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.

 

Ways to Connect

State utility regulators have approved a 43-mile natural gas pipeline to serve Addison County.

The Vermont Public Service Board  said on Monday the Vermont Gas Systems project will benefit the state economy and Vermont ratepayers.

Vermont Gas spokesman Steve Wark said the company was pleased by the ruling.

“It will save that region $200 million in energy costs over a 20 year period, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by almost 300,000 tons and also help just the average residential consumer cut their bills in half,” Wark said.

The state of Vermont and the owners of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant have signed a legal agreement that officials say will assure that the plant is decommissioned as promptly as possible.

Entergy has also agreed to provide money for economic development and restoration of the Windham County plant site.

The deal ends years of litigation between the state and Entergy Vermont Yankee

The deal allows Entergy to keep operating through the end of 2014, when the company plans to shut down the 42-year-old nuclear plant.

Vermont's largest electric utility says its customers won't see any increase in their base rate for power for at least two years.

In a filing on Friday with state regulators, Green Mountain Power said efficiencies from its merger with Central Vermont Public Service and a continued focus on cost controls means the company can keep base rate flats for the foreseeable future.

Federal regulators are being asked to resolve a regional rift over who should pay for new power lines needed to carry renewable electricity to southern New England.

Vermont has joined New Hampshire and Rhode Island to oppose the cost-sharing formula being promoted by Massachusetts, Connecticut and Maine.

Vermont Gas Systems plans to offer its energy efficiency program to all consumers in its service territory even if they don’t use natural gas for fuel.

The utility announced the expansion on Tuesday at an event in Addison County. Sen. Chris Bray, D-Addison, said he came up with the idea this summer in response to the gas company’s proposal to extend its pipeline through Addison County and eventually to Rutland.

AP/ Toby Talbot

A rift has developed among New England states over who should pay for transmission lines needed to carry electricity from renewable energy projects.

The issue is whether ratepayers across the region should foot the bill for power lines needed for southern New England. The debate has pitted Vermont against some of the more populated states to our south.

Southern New England – in particular Massachusetts and Connecticut – needs more renewable generation to meet their clean-energy mandates.

Vermont Republicans chose to follow a moderate path with the election Saturday of former Rutland Town representative David Sunderland as party chairman.

Sunderland defeated John MacGovern of Windsor 48 to 30 in an election that revealed deep divisions within the Vermont GOP over its future.

MacGovern, who ran against Sen. Bernie Sanders in 2012,  had the support of party conservatives, including outgoing chairman Jack Lindley. Sunderland was backed by many Republican members of the Legislature and Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, who holds the party’s top elected office.

The Brattleboro Retreat says it’s received official word that it cleared a recent federal inspection.

The psychiatric hospital was in danger of losing federal funding if deficiencies identified in earlier inspections weren’t corrected by November 15.

A retreat spokesman said on Thursday that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has informed the hospital that it is in compliance with federal regulations.

The three-day inspection wrapped up Wednesday.

An electric transmission company wants to build a 150-mile power line from the Canadian border to the southern Vermont town of Ludlow. The developer says it will bury the line under Lake Champlain and along the land route.

Donald Jessome is president and CEO of TDI New England. He said the power line will carry 1,000 megawatts of Canadian hydropower to markets in New England.

“We’re doing this through a technology called high voltage direct current and that’s important because it allows us to bury the project 100 percent,” he said.

Vermont lawmakers are struggling with how best to give local communities a voice when big energy projects are planned for their towns.

The main question is how best to balance local concerns with the needs of the state as a whole for renewable energy

John Dillon- VPR

Renewable energy businesses are calling on Vermont to meet 20 percent of its energy needs in six years from sustainable energy sources.

The goals include more solar and wind systems, plus a carbon tax to fund new investments in efficiency programs.

Vermont now meets about 11 percent of its energy demand through renewable generation.

Renewable Energy Vermont, the trade association for wind, solar, biomass and other renewable developers, says it’s past time to up that percentage.

AP/ Toby Talbot

A panel that advises state government on nuclear issues wants the Vermont Yankee plant dismantled promptly after it shuts down next year.

Vermont Yankee is allowed to take up to 60 years to decommission the plant and restore the site for other uses.

The Vermont State Nuclear Advisory Panel doesn’t want Entergy to wait that long. But at a meeting on Wednesday, the panel stopped short of calling for new state permit conditions that would impose a decommissioning timetable.

VPR/Jane Lindholm

Vermonters know the first part of this story: Tropical Storm Irene slammed into Vermont and flooded the Vermont State Hospital in Waterbury. Patients were moved to other facilities and the state had to take action on a long-debated idea – a new mental health care hospital.

Now, more than two years later, construction is underway, but there is a big question: Will it work? State Of Mind is a series of special reports exploring the pressure points in our state mental health care system.

Georgia Mountain Community Wind

The owner of a northwest Vermont wind project says the operator of the New England electric grid ordered the turbines off line Sunday night despite strong winds blowing across the Green Mountains.

David Blittersdorf of Georgia Mountain Community Wind is frustrated with ISO New England, which runs the regional transmission grid.

The University of Vermont and Vermont Law School are considering a joint program that would allow students to get both an undergraduate and a law degree in five years.

School officials said the joint program is one of several initiatives being explored to take advantage of the symmetries between the two institutions.

UVM spokesman Enrique Corredera said a major goal is to cut the time and cost of obtaining a post-graduate degree.

An anti-nuclear group is calling for a slow, deliberative decommissioning of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant.

Vermont Citizens Action Network says it opposes the 60-year decommissioning time frame that Entergy Vermont Yankee wants to follow.

But the group says it may take 20 years or so to safely dismantle the plant.

Entergy Vermont Yankee plans to shutdown the plant late next year. The company then has up to six decades to dismantle and decommission the plant under a government-approved process known as “SAFSTOR.”

As the Obama Administration drafts rules to control carbon emissions from power plants, advocates say there is a proven model in the Northeast for the nation to follow.

The focus now is on a market-based system that Vermont helped create called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

VPR/John Dillon

Vermont has seen an increase in the number of suicide attempts in the state’s prison population.

That disclosure from a state official came as a legislative oversight committee focused on prisoner mental health following the suicide death of an inmate last month.

Thirty-eight year old Robert Mossey died after he hanged himself in a mop closet late last month inside the Newport prison.

AP File Photo

The closing of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant at the end of next year will leave the state with an $11 million dollar gap in tax revenues.

But some politicians – including Gov. Peter Shumlin – suggest Yankee should continue to pay the state. They’re talking about a fee or tax on the storage of high level nuclear waste in Vermont.

The revenue shortfall will arise because when Entergy Vermont Yankee stops producing electricity, it also will stop paying the state’s generation tax.

VPR/John Dillon

Former Gov. Madeleine Kunin joined dozens of activists on Thursday in a call for legislation that would require employers to provide paid sick time.

Kunin said allowing people time off with pay when they’re sick is good for families and businesses. 

Pages