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March 07, 2011

Commuting on Snowshoes: Ah, March in Vermont

***UPDATED below at 5:00 p.m.

***and UPDATED AGAIN at 7:25 a.m. Tuesday

Even by this winter's snowy standards, this snowstorm is a doozy. The National Weather Service office in South Burlington has received just short of two feet of snow — enough, already, to put this among the top five snowstorms on record. The snow total winner is Jericho, with 30 inches on the ground so far.

How bad has this storm been? The CCTA suspended bus service for the day.  Burlington International Airport is closed due to the snow. Not only have most K-12 schools in the state closed for the day, but even St. Michael's College canceled all classes. (The University of Vermont and Champlain College are on spring break this week.) The Burlington Police Department has asked people not to drive in Burlington because "plows and emergency equipment are stuck behind stranded motorists." (And yes, there's another parking ban tonight, so cars must once again be off Burlington streets by 10:00 p.m. in residential areas and midnight downtown — assuming you were even able to get it on the street this morning.)

Naturally, Twitter was all abuzz with discussion of the snowy conditions:

Snowshoe'd to work. Met the mayor. He was doing the same. Is this Sicily, AK or #BTV?

Woke up to some serious snow and an email from Jake saying the office won't be open until 1. Long live powder days.

Don't forget to clear your dryer/heater vents #BTV. Very simple, prevents disaster. Apartment dwellers too/especially.

Vermont is closed for the day. We apologize for the inconvenience. #btv

Approaching 24 hour snow total records here at #jaypeak

Mail delivery has been cancelled today in Burlington. They can't get their trucks out of the lot on Pine St #btv #snowproblemo #vt

We've also seen some photos, from 7D staff and the community alike, that are pretty mindblowing. Here's one from Seven Days co-editor Pamela Polston looking out her kitchen window:


Here's a guy taking to South Champlain Street by cross-country skis, just outside our office:


Designer Brooke Bousquet took this shot of her snowbound driveway in Winooski. She made it to the office anyway, though, to make sure we still have a paper on Wednesday. Yay Brooke!


And here's a photo of Interstate 89 in Bolton, taken at 1:35 by a roadside camera. Not a good time to be on the roads.


UPDATE: A little over 3 hours later, here's how Interstate 89 looks from that same camera. Be warned, though, that 89 South is currently closed from Exit 11 to Exit 10 due to a crash.



Here's a photo that was sent to us from Bob in Barre, who says he was cooking on that grill just 12 hours before he took this picture:


And we've got a video now from Gahlord Dewald, who cross-country skied down Church Street to his office this morning. That actually looks pretty fun.

Couple more photos for good measure...

Here's a photo from Suzanne in Westford of their post office...despite what you see here, their post office actually opened! Even in Burlington, mail carriers couldn't deliver the mail through the storm.


      This photo is from Jay in Georgia, who assures us his car is under here somewhere.


And lastly, here's a photo of local mashup king and party-starter DJ Disco Phantom, snowshoeing his way through Burlington's Old North End.  Thanks to Ali Fogel for the photo.

The grand snowfall total at the National Weather Service office in South Burlington was 25.8 inches. That's enough to make this the third-biggest storm on record. Some Vermont and upstate New York towns got even more snow than that — click here to see the full list of storm totals.

Have any videos or photos you want to share? How are you dealing with this storm? Let us know in the comments. We'll keep updating this post as the afternoon wears on and the snow keeps falling...

February 21, 2011

UVM Forum Asks: Vermont Yankee, Yea or Nay?

\F-2dudes-arnie HCS+November+2006In roughly one year, the operating license of Vermont's lone nuclear power plant — Vermont Yankee — expires.

Despite a continued push by Entergy, the plant's owners, along with a vocal group of businesses and citizens, there appears to be little evidence that lawmakers, or the governor, will reverse last year's legislative vote and pave the way for the plant to have its relicensing case heard before the state Public Service Board.

Since last year there have been three, possibly four, leaks that have spilled hundreds of thousands of gallons of water laced with tritium into the groundwater and Connecticut River. Last week, a high-pressure steam leak forced the evacuation of the reactor building.

On Thursday, two experts on nuclear energy will debate Vermont Yankee's continued operation in the next installment of the University of Vermont's Janus Forum: "Vermont Yankee: Shut It Down or Keep It Running?" The event, which is free and open to the public, will take place at 4 p.m. in the Davis Center's Silver Maple Ballroom.

Speaking in support of Vermont Yankee is Howard Shaffer, who has been a member of the American Nuclear Society (ANS) for 34 years, and is nuclear engineer.

Speaking in favor of shutting down VY is Arnie Gundersen, chief engineer of Fairewinds Associates, and a former nuclear industry executive and licensed reactor operator.

