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94 posts categorized "Environment"

August 14, 2012

Shumlin Opponents Mount Write-In Campaign


Annettesmithgovernor5Concerned about wind turbines on ridgelines or chloramine in your water supply?

If so, chances are you’ve heard of Annette Smith, the no-nonsense director of the grassroots organization Vermonters for a Clean Environment. Smith has made a name for herself advocating on behalf of local communities fighting unwanted development, and now her supporters hope that Smith’s name recognition will come in handy in an upstart write-in campaign in the August 28 primaries. They’re urging Vermonters to vote for Annette Smith of Danby as the Progressive Party’s candidate for governor — not so much because they love Smith as because they hate the other guy.

“Too often we’re all in a position of holding our noses and voting for whoever we think might not be as bad as the other guy or girl,” says Stephanie Kaplan, a Calais environmental lawyer organizing the write-in campaign. She says it’s an attempt “to let people who are dissatisfied with Shumlin know that there’s something they can do in the primary election.”

Continue reading "Shumlin Opponents Mount Write-In Campaign" »

August 10, 2012

Aerial Shots Capture Lowell Wind Project Progress

Wright2Steve Wright last took to the sky in April to capture a series of dramatic bird's-eye photographs of construction at Kingdom Community Wind, the 21-turbine wind project that Green Mountain Power is constructing on a ridgeline above Lowell. He went airborne again on Wednesday this week — in the interest, Wright said in an interview with Seven Days, of documenting the ongoing construction on the mountaintop. "In some years we’ll look back at this and shake our heads," says Wright, a Craftsbury Common resident and outspoken opponent of ridgeline wind development.

"It's continually distressing that we would do this with a mountaintop, but we're moving on to a statewide campaign to make sure this doesn't happen anywhere else," adds Wright, a former commissioner of the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. His concerns aren't aesthetic but rather biological. "Humans have a capacity to be able to tolerate looking at just about anything," he says. "That mountain has been forever changed in its hydrology and its entire ecological function."

Wright3Wright's photos first appeared on the Mountain Talk blog, where wind opponents post frequent photos, videos and updates. It's been a busy week for activists in Lowell. On Monday, around 45 protesters scrambled to the mountaintop to stage a peaceful protest blocking the main construction thoroughfare at the site, an event that culminated in six arrests. A day after the largely festive gathering (complete with square dancing and chanting), around 30 activists returned for a somber "funeral" for Lowell Mountain

Green Mountain Power previously said that Wright's aerial photos only present a snapshot of a moment in time and that much of the disturbed landscaped will be re-vegetated after construction wraps up.

UPDATE: This morning, GMP spokesman Robert Dostis added that concerns like Wright's were raised during the extensive permitting process for the wind farm, were "fully vetted," and eventually the Public Service Board deemed the project to be in the public good. Dostis says that construction at the site — where the crew is now finishing the fourth complete turbine — is on schedule for completion by the end of the year.

Dostis also says that while the total "project impact" is 135 acres, GMP has conserved more than 2700 acres to mitigate that environmental impact, and nearly all of the conserved land is protected in perpetuity. 

Photos by Steve Wright

August 06, 2012

Protestors Block Crane Path at Lowell Wind Project (VIDEO)

Photo17

Updated below — Six protesters arrested for blocking road.

After gathering at 5 a.m. this morning, a group of 20 or so "mountain occupiers" hiked to the ridge of Lowell Mountain to block construction of wind turbines. Their plan: Camp out in the crane path — a crucial thoroughfare for construction at Green Mountain Power's Kingdom Community Wind project — until "the situation is resolved," according to a press release put out by the demonstrators.

Protesters have formed a human blockade, where occupiers are singing, chanting and brandishing signs that read "Stop Destroying Vermont" and "Shumlin Lies." An additional 25 protestors have joined the barricade since early this morning, bringing their numbers to around 45. 

