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January 2010

January 29, 2010

VT Yankee: Closing in on Source of Tritium Leak?

VT-Yankee-10x22-crop-w Vermont Yankee continues to focus on a key underground pipe that carries steam away from the nuclear power plant's turbines to its main reactor stacks as a possible source of a tritium leak.

However, Vermont's top radiological health officer, Bill Irwin, told Seven Days that it is too soon to determine if this was the underground pipe leaking tritium into nearby groundwater.

The main focus of investigation and excavation is a pipe about 12 feet below the surface, said Irwin, called the advance off-gas system.

"It's very early on, but as a tritium source the drain line related to this off-gas system has been identified early on as a possible source, and excavation started a couple of days ago," Irwin told Seven Days via phone from the Vernon-based power plant.

Yesterday, around 4 p.m., workers encountered steam coming from the area of the pipe and halted work to further determine what steps should be taken, said Irwin. Samples from the ground did not prove to have tritium at high enough concentrations, but further digging will occur.

"Plant officials had hoped it would be indicative of a leak, but a sample taken last night and reported today proved they need to go deeper before they can confirm whether this is the source," said Irwin. He cautioned that finding the true source of the leak could be weeks, even months, away.

Continue reading "VT Yankee: Closing in on Source of Tritium Leak?" »

J.D. Takes His Leave

Salinger-book Editor's Note: This post comes from Jernigan Pontiac, author of Seven Days' regular "Hackie" column. — Margot Harrison

I read the news today, oh boy.
Quite unexpectedly, the report of J.D. Salinger's death hit me emotionally. I mean, the guy hasn't published a word since the mid-'60's, and he spent the last 50 years of his life in recluse-like seclusion at his home, a walled-in compound located in Cornish, New Hampshire. His lifetime literary output amounted to essentially four books, and a couple of them quite slender at that.
But what four books! I know I'm not alone in this among my fellow scribes, but absent Mr. Salinger, I doubt I would have ever taken up the pen. In my experience, nobody but nobody brought the human spirit to life on the written page like this man. I could go on and on about his skills and technique, but here's the heart of the matter for me:  J.D. Salinger didn't hold back; he brought it all; he got it all down. And the story is humanity in its heartbreaking glory — the cynicism and despair, burning desire and fleeting ecstasy.
In my own little world up here in the Green Mountains, I attempt to emulate my literary mentor and likewise bring the page to life, real life. It's a moving target, and once in a sublime while, I feel like I've at least approached the ball park. But, regardless of success or lack thereof, the search continues to bring me happiness. The very process of writing keeps my eyes open to the beauty of this world. In fact, to quote one of Mr. Salinger's famous characters, Seymour Glass, I, too, feel as if under the grip of reverse paranoia: The people in my world are indeed conspiring behind my back, but to make me happy. Thank you, J.D.

Montpelier Send-Up for Artist Flo McGarrell

20233_252026274052_765154052_3283966_3645561_n On Saturday, January 30, the good folks at Black Sheep Books radical bookstore in Montpelier will be hosting a memorial for Flo McGarrell, the Newbury, Vt., artist who was killed in the earthquake in Haiti. The memorial is one of many for the prolific and multidimensional artist. Already, art communities in Baltimore, New York and San Francisco have hosted events honoring McGarrell's life, which you can read a little about here.

The Montpelier memorial begins at 6:30 p.m. at the bookstore at 5 State St.


"We will have a screen, projector, wireless network, Mac desktop, stereo speakers, amp and mic available for performances and things to say and show."

McGarrell was the director of FOSAJ, an art center in Jacmel, Haiti. He died when the Peace of Mind Hotel, where he was visiting with his friend, Chicago artist Sue Frame, collapsed. It took nearly a week for rescue crews to get to Jacmel and extricate McGarrell's remains. On Sunday, Jan. 24, McGarrell's parents got word that their child's body was en route to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.This is after a near two-week-long ordeal trying to retrieve his body.

Any questions about the memorial can be directed to Jacsen Callanan at [email protected].

January 28, 2010

How Will You Watch the Olympics?

Gettingby_1 According to a recent Zogby poll, only 29 percent of Americans in the 18-29-year-old demographic still prefer to watch TV live. The rest would rather use a DVR or watch on a DVD or website. Two-thirds of them watched some TV online in the past year.

This raises a question: What about the big events that a huge audience used to watch live, such as the Academy Awards, the Grammies and the Olympics? How will people watch them this year?

