Environment

Vermont and three other states have asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to conduct a more expansive environmental review of storing highly radioactive waste at nuclear power plants.

The petition follows a federal court ruling last summer that found the NRC’s environmental review of onsite waste storage was inadequate.

The NRC staff has since launched a more limited review process. Attorney General Bill Sorrell says the petition asks the commission to overrule its staff.

Congressman Peter Welch is joining Republican Rep. David McKinley of West Virginia to back legislation designed to promote more energy efficiency in homes and other buildings.

One of the bills, The Home Owner Managing Energy Savings Act, would provide rebates to homeowners who invest in energy efficiency improvements. Homeowners who demonstrate a 20 percent energy savings will receive a $2,000 rebate. For every 5 percent in additional energy savings, they can receive another $1,000 - up to a total of $8,000 or 50 percent of the project's cost.

Charlotte Albright / VPR

Until this year, the children who play in the field behind Reading Elementary School have been getting itchy—literally.

The playground borders a huge patch of poison ivy. But the weed has met its match.

Three goats are dining on it.

The goat project at tiny Reading Elementary grew from research conducted in Patricia Collins’s class of fifth-graders. There are only six students, but over the past year they filled a binder with information about how to solve the school’s poison ivy problem. 

Ten-year old Kit Oney says recess could be hazardous.

A Massachusetts developer has proposed a power line under Lake Champlain to carry renewable electricity from northern New York into the New England grid.

Anbaric Transmission has developed several challenging projects, including an undersea power line that connects Long Island and New Jersey via Long Island Sound.

VPR/Susan Keese

A North Bennington entrepreneur has won state and federal permits to generate electricity at a 200 year old dam site on the Walloomsac River.

The developer says it took four years, and a lot of dialogue and collaboration to design the project.

Bill Scully and his company Carbon Zero purchased the old Vermont Tissue Mill in North Bennington in 2008.

Inmates at the Windsor prison are helping to save bats by building daytime roosting boxes.

The 50 bat houses were given away at this year's Herrick's Cove Wildlife Festival to attendees who regularly observe bats near their home.

Corrections staff member Paul Brosseau says the project educated the inmates about the problems Vermont's bat populations are facing. An additional 150 more houses are being built.

The materials for the program were donated by the Windsor Coon Hunters Association.

Nina Keck / VPR

Green Mountain Power says there are a lot of Vermonters who’d like to use solar power. But many are unable or unwilling to install the necessary equipment on their homes.  

GMP officials say now, thanks to a new partnership with the nation’s largest solar developer, they’ll be able to offer a new way for customers to take advantage of solar power without installing the hardware. 

Toby Talbot / AP

Gov. Peter Shumlin and legislative leaders came into the recent session promising to make combating climate change a top priority.

Lawmakers and the governor said a warming world was the defining crisis of our time. They focused on an effort to make homes more energy efficient.

But the reality has not lived up to the rhetoric.

AP/Toby Talbot

Several dozen people who lost their homes to tropical Storm Irene nearly two years ago are only now starting to get the money they need to get back on their feet. The town of Northfield plans to buy 13 properties where homes were destroyed.

After two long winters, the leaves have turned green again here on Water Street. You can still see signs of Irene. ‘No Trespassing’ signs hang in the windows of empty homes. There’s still silt covering most of the lawns here.

AP/Haraz N. Ghanbari

Around the country, many beekeepers checking in on their hives after the winter found staggering losses. As many as 40 percent of commercial bee hives were lost this winter. In Vermont, though, losses have been closer to 10-15 percent bee die-off, which is in the range of normal.  In an interview with VPR's Vermont Edition, state apiculturist Steve Parise explains why.

One reason? Vermont bees have a greater diversity of crops to feed on than commercial bees in monoculture crops do, like the California almond industry:


 

The Vermont Public Service Board says the 16-turbine industrial wind project in Sheffield is meeting its noise standards and is in compliance with its Certificate of Public Good.

The board's ruling came in response to a noise complaint filed by Sutton resident Paul Brouha who had asked the board to provide "backup data" used to create the noise monitoring information contained in its quarterly noise monitoring reports.