Continue reading "UVM Forum Asks: Vermont Yankee, Yea or Nay?" »

February 17, 2011

'Right-To-Die' Bill Introduced in Legislature

DWD Presser Armed with a new poll that says 64 percent of Vermonters support a right-to-die law, a group of lawmakers introduced legislation today that would give terminally ill patients the choice of ending their own lives.

After intense lobbying, the group Patient Choices Vermont secured 43 co-sponsors for H-274, including every House member from Burlington, minus Republican Kurt Wright and Democrat Johannah Leddy Donovan. Rep. Donna Sweaney (D-Windsor) is the lead sponsor. The bill was unveiled by Patient Choices Vermont founder Dick Walters (pictured at podium) and other supporters during a Statehouse press conference this morning.

Two things give supporters hope that "death with dignity" will pass this year: Gov. Peter Shumlin supports it (former Gov. Jim Douglas did not); and a new Zogby poll commissioned by Patient Choices Vermont, and released today, shows broad support for the legislation.

The Death With Dignity National Center in Oregon, where the nation's first right-to-die law was passed in 1997, has targeted Vermont as the most likely state for a legislative victory this year. The center's executive director was in Vermont in December to meet with Shumlin and organizers for the effort. Click here for more background.

The Zogby telephone survey was conducted on February 11 and asked 600 likely Vermont voters: "Would you support or oppose legislation to give a mentally competent adult, dying of a terminal disease with a prognosis of less than 6 months to live, the right to request and take medication to peacefully hasten death?" The results: 64 percent support, 26 percent oppose and 10 percent aren't sure.

That's actually lower support for right-to-die legislation than in previous Zogby polls. A 2007 survey showed 82 percent of Vermonters supported the bill. That same year, the House voted down a right-to-die bill 63 to 82.

Continue reading "'Right-To-Die' Bill Introduced in Legislature" »

February 08, 2011

Entergy CEO: Utility Wants Vermont Yankee to Keep Running

Logo-entergy-reg It was the first topic that Entergy CEO J Wayne Leonard tackled in the utility's quarterly earnings call with investors and reporters: What is the future of Vermont Yankee?

"We are committed to maintaining open and timely communications however great the challenge is for gaining public support and disproving a negative that the age of the plant is determinate of its condition, as is essentially the position the governor took last month," said Leonard.

Leonard then quoted Gov. Peter Shumlin as saying VY was "designed to shut down in 2012 and that 40 years is up in 2012." Leonard said this echoed campaign statements Shumlin made, including: "It's old it's tired and it should be retired."

Leonard said the governor is encouraging his counterpart in New York to take a similar approach and oppose the relicensing of Indian Point.

"While states and governors are certainly free to voice their opinions," Leonard added, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, "which has jurisdiction in these matters must deal with the facts. And the fact is the 40-year life was based on the expected economic life, not the physical life, that nuclear plants were designed for."

Continue reading "Entergy CEO: Utility Wants Vermont Yankee to Keep Running" »

February 07, 2011

Pres. Obama's Efficiency Plans Mirror Welch Legislation

Picture 023 In his effort to "win the future," Pres. Barack Obama is proposing two new energy-efficiency programs that mirror legislation introduced in the last Congress by Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT, center in photo).

Obama is currently touring the country in an effort to drum up popular support for investing in energy efficiency as a way to help businesses and homeowners reduce costs and power use, spur job growth and cut greenhouse-gas emissions.

"Our homes and our businesses consume 40 percent of the energy we use. Think about that. Everybody focuses on cars and gas prices, and that’s understandable.  But our homes and our businesses use 40 percent of the energy," Obama told a crowd last week during a stop at Penn State University. "They contribute to 40 percent of the carbon pollution that we produce and that is contributing to climate change. It costs us billions of dollars in energy bills. They waste huge amounts of energy.

Continue reading "Pres. Obama's Efficiency Plans Mirror Welch Legislation" »

December 18, 2010

This Means War? Progressive Mayor Works With Defense Contractor to Combat Climate Change

Lockheed_F-35_Joint_Strike_Fighter * Updated *

Burlington used to have a reputation as a hotbed of anti-war activism. Protesters regulary chained themselves to the fences outside the weapons design shop on Lakeside Avenue — home to General Electric, Martin Marietta, Lockheed Martin and most recently General Dynamics.

This building was such a focal point of protest that it even inspired a song, penned by one of the Queen City's storied punk rocks bands, The Wards. It's called, aptly, "Weapons Factory." Check out the video someone put together.

General Dynamics announced last year that it is leaving the Queen City for an abandoned IBM building in Williston. Fret not activists, you can still fight efforts to bring the F-35 joint strike fighter to the Vermont National Guard in South Burlington at the Burlington International Airport.