The protesters made the march to the ridge line by way of Don and Shirley Nelson's adjoining property, and were on site to block construction vehicles at 7 a.m.. They're making their stand on the same piece of land where, in December, six protesters and one reporter were arrested for trespassing. The ownership of the land is currently in dispute between the Nelsons and GMP.

Craftsbury Commons resident Steve Wright, an outspoken opponent of the wind development, is stationed near the access point on Route 100. Wright told Seven Days by phone that the drumming and chanting from the ridge line can be heard in the valley east of the project. While Wright hiked the ridge line for 25 years, his "aging legs" didn't let him join the protest this morning.

"This is not about stopping the project," Wright says, acknowledging that construction will inevitably continue at the 21-turbine wind development. "This is about stopping other projects that are as ill- thought-out and land abusive — projects that really don’t do anything for climate change action."

Continue reading "Protestors Block Crane Path at Lowell Wind Project (VIDEO)" »

July 31, 2012

An Anti-Climactic Protest Bids Govs and Canadian Premiers Adieu from Burlington

Protest 1

Corrected below regarding the Burlington police presence.

What one Occupy agitator had billed earlier in the day as "an awesome action" turned out to be an anti-climactic fizzle on Monday evening. About 30 demonstrators briefly jeered a convoy of New England governors and Canadian premiers exiting the U.S. Coast Guard station on the Burlington waterfront following a cruise on Lake Champlain.

The protest would have been a bit bigger, and perhaps more militant, if the dignitaries had not engaged their detractors in a semi-successful game of hide-and-seek. Even so, Monday's demo would probably not have replicated the commotion on College Street the previous day when Burlington police fired non-lethal projectiles. Their target: a few civil disobeyers among an outpouring of 500 law-abiding protesters. The confrontational cadre was trying to block buses carrying the govs and their Canadian counterparts to a dinner reception in Shelburne.

As a followup, a group of 50 or so dissenters had initially gathered at Perkins Pier under a hot sun late Monday afternoon. They waited about an hour, expecting the VIPs to set sail from the ferry dock, as had been indicated in publicity material for the conference taking place at the Hilton on Battery Street. The patient remnant then walked or cycled to a small park adjoining the Burlington Community Boathouse. The Spirit of Ethan Allen cruise ship had docked alongside, leading the protesters to assume that the govs and premiers would actually be setting sail from there.

Continue reading "An Anti-Climactic Protest Bids Govs and Canadian Premiers Adieu from Burlington" »

July 30, 2012

Video: Police Clash With Protesters Outside Governors Conference in Burlington

ProtestPolice fired pepper balls and sting balls at protesters outside the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers Conference in Burlington yesterday.

Activists from New England and Quebec converged on the Queen City for a day of protests outside the conference, which took place at the Hilton Burlington. The protests centered on Canada's mining of tar sands oil and what environmentalists believe is a plan to ship tar sands oil through the Northeast Kingdom. Protesters also rallied in solidarity with Quebec's student demonstrations and representatives from the Innu First Nation denounced Hydro Quebec.

The rallies were peaceful and non-violent all day long, with protesters numbering in the hundreds. But late in the afternoon, a small group of protesters attempted to block buses believed to be carrying the governors and premiers from leaving the Hilton's side driveway on College Street. It was then that protesters and police clashed and some protesters were shot with "less-lethal" munitions.

From a Burlington Police Department press release:

[Protesters] were warned several more times before a crowd control team of officers with plastic shields and helmets was deployed to walk ahead of the bus following standard procedure to ensure that protestors were not struck and to assist the bus in leaving. As the officers walked forward they were physically confronted by the crowd. Some began pushing back toward the officers, others sat on the ground while at least two others laid down locking arms. 

Click here to read the full account of the incident from the police department.

Below are some videos and photos shot by protesters and onlookers.

