MORE BLOGS: Bite Club (Food & Drink) | Live Culture (Arts) | Stuck in Vermont (Videos)

Off Message: Vermont News and Politics

Environment

February 05, 2014

Rural Vermont: Farmers Sold 53,000 Gallons of Raw Milk

LM-RawMilk-SPAs some farmers push for more freedom to sell raw milk, an  advocacy group reports that nearly 2,000 customers bought more than 53,000 gallons of the unpasteurized product in a recent 12-month period. 

For those of you interested in following the raw milk debate, head over to the website of Rural Vermont, which  released its annual raw milk report Wednesday morning. Because Vermont doesn't require farmers selling raw milk to register with the state, the Rural Vermont report is the best snapshot we have of what raw milk sales look like on the ground.

To recap, raw milk is unpasteurized. In Vermont, it's sold directly by farmers to consumers, and in almost all cases consumers have to travel to the farm to purchase this milk. Vermont passed regulations in 2009 covering the sale of raw milk, setting out guidelines for farmers intended to protect public health. People who love raw milk really love raw milk — but conversely, public health officials stand firm in their conviction that consuming unpasteurized milk (which hasn't been treated to kill off pathogens and bacteria) could make people sick.

Continue reading "Rural Vermont: Farmers Sold 53,000 Gallons of Raw Milk " »

February 01, 2014

J. Craig Venter, Pioneering Genome Scientist, to Speak at Norwich University

J._Craig_Venter_crop_2011_CHAO2011-49
2011 photo of J. Craig Venter from Wikimedia Commons

For J. Craig Venter, the sky isn't the limit, but Mars might be. The 67-year-old biologist and entrepeneur first mapped the human genome in the late 1990s using a technique he invented and called "shotgun sequencing." A decade later, in 2010, one of his organizations, Synthetic Genomics, became the first to develop "synthetic life," essentially fabricating a strand of DNA that contained the entire genome of a bacteria cell. 

Now, as Venter writes about in his new book, Life at the Speed of Light: From the Double Helix to the Dawn of Digital Life, his organization is researching potential applications for the fledgling field of synthetic biology. They range from straightforward to totally outlandish: crafting better vaccines or more efficient sources of nutrition; cleaning water and air; and equipping NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover with DNA-sequencing techology that could digitally map Martian genomes and beam them back to Earth for re-creation in labs. 

J-craig-venter-life-speed-light-double-helix-dawn-38It wouldn't be the first time Venter has looked beyond Earth to solve our scientific riddles. For the last six years, he and other scientists have crisscrossed 80,000 miles of sea in his private yacht, the Sorcerer II. That project, known as the Global Ocean Sampling Expedition, has led to the discovery of hundreds of new species of microbes, as well as millions of genetic base pairs and a couple thousand new families of proteins.

Venter will speak about his new book at Norwich University on Monday, February 3 (details below). In advance of that lecture, we spoke with him by phone about a few of his accomplishments, as well the state of science in the U.S.

SEVEN DAYS: Since developing the first synthetic cell in 2010, you’ve said that a “vision is being borne out” for how this technology can help us create better vaccines, biofuels, cleaner water, more abundant sources of food, etc. Where do you see that vision being borne out now, and what are some developments we could feasibly see in the next five years?

 

J. CRAIG VENTER: Well, those are all areas that we’re actively working in at Synthetic Genomics, and it’s not clear yet where the fastest applications will be. But I think the vaccine area might be one of them, certainly based on immediate needs. New flu strains are emerging in China and other places, and the number of deaths from flu are starting to mount in the U.S., so I think it’s all very critical for new developments.

 

Continue reading "J. Craig Venter, Pioneering Genome Scientist, to Speak at Norwich University" »

January 31, 2014

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 28, 2014

Senate Committee Advances Shoreland Protection Rules

LM-land-katieAfter striking some compromises between environmentalists and property rights advocates, the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee unanimously approved legislation on Friday that would tighten the rules governing shoreland development in Vermont. The bill is scheduled to come before the full Senate next week.

Big picture? The proposed rules are designed to improve water quality by limiting clearing and development on the very edges of Vermont's lakes and ponds; keeping shorelands more intact would prevent runoff and maintain critical habitat at the water's edge. Vermont passed some shoreland development rules in the 1970s, but they expired a few years later and were not reinstated. Today, according to the Agency of Natural Resources, Vermont is the only northeastern state without a statewide lakeshore protection rule on the books.

That may be about to change.

Continue reading "Senate Committee Advances Shoreland Protection Rules" »

January 22, 2014

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

012214

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 11, 2013

This Week's Issue: F-35 Aftermath, Myers-Briggs for Farmers and Marijuana Testing

Cover121113

We're in the home stretch of 2013, people. As we at Seven Days plot our year-end coverage, enjoy this week's news and politics stories:

Pick this week's Seven Days up in print, online or on the iOS app.

Cover photo by Sarah Priestap

November 20, 2013

This Week's Issue: Union Drives, Big-Money Developers and a Long Time in the Clink

112013-coverAnother week, another Wednesday, another Seven Days. Here's this week's lineup of news and politics stories:

Pick up this issue in print, online or on the iOS app.

October 30, 2013

This Week's Issue: Hunting Trouble, Prison Sex and an M.I.A. Delegation

Cover103013While you're putting together your Halloween getup tonight — bonus candy for anyone in a homemade F-35 costume — give this week's news and politics stories in Seven Days a read. Here's what you'll find.

Pick up this week's issue in print, online or on the app. Finally, go Sox.

Subscribe to the Daily 7

Fill out my online form.
All Rights Reserved © Da Capo Publishing Inc. 1995-2012 | PO Box 1164, Burlington, VT 05402-1164 | 802-864-5684