On Monday, Mayor Bob Kiss — a Progressive no less — will sign a letter of intent outlining an agreement to work with defense contractor Lockheed Martin to combat global climate change. The cooperation is part of the city's participation in the "Carbon War Room." Lockheed Martin is expected to use Burlington as a test city to deploy some of the green technology and strategies it's developing.

Maybe we can expect to see predator drones roaming through the Queen City to check if we've replaced our bulbs with CFLs or have put out our recycling? Recycling enforced by martial law?

Continue reading "This Means War? Progressive Mayor Works With Defense Contractor to Combat Climate Change" »

November 29, 2010

VT Law School Student and Prof Blogging from COP16 Climate Change Conference

COP16 Remember last year's global climate change conference in Copenhagen? The one that, despite Barack and Michelle Obama's best efforts, failed to produce a binding U.N. treaty to slow global warming?

Well, it's happening again, this year in Cancun, Mexico, from Nov. 29 to Dec. 10. A Vermont Law School professor and student are attending the COP16 conference and blogging about it.

VLS assistant professor Katherine Garvey and third-year law student Dan Miller will aim to provide a local perspective on the U.N. "conference of parties," or COP16. According to a VLS press release, Garvey is there to see what Vermont can learn from Latin American countries that, like us, have greenhouse gas emissions from land use, agriculture and forestry. Miller is focusing on financing adaptation and mitigation projects, with emphasis on the role of the U.N. Development Programme, the release states.

Continue reading "VT Law School Student and Prof Blogging from COP16 Climate Change Conference" »

November 11, 2010

Stock Analysts: Vermont Yankee is a "Tough Sell"

Vermontyankee Two separate stock analysts today offered little hope that Entergy would find a new owner for Vermont Yankee — citing an unfavorable regulatory and political environment as well as a recent shutdown caused by a leak in a key system pipe.

Vermont Yankee reconnected to the regional power grid early this morning after a three-day shutdown. But, its ongoing leaks and regulatory problems are being noticed by industry analysts.

"The Vermont Yankee nuclear plant that Entergy put up for sale Nov. 4 could have a tough time finding any takers. It has among the most challenging economics of any U.S. nuclear plant, and Entergy is in the midst of contentious negotiations with state and federal regulators to extend the plant's operating license beyond 2012. If regulators or the Vermont legislature deny the license extension, the plant will shut down," writes Morningstar analyst Travis Miller. "Even if the plant continues operating, Entergy management earlier this year told analysts the plant is not earning its cost of capital and probably would not cover its operating costs in 2011 and 2012. At the time, the disclosure was meant to de-emphasize the potential financial impact on Entergy if the plant closed. It now could backfire."

Miller called Vermont Yankee an "albatross" around Entergy's financial neck.

Continue reading "Stock Analysts: Vermont Yankee is a "Tough Sell"" »

Conservation Law Foundation Hires Journalist as Lakekeeper

Champlain_masts A quick update to a brief item in "Fair Game" this week: Louis Porter, the bureau chief of the Vermont Press Bureau, has been named the Lake Champlain Lakekeeper at the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF).

His job change is effective December 1.

The bureau covers the Vermont State House and state government for the Rutland Herald and the Barre Montpelier Times-Argus newspapers.

As lakekeeper, Porter will "advocate for the restoration and protection of Lake Champlain and the rivers, streams, and landscapes that drain to the Lake from Vermont, New York, and Quebec," CLF officials noted in a news release issued late Wednesday.

“Louis has reported on virtually all aspects of life in the Champlain region,” said Christopher Kilian, vice president and director of CLF Vermont. “He has the skills to raise awareness of the lake’s problems, bring stakeholders together around urgently-needed clean water solutions, and investigate and publicize water pollution sources.”

Continue reading "Conservation Law Foundation Hires Journalist as Lakekeeper" »

November 07, 2010

Vermont Yankee Shuts Down to Fix (Another) Leak

9-9-2009 toon grey cropped * updated below *

The Vermont Yankee nuclear power station began an unscheduled shutdown Sunday night after engineers found a new leak in a key system pipe at the Vernon reactor.

The plant shutdown began at roughly 7 p.m., said Entergy Vermont Yankee spokesman Larry Smith, after plant operators has earlier identified leakage of approximately 60 drops per minute from a feedwater pipe located in the plant's turbine building.

Technicians and engineers later located the leak in the feedwater system piping.

VY previously repaired a leak in a feedwater pipe in August 2009. That one leaked about two cups per minute.

"The leak is in a 24-inch pipe located by the feed water pumps in the plant’s turbine building," Smith told Seven Days. The feed water system is not a safety system, Smith notes. It returns water to the reactor from the plant's turbines — but at high pressure and high temperatures.

The leaking pipe is 24 inches in diameter and cannot be repaired with the plant in operation, Smith said. Therefore, a conservative decision was made to take the plant out of service to perform a repair.

Continue reading "Vermont Yankee Shuts Down to Fix (Another) Leak" »

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