Continue reading "Video: Police Clash With Protesters Outside Governors Conference in Burlington" »

July 26, 2012

Green Mountain Compost to Dole Out Compensation for Contaminated Compost

TomriddleLast night the board of commissioners for the Chittenden Solid Waste District (CSWD) approved a customer-assistance package to provide refunds and some remediation for gardeners affected by trace herbicides discovered in CSWD's Green Mountain Compost. The boarded approved expenditures up to $934,992 to reimburse customers who purchased compost between January 1 and July 13. CSWD voluntarily stopped selling the compost in late June, after first suspecting the presence of persistent herbicides. 

The early suspicions of customers and CSWD staff about the contaminated compost were spot on: As Corin Hirsch reported earlier this month, further testing revealed the presence of two persistent herbicides — clopyralid and picloram — in Green Mountain Compost. CSWD marketing coordinator Clare Innes says that, so far, 470 gardeners have contacted the district to report possible damage from the contaminated soil, and that number is rising daily.

Continue reading "Green Mountain Compost to Dole Out Compensation for Contaminated Compost" »

Activists From Québec's Innu First Nation To Protest This Weekend's New England Governors' Conference in Burlington

Innu photo #1More than a dozen protesters from Quebec's Innu First Nation are due to arrive in Vermont this weekend to protest the Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers, being held in Burlington. They are protesting against the construction of a new hydroelectric dam on the Romaine River by Hydro-Québec, which they say would destroy their entire way of life. Vermont purchases the vast majority of its power from the Canadian utility giant and Gov. Peter Shumlin currently chairs the New England Governors' Conference.

This new dam is but one aspect of a much larger development project in the region known as Plan Nord. According to the Québec government's official website, Plan Nord is "one of the biggest economic, social and environmental projects in our time." The 25-year, $80 billion project will create or consolidate an average of 20,000 jobs per year, the Québec government says.

The Innu people — not to be confused with Canada's Inuit people — come from the community of Mani-Utenam, near the city of Sept Iles.  They are an indigenous population from northeastern Quebec and Labrador who claim they have never ceded their rights to the land to the Québec or Canadian governments.

In March of 2012, members of the Mani-Utenam community, which numbers roughly 4000 people, erected a blockade along Québec's Highway 138, the main artery along the north shore of the St. Lawrence River. The blockade was a protest against Plan Nord and dams being built along the Romaine River, about two to three hours northeast of their community. Highway 138 is the only way, except by boat, to access the inland areas along the north shore. It's also the only road into this part of Québec, and facilitates most of the industrial development that happens in this region.

Among the activists coming to Vermont is Elyse Vollant, an Innu grandmother who in June was arrested at the blockade, along with several others from the community. After the blockade was removed by dozens of riot police and Surete du Québec (Quebec state police), the Innu erected an encampment alongside 138.

Many Innu feel that the Charest government has ignored their concerns and traditional right to the land.  While some tribal councils have signed on to the Romaine project, other Innu view these councils as colonial forms of government that were set up by the Québec government without much consent from Innu decades ago.

According to Vermont activists working with the Innu, Mani-Utenam has not signed any agreements around the Romaine project.  However, Hydro-Québec has started clear cutting swaths of forest near their community for the transmission lines that will will carry power from the dams. For more on the Innu protests from earlier this year, check out this piece by Alexis Lathem in Toward Freedom.

Seven Days spoke with Vollant last weekend by phone in advance of her trip to Burlington. (French interpretation courtesy of Andrew Simon.)

SEVEN DAYS: Under Canadian law, do the Innu people have any legal rights or say over how this land will be used?

ELYSE VOLLANT: In general, First Nations have the right to a say over what happens in their territory. The communities affected held two referenda and said no to the dam being constructed. Hydro-Quebec, even after the referenda, has continued their construction work, putting in pylons for the dam... We have a right to determine what goes on in our territory and Hydro-Québec is not really listening to us when they continue the construction. 

Continue reading "Activists From Québec's Innu First Nation To Protest This Weekend's New England Governors' Conference in Burlington" »

July 16, 2012

Wind Protest At Lowell Sparks Two Arrests

Dscf3198Ira Powsner spent part of his 26th birthday in the back of a police cruiser today after a protest at the construction site of a 21-turbine wind installation in Lowell sparked an exercise in civil disobedience. 

