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The Vermont Land Trust has withdrawn support from legislation it was backing that would allow conservation easements to be altered or lifted after a legal review.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

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.

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