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August 22, 2008

State, Vermont Compost Co. Reach Truce

A deal was struck late yesterday between the Vermont Natural Resources Board and Vermont Compost Company that will keep the Montpelier composter in business through 2010 without having to get an Act 250 permit. The agreement now needs to be approved by the Environmental Court.

The two parties just made the announcement ... Here's the full release:


MONTPELIER – The Natural Resources Board and the Vermont Compost Company, Inc., have agreed to resolve two cases in Environmental Court.  The parties have stipulated that the Environmental Court may place both Vermont Compost’s appeal of an Act 250 jurisdictional opinion and an enforcement action by the Board on hold, and the settlement  allows Vermont Compost’s Montpelier facility to operate until July 2010 without an Act 250 permit; in return Vermont Compost will abide by certain operational restrictions.

“This is a win-win result,” said Peter F. Young, Jr, the Chair of the Natural Resources Board.  “The agreement allows Vermont Compost’s Montpelier facility to continue to operate – which keeps a lot of food waste out of the landfill.  And Vermont Compost has agreed to address concerns expressed by its Montpelier neighbors.” 

The Legislature this year passed a temporary moratorium on Act 250 jurisdiction for composting facilities with solid waste permits from the Agency of Natural Resources.  The law also requires the Agency to set up a committee to examine whether there are better ways to regulate composting, and to report recommendations to the Legislature by January 15, 2009.  The moratorium runs until July 1, 2010, to allow time for implementation of regulatory changes.  Under the agreement filed in Environmental Court, Vermont Compost will enjoy benefits similar to those granted by the moratorium in return for agreeing to reasonable restrictions on its operations.

“Today's settlement is a constructive, forward-looking solution that balances the state's mandate to protect Vermont's environment with its desire to promote composting," said Vermont Compost Company president Karl Hammer. “The agreement will enable the state and Vermont Compost to work together with farmers and composters, under the aegis of Act 130, to develop a set of clear and coherent rules that will help all composting operations operate safely, effectively and legally."

The agreement must be signed by the Environmental Court before it can take effect.

The conditions cited above include:

• Vermont Compost can only operate from 7AM to 7 PM Monday through Friday and 8 AM to 4 PM Saturday and Sunday;
• No deliveries to and from the company's Vincent Flats site can occur on Saturday and Sunday;
• Minimize the amount of food residuals fed to the farm's chickens;
• Do more to keep crows and gulls away from the compost piles, and dropping food scraps on neighbors' properties. Neighbors have complained about food scraps being dropped by birds.

As folks know, there were plenty of people crying foul when the NRB clamped down on VCC earlier this year — hitting them with a cease-and-desist order that brought with it an $18,000 fine and the forced removal of some farm buildings if a court upheld the order.

That order is on hold, as is VCC's appeal of the original opinion that it needs an Act 250 permit. Hammer believes his operation is exempt because it is a farm, and farming operations are exempt from Act 250.

This year the Legislature had enacted a law exempting all compost operations from Act 250 until the state could better craft rules and regulations to govern compost operations. However, a loophole in this law still allowed the state to penalize Hammer's operation.

Still no word on whether the state and the Intervale Center will come to an equally agreeable decision. Last Friday there was hope a deal would be set in ink, but as of this past Monday negotiations were still ongoing.

"We have made significant progress and are hopeful that we will reach an agreement within the next two weeks," said Glenn McRae, the center's executive director.

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