OK, I know. Many of you don't watch TV at all and have no plans to start. I applaud you. However, some of us are in an awkward in-between place. We want to watch TV in new ways, ways that might involve only paying to access content we choose, but the cable companies seem all set to make it difficult for us.

Continue reading "How Will You Watch the Olympics?" »

Gov. Douglas Calls for 'Time Out' on Vermont Yankee

Vermontyankee Less than week after urging lawmakers to take a vote this session and allow utility regulators to decide Vermont Yankee's future, Gov. Jim Douglas said Wednesday afternoon he is pulling back his full-throttled support for the embattled power plant.

The reason?

On its face, it's because Douglas says Entergy has violated the confidence and trust of Vermonters.

"I have lost trust in the current management team and I have been disappointed that changes have not already been made," said Douglas. 

The announcement came on the heels of a rough hearing before the Vermont Public Service Board Wednesday morning, and increasing calls from legislative leaders asking the Douglas administration to withdraw its support for Entergy's proposal to spin off Vermont Yankee's ownership to a new, limited liability company, Enexus.

On Wednesday, the Agency of Natural Resources also revealed it is investigating Entergy's discharges into the groundwater, and possible illegal discharges into the Connecticut River, thanks to recent tritium leaks.

As well, Attorney General Bill Sorrell also confirmed he is investigating whether Entergy officials lied under oath before the PSB.


A rough day at the office for sure. But, Douglas didn't fully back away completely from his support for Entergy. Throughout thick and thin — from cooling water tower collapses to missing fuel rods — Douglas and his Department of Public Service have still urged for an extension of Vermont Yankee's operating license.

"When we can again say with resolute clarity that we can depend on the management of the plant and ensure public health and safety, only then can we move forward with the consideration of the plant’s long-term future," said Douglas.

Entergy officials were disappointed by the governor's statement.

Continue reading "Gov. Douglas Calls for 'Time Out' on Vermont Yankee" »

January 27, 2010

Entergy Tells Miffed Regulators: "This Company Gets It"

PSBHearing The state's top utility regulators — the three-member Vermont Public Service Board — took the unusual step today at a hearing of expressing strong displeasure with Entergy for providing incomplete information and misstatements to the board, the state, the legislature and the public.

"I know Entergy has heard this already, but they should hear it anyway — such conduct is unacceptable," said PSB Chairman James Volz, who read a prepared statement at the onset of the hearing.

The PSB has several requests, including one by the state's public utility watchdog, the Public Service Department, to reopen Entergy's case to relicense Vermont Yankee beyond 2012, owing to recent revelations that Entergy lied to regulators under oath.

Volz said it appears as if Entergy has "provided false information for an extended period of time."

"I, and the other two members, are deeply concerned by the accuracy of the information Entergy has provided," said Volz.

Entergy's misstatements to the PSB and others, coupled with the current tritium leak, raise questions about operational reliability, the cost and timing of decommissioning Vermont Yankee, the adequacy of the decommissioning fund and Entergy's managerial and technical competence.

"This board is dependent on Entergy providing timely and accurate information," said Volz.

PSB member David Coen told Entergy that one of the major claims supporting VY's relicensure — an economic benefit to the state — was severely undermined by the allegations of misleading the public, coupled with the coinciding tritium leak.

"There is a sense of insecurity and no confidence," said Coen. "So keep that in mind. There is no price that is high enough for the trust of Vermonters."

Continue reading "Entergy Tells Miffed Regulators: "This Company Gets It"" »

January 26, 2010

Vermont Schools Other States on FairPoint Sale

C4-Illuzzi State and federal lawmakers are using their experience of Verizon's sale of its landline operations to FairPoint as a way to slow, or deter, sales in other parts of the country.

Late last week, U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) and 21 members of Congress introduced legislation to close a loophole that allowed Verizon to avoid an estimated $700 million in taxes when it sold its northern New England landline operations to FairPoint Communications for $3 billion.

Meanwhile, State Sen. Vince Illuzzi (R-Essex/Orleans, pictured) has already traveled once to West Virginia, and plans another trip soon to talk to lawmakers about Vermont's experience with selling off its landlines.

Verizon used a little-known tax loophole called the Reverse Morris Trust to avoid paying taxes. It did by forcing the buyer to give Verizon shareholders more than 50 percent control of the new company.

The legislation, H.R. 4486, would eliminate the Reverse Morris Trust (RMT) provision of the federal tax code, which is being used by regulated utility companies to avoid paying taxes while divesting of public infrastructure, according to Welch's office.