Powsner, 26, of Ira, Vt., (pictured in red hat) was among dozens of protestors at Green Mountain Power's Kingdom Community Wind project who stepped onto Route 100 this morning to physically block a tractor trailer carrying a section of a massive wind turbine onto the construction site. The protest held up traffic along the highway for two hours, backing up cars between two and five miles in either direction. Photos from the day's action are up on the Lowell Mountain Talk blog. 

Protestor Steve Wright of Craftsbury Commons says demonstrators had planned a roadside rally — similar to one that took place last October — to draw attention to what Wright calls "the bad energy policy that ends up blowing up Vermont mountains."

By 9 a.m., more than 100 protestors had flocked to the roadside. And when the truck showed up, Powsner says, a murmur went through the crowd. Wright was among the first to step out into the road, carrying a Vermont state flag, and he was quickly followed by Powsner and his younger brother, 21-year-old Jacob Powsner.

"I was feeling frustration and anger, and that I was left with nothing else to do but a symbolic act," Wright says.

Continue reading "Wind Protest At Lowell Sparks Two Arrests" »

July 10, 2012

Frustration and Mystery Surround Contaminated Compost

Leaf_curlIt was two weeks ago that Tom Moreau, the general manager of the Chittenden County Solid Waste District, noticed his tomato plants were curling and wilting. That compelled him to alert the public that soil and compost from CSWD's Green Mountain Compost might be toxic. He suspended sales and sent off samples for testing.

Now that lab tests have confirmed that both bulk and bagged soil and compost from GMC is laced with two persistent herbicides — clopyralid and picloram — the fallout is broad. As CSWD scrambles to do damage control, the state is trying to pinpoint where the de-listed substances came from. Gardeners, meanwhile, are salvaging what they can of their plants.

Continue reading "Frustration and Mystery Surround Contaminated Compost" »

July 05, 2012

Don't Tread on VT: State Conducts First-Ever Survey to Identify "Problem" Tire Piles

Dreamstime_xl_19121958Got tires? No, not that set of four bald radials gathering dust in your garage. We're talking about big, eyesore-sized tires piles, the kind that spawn mosquitoes, become nesting grounds for snakes and rodents, block out the sunlight and — worse-case scenario — can potentially catch fire and take firefighters weeks to extinguish.

If you've got one of those tire piles — or more likely, know of a neighbor who does — the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources wants to hear about it.

A bill signed into law earlier this year requires ANR to inventory problem tire piles around the state and then estimate the cost and time required to get rid of them. The law was prompted by a years-long battle with the owner of an unmitigated tire pile in Milton and the desire to identify other problem piles around the state.

What does the state consider a "problem?" Any pile with 100 or more tires.

This week, ANR's solid waste management program launched a month-long survey to try to identify how many of these illegal or undocumented tire piles there are in the state. Once the survey is complete, the inventory, including the estimated number of tires and the projected cleanup cost, will be reported back to the Legislature when it reconvenes in January.

"There's always been this interest in scrap tires and whether it's a big problem. Some people seem to feel it is a problem, others don't," says James "Buzz" Surwilo in the solid waste management program. "So, this is an effort to finally answer that question."

Earlier in the legislative session, environmental lobbyists tried to get the tire legislation to impose additional fees on the purchase of new tires in order to pay for the cleanup of rogue tire piles, but lawmakers put the brakes on that idea. Instead, this year's legislation allows ANR  to disperse money from its solid waste management assistance fund as a "last resort" to getting these problem piles cleaned up. 

"Of course, people need to take responsibility for their own situations," Surwilo adds. "If we find illegal disposal of tires, or any other waste, it's really up to them to clean it up."

Continue reading "Don't Tread on VT: State Conducts First-Ever Survey to Identify "Problem" Tire Piles" »

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