitles the workers to additional federal support for retraining programs.

Rose Lucenti is the department’s workforce development director. She said 115 IBM employees and contractors who worked at the company’s Williston facility now qualify for the retraining assistance.

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