FairPoint is currently in bankruptcy, and has yet to emerge from the proceedings. It has asked, more than once, to extend its date to respond to state regulators about its future plans.

“This loophole is bad for taxpayers, bad for consumers and bad for workers,” Welch said. “It’s hard to understand what public good is achieved by subsidizing a corporation’s efforts to unload public resources on a debt-saddled company.”

Continue reading "Vermont Schools Other States on FairPoint Sale" »

Best Bites: The Palms Restaurant

36 Strongs Avenue, Rutland 773-2367

013 Where was the first pizza served in Vermont? How about the state's first television in a public place? The answer to both is The Palms Restaurant. The eatery opened in 1933, when cobbler Giuseppe Sabatoso's lunches proved so appealing that customers demanded he switch from shoes to steaks. His son Primo was the one who brought pizza to Vermont in 1949, after studying the art of the pie in Troy, NY. And that TV? In 1950 The Palms started airing boxing matches every Friday.

60 years later, I decided to give it a try. As I entered The Palms, a cellist played Nino Rota's theme from The Godfather. The ceilings were covered in stucco, the walls in lattice-work and practically everything else, from windows to lamps, in palm tree designs.

The menu of old-time, red sauce Italian dishes made choosing difficult. Would it be the pork chops, dubbed a hometown favorite? I was tempted by the Manicotti and Meatballs, a combo I'd never seen before. Ultimately, I chose the lasagna al forno (pictured), described as "Grandma Dot's recipe." Grandma Dot knew what she was doing. Wonderfully al dente noodles housed parmesan-rich meatballs, truly sweet Italian sausage and just enough of a cheese blend that didn't go crazy on the ricotta. To my delight, the sauce was more acidic than most restaurant tomato sauces, a sure sign that it was fresh, not a surprise, as The Palms is a member of both the Vermont Fresh Network and Local First Vermont.

And what about the storied pizza? It tasted like history — my history, in the tri-state area. Though served in a deep dish, the slices were pure New York, well-seasoned, with sauce and cheese which blended for an unmistakably rich taste, on a thin crust. They didn't skimp on toppings either, there was practically no visible cheese beneath the pile of sausage and onion. No wonder folks have been coming back for generations.

January 25, 2010

Wright Under the Wire

With less than 10 minutes to spare, former KurtWright Former Burlington City Councilor Kurt Wright walked into City Hall Monday with the 30 signatures needed to get his name on the ballot.

Wright, a Republican, will challenge incumbent Democrat Russ Ellis in Ward 4.

Wright has twice served on the council, first from 1995 to 1999 and then from 2005 to 2009. After each of those stints Wright ran, unsuccessfully, for mayor.

"In the end, I had a lot of people coming up to me and asking me to run," said Wright, who currently serves in the Vermont House.

A number of people, including fellow lawmakers and his wife, encouraged him not to run.

"People in Montpelier, especially, were telling me that there is not a lot of upside to running and a lot of risk — even if I win," said Wright.

Though elected to the council from Ward 4 four times before, he's not taking the race for granted. "It is not going to be an easy race. Russ is a popular guy."

Democrats plan to ensure Wright's prediction of a difficult race comes true.

“We’re going to give him a strong fight for that council seat,” said David Cain, chairman of the Burlington Democratic Party. “I think between the run for council and the IRV petition, that Kurt is simply engineering a run for mayor in 2012.”

Continue reading "Wright Under the Wire" »

Video: Racine Says, "I'm the only one who's beaten Brian Dubie"

State Sen. Doug Racine (D-Chittenden) had just finished praising his Democratic rivals in the 2010 governor's race when he tossed out what could become an important part of his campaign message:  "And by the way, I'm the only one who's beaten Brian Dubie."

(The quip comes at minute 1:53).

Racine, who's been running for a year already, formally kicked off his campaign for governor on Saturday surrounded by several dozen supporters and politicos at the Champlain Mill in Winooski. Racine and the other four Democrats running for governor are struggling to differentiate themselves to voters who see far more similarities among the field than clear differences.

One thing that sets Racine apart: He beat Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie (the anticipated nominee for governor) for lieutenant governor in 2000. The reminder was a not-so-subtle dig at rivals Peter Shumlin and Matt Dunne, who each lost to Dubie in races for lieutenant governor.

Continue reading "Video: Racine Says, "I'm the only one who's beaten Brian Dubie"" »

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