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January 31, 2014

Lisman's Group Accuses House Democrat of Solar Conflict

01.30.14 CFV Ltr to Speaker Rule 75A group founded and funded by retired Wall Street banker Bruce Lisman has accused a St. Albans Democrat of violating House rules by voting for legislation that would help his employer.

In a letter (see below) to House Speaker Shap Smith, Campaign for Vermont lobbyist Shawn Shouldice took Rep. Mike McCarthy (D-St. Albans) to task Thursday for supporting legislation that would expand Vermont's net-metering program.

Net metering encourages Vermonters to produce electricity at home and work, in exchange for a break on their power bills. Shouldice said that the bill would benefit SunCommon, the Waterbury-based solar leasing company for which McCarthy works as a community organizer.

The legislation increases the amount of renewable energy utilities can buy from customers from 4 percent of the companies' peak demand to 15 percent. The bill won preliminary approval Wednesday by a 136-8 margin and final passage Thursday by voice vote.

In her letter, Shouldice said the episode demonstrates the need for ethics reform, a cause Lisman and Campaign for Vermont have been trumpeting lately.

Continue reading "Lisman's Group Accuses House Democrat of Solar Conflict" »

Cornwall Board Takes Aim at Vermont Gas Pipeline

PipelineflaggThe town of Cornwall is calling on the Addison County Regional Planning Commission to fight a proposed natural gas pipeline that, if constructed, would carry gas underground from Middlebury to Ticonderoga, N.Y. 

The Public Service Board approved "Phase One" of the Addison Natural Gas Project, which regional planners endorsed, in late December; that leg will bring gas south from Chittenden County to Middlebury. Vermont Gas — a subsidiary of GazMetro — filed plans requesting approval for "Phase Two" with the PSB in November. The second leg would jog southwest, through Cornwall, Shoreham, and then under Lake Champlain to its terminus: the International Paper plant in Ticonderoga, N.Y. 

In her letter this week to the regional planners, Cornwall selectboard member Judy Watts points to two provisions in the regional plan which she argues provide "specific and unambiguous" reasons for rejecting the Phase II project. The plan states that energy infrastructure and services should not "cause undue adverse impact to the health and safety of residents or on the environmental quality of the Addison Region," and that no large energy generation or transmission facilities should be constructed in the region "which have as their primary purpose providing energy markets outside the Addison Region." The letter is signed by all five members of the Cornwall selectboard. 

Continue reading "Cornwall Board Takes Aim at Vermont Gas Pipeline" »

January 22, 2014

This Week's Issue: Aging Prisoners, Woodstoves and Public TV Trouble

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A new issue of Seven Days hits the newsstands today. Here's what you'll find inside:

Get all these stories and more in print, online or on the app.

Cover photo by Tom McNeill

January 20, 2014

Lawmakers Advance 'Solar Standoff' Solution

SolarWhen some Vermont utilities started rejecting proposed home-grown solar installations last year, it looked like a plan to increase solar production in Vermont had been too successful.

Utilities were bumping up against a cap on so-called net-metered projects far faster than the lawmakers who'd designed the rules ever anticipated. Those utilities said it was time to put on the brakes; solar energy advocates argued that doing so would cripple solar development just as the industry was hitting its stride in Vermont. 

Now a plan to breakup that solar standoff is gaining traction in Montpelier. The House Natural Resources and Energy Committee advanced legislation on Friday that would relax the cap on homemade power to better match the demand for residential solar generation. The bill will head to the full House on Thursday. 

Continue reading "Lawmakers Advance 'Solar Standoff' Solution" »

January 04, 2014

Protestors Renew Opposition to Vermont Gas Pipeline, Despite PSB Approval

Photo 1 (1)Two days before Christmas came the news environmental activists and landowners in Addison County were dreading: The Public Service Board approved Vermont Gas’s plan to build a 43-mile, $86.6 million natural gas pipeline from Chittenden County south to Middlebury.

But neither the stamp of approval, nor frigid temperatures and biting wind in downtown Burlington, deterred protestors from turning out for a rally Saturday against that decision. Altogether, around 75 people met up outside One Main Street, waving placards and banners and stamping their feet to keep warm.

The proposed pipeline has fueled opposition throughout Vermont. Environmentalists decry the additional construction of fossil fuel infrastructure instead of renewable energy resources, and they oppose the technology used to obtain the Canadian natural gas. A portion of the gas the pipeline would carry is obtained in Canada using hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as “fracking.”

Continue reading "Protestors Renew Opposition to Vermont Gas Pipeline, Despite PSB Approval" »

December 09, 2013

Media Note: WCAX's Kristin Carlson Decamps to Green Mountain Power

Kristin CarlsonWorcester native Kristin Carlson got her first gig at WCAX-TV as an intern after her junior year at Syracuse University. When she graduated the next year, she recalls, she phoned then-news director Marselis Parsons, who offered her a job on the spot.

