Environment

AP/Toby Talbot

Solar energy projects are blossoming across Vermont, spurred by a state law that allows customers to zero out their electric bill by sending power back to the grid.

But there’s some concern that the solar boom has a downside as it shifts some of a utility’s costs to other customers.

Vermont law allows “net metering.” That means a utility must credit a customer at least 20 cents for every kilowatt hour of renewable electricity they produce.

Gov. Peter Shumlin says he's disappointed that the operator of the region's electric grid decided to scale back renewable energy production during peak energy demand caused by the recent heat wave.

In a letter to the president and CEO of ISO New England, Shumlin criticizes the grid operator's decision to increase output from coal and oil power plants while scaling back renewable energy production. He says the decision runs counter to the state of Vermont's policies, which are aimed at increasing production of clean, local, renewable energy, such as wind power.

AP/Toby Talbot

Last week, when electricity demand hit a near all time high in New England, the operator of the regional electric grid ordered the Lowell, Vt. wind project to cut its power output. 

The move baffles the utility and wind developers. They question why a renewable energy project was scaled back when polluting power plants everywhere in the region were told to run full blast.

As the heat wave peaked last Friday, electricity demand in New England soared to almost 28,000 megawatts as people cranked up their air conditioners and fans to keep cool.

Nancy Carey

Wed 7/24/13 Noon & 7PM When you find bird with a broken wing outside your living room window, who do you call? There are 16 people in this state licensed to rehabilitate wild animals. They take in animals of all kinds (except ungulates) and follow strict protocols to get them back into the wild safely.

We'll talk to Kim Royar from the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and wildlife rehabilitators Nancy Carey and Craig Newman.

AP/Toby Talbot

After years of pressure by environmentalists, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved a plan that gets Vermont into compliance with the Clean Water Act.

The EPA says one issue remains unresolved. The agency says towns will have to pay to upgrade sewage plants even if state funds are not available.

briantf / Flickr

Mon 7/22/13 Noon & 7PM Gardeners are normally excited to get some rain and heat.  This summer has been a little different.  Horticulturist Charlie Nardozzi joins us to offer some advice on how to deal with this weather. We'll also address summer pests and planting for the fall. Send your gardening questions to vermontedition@vpr.net or leave your comments below.

With hot and humid weather expected to continue for another day or so, ISO New England has asked consumers to voluntarily conserve power during peak hours, especially the afternoon and early evening.

But the current heat wave has not put the strain on New England’s power grid as deeply as in past years.

Dorothy Schnure of Green Mountain Power says that past heat waves set new peaks of usage, and occasionally caused some generating units to go down.

About 25 people are walking the route of an oil pipeline in the Northeast Kingdom to raise awareness about potential plans to ship tar sands oil across the region.

The pipeline crosses 10 towns in northern Vermont. A pipeline executive said last winter the company is looking for new business, including using the line to ship tar sands oil east from Canada to Portland, Maine.

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.

sectionhiker.com / Flickr

Thurs 07/11/13 Noon and 7PM  It’s late at night and you’re desperate to get to sleep, but there’s one solitary mosquito whining around your room. Mosquitoes are more than just an annoyance, though. They can carry deadly diseases, and it seems like there’s more of them every year.

We'll talk with state entomologist Alan Graham and infectious disease epidemiologist Erica Berl to learn more about mosquitoes, the diseases they carry, and how to get rid of them.

Photo courtesy Lake Champlain Basin Program

The last two months of heavy rains have pushed Lake Champlain to near flood stage, and aggravated the lake’s pollution problems.

The high water and increased pollution comes as federal and state officials are preparing a clean up plan for the lake.

The plan will likely include everything from new limits on sewage treatment plants to increased controls on storm water.

As if persistent rains haven't done enough to thwart outdoor recreation this year, state health officials say heavy runoff in recent weeks could turn rivers, ponds and lakes into breeding grounds for algae blooms and disease-causing pathogens.

Some of the wettest months on record have ensured an oversupply of nutrients in Lake Champlain and elsewhere, heightening the risk of blue-green algae blooms that sometimes contain toxins. Experts say the high waters of late could also translate into increased levels of E. coli, which can signal the presence of other unhealthy bacteria.

Hinesburg Joins Lawsuit Over Well Contamination

Jul 8, 2013

A drinking water well used by the town of Hinesburg is contaminated with low levels of the gasoline additive, MTBE.

Although the levels are below the threshold considered dangerous for drinking, town officials are eager to clean up the pollution problem. 

Hinesburg now plans to join a lawsuit against major oil companies to recover costs for the clean-up.

Methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) was added to gasoline to boost octane performance and to make the fuel burn cleaner.

theclyde / Flickr

Mon July 8, 7pm and 12Noon We’ve probably all had that frustrating moment trying to set up the tent in the near dark. We’ll learn some tips and tricks to avoid camping disasters. What's your worst camping horror story? Email vermontedition@vpr.net or post your stories below.

We'll talk to Frank Spaulding and Sarah Clark, stars of the camping how-to videos on the State Parks Website.

AP/Toby Talbot

Biologists say moose herds across parts of northern New England are facing a new challenge with ticks because of recent warmer winters.

They believe the milder weather has helped increase the populations of a tick species that can cover large moose with an estimated 150,000 ticks, about half of which can grow to the size of a grape.

Vermont moose biologist Cedric Alexander says the ticks could be contributing to a decline in the reproduction rates and general health of the state's moose population, estimated now at about 3,000 animals.

The wet weather of May and June hasn’t exactly been conducive to outdoor activities – including camping. 

The weather has been taking its toll on business at Vermont State Parks.

Montpelier set a new record for wettest June and most of the state feels like it could be wrung out.

rick020200 / Flickr

Wed 07/03/13 7pm & 12noon If you love thunderstorms, then you've probably loved this summer so far. We'll check in on how all this wet weather is affecting the state. Tell us how it's affecting you: vermontedition@vpr.net.

We'll talk with Bob Paquin, from the USDA Farm Service Agency; Brian Searles , Secretary of the Agency of Transportation; and Jen Butson, from the Department of Tourism and Marketing.

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.

PSB Reviews Yankee's Impact On Connecticut River

Jun 26, 2013

State utility regulators heard conflicting evidence this week about Vermont Yankee’s impact on the Connecticut River.

The three-person Public Service Board is reviewing Entergy Vermont Yankee’s request to operate until 2032.

A key issue is Yankee’s impact on the environment and whether hot water released by the nuclear plant harms fish and other river life.

AP/Toby Talbot

Heavy rain is expected in Vermont through Tuesday, and officials are preparing for the possibility of flooding.

Vermont Emergency Management is working with municipalities, emergency responders, and the National Guard to prepare for any problems that could occur during periods of heavy rainfall.

Officials fear that saturated soils and rivers may not be able to absorb the continuing rain. The National Weather Service says no flooding is ‘imminent’.

Lake Champlain is also nearing flood stage, and will likely continue to rise when the rains end.

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