First Wind spokesman John Lamontagne says the company appreciates the board's careful review of the project.

AP/Toby Talbot

The clock is running out on the 2013 legislative session, and it appears time has run out for a bill requiring labels on genetically modified food sold in Vermont. While lawmakers remain concerned that a state law on genetic labeling could provoke a lawsuit from the biotech industry, supporters are holding out hope.

In 1998, the American company Monsanto ran ads in France and in the UK. Monsanto supported labels on food that was made with genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. The ads appeared in newspapers shortly after the European Union passed labeling laws.

A company that planned to grow food year-round using methane from the Brattleboro landfill has filed for Chapter Seven Bankruptcy.

The Burlington-based Carbon Harvest Energy has been generating electricity from methane at the former landfill since 2010.

It planned to use some of that energy to heat a greenhouse that would produce aquaponic vegetables, edible fish, and algae for biofuels research.

Carbon Harvest had a contract with the 19-town Windham Solid Waste Management District, which operates at the former landfill site.

AP/Toby Talbot

The Vermont House overwhelmingly passed on Friday a bill that was originally proposed as a moratorium on ridgeline wind development in Vermont. Over the past two months, though, the bill was reduced to a study of how the state approves renewable energy projects.

The House voted 140-to-3 to approve the Senate bill.

Entergy Vermont Yankee has sued the state again in federal court, claiming the state has delayed approval of a back-up emergency generator.

Entergy has brought a familiar claim to the latest court action. It says federal law trumps state law on issues of safety.

In 2012, Entergy won a similar federal preemption case in a suit that challenged two Vermont laws that required legislative approval to operate the plant after its state license expired.

VPR/Nancy Eve Cohen

Many Vermonters enjoy living close to the state’s beautiful rivers and streams. But the Agency of Natural Resources is helping cities and towns consider whether they want to give waterways more room to move and flood by restricting development. But even talk of restrictions can stir up opposition.

Chris Campany, the director of the Windham Regional Commission is sitting next to Whetstone Brook in Brattleboro which flooded the streets during Tropical Storm Irene. Campany said the power of waterways like this one inspired the earliest development in Vermont. 

Flickr/Kelly Colgan Azar

Mon 4/22/13 Noon & 7pm  Mud isn't the only thing that reminds us it's spring. With the warmer weather comes the return of the dawn chorus. The chirrup of the chickadee, the scree of the starling, the flutter of the finch, the warble of the warbler...it's enough to make anyone smile. 'Bird Diva' Bridget Butler joins us with the latest avian updates in the region.

Email your bird questions to vermontedition@vpr.net  or leave your comments here.

Montpelier Sewer Problems Plague Winooski River

Apr 18, 2013

Water and sewer customers in Montpelier will be receiving some advice with their April bill on what is and is not acceptable to flush down the toilet. This comes after a wad of industrial cleaning rags was found to be the cause of a backup in the system on March 11. The result was an estimated 360,000 gallons of effluent discharged into the Winooski River. In his weekly report on Friday, City Manager William Fraser wrote:

A pipeline company needs a state Act 250 land use permit if it wants to ship tar sands oil through northern Vermont, a district environmental coordinator has ruled.

In an eight page decision, District 7 Environmental Coordinator Kirsten Sultan said the land use law applies because reversing the flow of the pipeline to carry the heavy crude would be a substantial change to the existing development.

Environmentalists had called for Act 250 review of the potential tar sands project. Jim Murphy, a senior counsel for the National Wildlife Federation, hailed the ruling.

The Vermont Health Department is launching a research study this month into Eastern Equine Encephalitis - also referred to as "triple E" - a rare disease.

Health officials are asking for volunteers from three towns near where the mosquito-borne disease killed two people last year.

The study will test how many volunteers from Brandon, Sudbury and Whiting are infected with the virus that causes EEE, but have not gotten seriously ill. The blood tests would detect antibodies to the virus.

Erica Berl is an infectious disease epidemiologist with the Health Department.

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