"I never even had to put together a resume," she says.

Now, 14 years later, Carlson is leaving Channel 3 to join the state's electricity behemoth, Green Mountain Power. The company on Monday named Carlson its next "media director." She'll replace executive Steve Terry, who is retiring for the second time as director of GMP's communications shop.

"I've only ever worked for Channel 3," Carlson says. "It's always been my passion. I love reporting — love it. Nothing can ever replace this."

But after GMP approached her about the prospect roughly two weeks ago, she says, Carlson came to the conclusion that working for the power company would bring new challenges and the same pride she feels working for WCAX.

"I've had the privilege of working for a company I respect with people I respect," she says. "This is a similar opportunity. I respect all my interactions with Green Mountain Power and the people there. I'm excited by what they're doing."

Continue reading "Media Note: WCAX's Kristin Carlson Decamps to Green Mountain Power" »

October 14, 2013

Media Note: Word of Gas Pipeline Opposition Spreads to New York

PipelineIt's been in the Vermont headlines for months: Many residents on this side of Lake Champlain oppose a Vermont Gas project to build a pipe south to Addison County — not to mention the company's Phase 2 plan to extend the pipe under the lake to the International Paper plant in Ticonderoga, New York. 

Hundreds turned out for a rowdy Public Service Board hearing in Middlebury last month. Homemade signs — now weathered, but still visible — dot Route 74 in Cornwall and Shoreham; others direct passersby to grassroots websites such as "keepcornwallsafe.com" and "keepshorehamsafe.com." 

But it seems to have been a strongly worded letter of opposition from the Cornwall selectboard to Governor Peter Shumlin that finally got the attention of New York. An article headlined "Some Vermonters oppose IP pipeline" ran in yesterday's edition of the Plattsburgh Press-Republican. The Albany Business Review subsequently picked up the news for a brief notice in today's morning edition, billing their item "Gasline for upstate NY factory faces opposition from another state."

Continue reading "Media Note: Word of Gas Pipeline Opposition Spreads to New York" »

October 09, 2013

This Week's Issue: Winter Preview and Solar Woes

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The leaves are falling off the trees — time to break out the hot chocolate and sit down with this week's winter preview issue of Seven Days. It includes a trip to the Putney theme park/timewarp Santa's Land, as well as these news and politics stories: 

Get this week's issue in print, online or on the iOS app.

Cover illustration by Sean Metcalf

September 16, 2013

Shumlin Taps Cheney, a Norwich Democrat, for Public Service Board

CheneyWhen Seven Days' Ken Picard covered the state's little-understood Public Service Board last year, he referred to its three members as "Vermont's most powerful men you've never heard of."

Come October, those three will remain all-powerful — but they won't all be old white dudes.

On Monday, Gov. Peter Shumlin appointed Rep. Margaret Cheney (D-Norwich) to replace David Coen, who's retiring after 18 years on the board. She'll be charged with overseeing Vermont's regulated utilities, which include everything from electric power to telecommunications to pipeline gas.

After seven years on the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee — including four as its vice chairwoman — Cheney (pictured here) says she's looking forward to her new assignment, which begins when she's sworn in on October 1.

"It builds on a base of knowledge I've been accumulating over the last seven years. Working on energy issues, I feel like I've almost earned an advanced degree," Cheney says.

Continue reading "Shumlin Taps Cheney, a Norwich Democrat, for Public Service Board" »

September 10, 2013

Burlington Climate-Change Study Fails to Address City's No. 1 Culprit

618-LM-IBMSix months ago, a global team of experts from IBM came to study Burlington's carbon footprint and to make recommendations for how the city could reduce its output of the so-called greenhouse gases that are changing the world's climate. Working in conjunction with the Miro Weinberger administration, the six IBMers produced a 60-page report last week that makes a half dozen policy recommendations.

None of them, however, squarely addresses what the report itself identifies as the leading source of greenhouse gas emissions: transportation — which is to say, private automobiles.

Asked why the report didn't at least mention alternate forms of transport, such as walking and cycling, Marian Lawlor, a spokeswoman for the IBM team, said, "I can't answer that question for you." She added that the three-week-long assessment "should have" paid more attention to transportation issues generally. "They just didn't bubble up" during the interviews the IBMers conducted with numerous city officials and other local leaders, Lawlor explained.

Chapin Spencer, who was director of the Local Motion alternative transportation advocacy group at the time, echoed Lawlor's comments in an interview on Monday. "I wish it would have dealt more with transportation," said Spencer, who was recently appointed head of the city's Department of Public Works.

Continue reading "Burlington Climate-Change Study Fails to Address City's No. 1 Culprit" »

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