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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 "" and "" 

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


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

Two Vermont Environmental Groups Unite

Brianshupe5Two Montpelier-based environmental organizations announced Wednesday they're teaming up to put a little more political muscle behind the causes they support.

The move unites the Vermont Natural Resources Council, a policy-focused organization, with the Vermont League of Conservation Voters, whose specialty has been electoral politics. The two groups will share financial resources, office space and some board members, according to VNRC executive director Brian Shupe (pictured at right), who will head both entities.

"After a pretty long and deliberative process, both boards decided it was in both of our interests a couple months ago," Shupe says. "They have a pretty successful track record of reaching the grassroots. They would call them voters. We call them the grassroots. But we're all Vermonters."

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September 27, 2013

Carbon-Free Shipping Project Sets Sail up Lake Champlain

Photo-1The Vermont Sail Freight Project's 39-and-a-half-foot sail barge, the Ceres, completed its maiden voyage today, gliding into Burlington Bay around 4:30 this afternoon; it left Vergennes shortly after 10 this morning. A lone trumpeter played classic tunes from a dock at the Burlington Boathouse as the 19th century-style, wind-powered craft approached.

As Seven Days reported in April, Erik Andrus, a Ferrisburg farmer and baker, conceived of Project as a carbon-neutral way to shuttle food grown and produced in the Champlain Valley to spots around the northeast.

Roughly 30 people were on hand to celebrate the vessel's arrival — including fans of the project, tourists basking in the sun, and a burly cyclist from Bike Recycle Vermont with a small trailer in tow. After a small crew unloaded the craft's cargo of grain and garlic, the cyclists delivered the produce to Great Harvest Bread Company and City Market.

PhotoNot only was today the maiden voyage for the project's barge — built with support from the Willowell Foundation and named for the Roman goddess of agriculture — it was also practice for a trip the crew will be making to New York City next month. Brian Goblick, who built parts of the Ceres and has been handling logistics for the project, explained they will be stopping at ports along the Hudson Valley to drop off goods and hold dockside events and demonstrations.

The Ceres arrives in Burlington. With his sons, Erik Andrus prepares to disembark. Photos courtesy of Charles Eichacker. 

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.

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September 03, 2013

Forbes Calls Vermonters "Stupid" For Closing Vermont Yankee

Images-1This week's winner of the "Ignoranus Award" — what the Washington Post Style Invitational once defined as "someone who is both stupid and an asshole" — goes to James Conca for his Sept. 1, 2013 Forbes piece titled, "Who Told Vermont To Be Stupid?" In it, Conca writes that:

"The Great State of Vermont threw away cheap clean energy this week out of ignorance and fear. Vermont chose to be stupid, and will hurt the environment as a sidebar."

After paying lip service to the "official reasons" Entergy cited for closing the 41-year-old plant, Conga declared that "we all know the real reason. Nasty politics and ignorance. The latter is forgivable and rectifiable with a little homework. The former is not."

Ugh. There's nothing more infuriating than someone smugly calling you stupid and lazy for not doing your homework — who was too lazy to do his own. Here are some quotes from the author who claims to "cover the underlying drivers of energy, technology and society." It appears he could use some extra time in study hall: 

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August 30, 2013

The Scoreboard: This Week's Winners and Losers

ScoreboardPaul Heintz is on vacation, so this week's scores have been tallied by Seven Days digital media manager Tyler Machado. (CONFIDENTIAL TO HEINTZ: You picked a hell of a week to take off, dude!)

So who won and lost the week in Vermont news and politics?

Stoners, Catamounts and Lake Monsters, oh my!

Here's the Scoreboard for the week of Friday, Aug. 30: 


Almost Everyone — Entergy's announcement that it will shut down Vermont Yankee in 2014 was good news for everyone — except, of course, the folks who work there. Entergy saves some loot. Vermont ratepayers won't notice the difference since local utilities weren't buying its power anyway. Environmentalists will close the book on decades of activism. And nearly every political entity in Vermont (and elsewhere!) scored an easy layup — even if cheap natural gas was the final death blow for the state's sole nuclear power plant.

Pot smokers — Attorney General Eric Holder says the Justice Department won't challenge state laws legalizing marijuana. That should ease the minds of Vermont's marijuana reform opponents, including House Speaker Shap SmithRunner-up winner: Sen. Patrick Leahy, who may have forced Holder's hand on the issue.

More winners, and losers, after the jump...

Continue reading "The Scoreboard: This Week's Winners and Losers" »

August 29, 2013

Middlebury College Won't Be Divesting From Fossil Fuels


For the last several years, climate change activist Bill McKibben has been traveling the country encouraging colleges to stop investing their endowments in the fossil-fuel sector. But it looks like that message is a tough sell at Middlebury College, where McKibben is a scholar-in-residence. 

Yesterday, Midd released a statement explaining why it won't be withdrawing its investments from the fossil-fuel industry any time soon. In it, president Ronald D. Liebowitz explains that the school's administration and Board of Trustees took "a hard look" at pursuing a no-fossil-fuels investment strategy and decided against it. 

In his letter, Liebowitz touts Middlebury's existing environmental initiatives, which include the first-in-the-nation environmental studies program of which McKibben is a part. But Liebowitz also explains that Midd's nearly $1 billion endowment covers about 18 percent of the school's operating expenses. He describes the “fiduciary responsibility” of the school’s Board of Trustees to manage that fund with the bottom line in mind.

“If it is to continue to fund operations at comparable or increasing levels in the years ahead, the endowment must grow through new gifts and, especially, through the returns it earns on its investments,” he writes.

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"Bloom Season" Is Upon Us

AlgaeFall is right around the corner. But until the leaves turn red and gold, people around Lake Champlain must contend with changing colors of a different sort: For the last two weeks, pea-green blooms of algae have been popping up in Missisquoi, St. Albans and Malletts bays.

“Mid-August through September is, unfortunately, what we in the business call ‘bloom season,’” says James Ehlers, executive director of the nonprofit Lake Champlain International.

Scientists have determined that early summer rain brings nutrients like phosphorus into the lake, and long stretches of sunlight facilitate photosynthesis, resulting in the pea-green film, Ehlers explains. 

“It’s not unlike April showers bring May flowers,” he says.

Continue reading ""Bloom Season" Is Upon Us" »

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