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April 02, 2013

Judge Tosses Lawsuit by Former Blue Cross Exec Who Got $7M Golden Parachute

MilnesWilliam R. Milnes Jr. won't be getting any more money out of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont. At least, not anytime soon.

A federal judge has dimissed a lawsuit filed by the HMO's former chief executive officer that sought an additional $575,000 in retirement pay.

Readers will remember Milnes as the Blue Cross exec who departed the company with a jaw-dropping $7.2 million golden parachute in 2008. State insurance regulators ruled in 2009 that the pay package was excessive under state insurance law, and ordered Blue Cross to reimburse $3 million of that sum to subscribers in the form of lower rates.

In the aftermath, Milnes moved to Florida. But he resurfaced in Vermont last year when he sued Blue Cross in federal court for another $575,000 in retirement pay — plus $200,000 in interest — that he said the company still owed him.

Last week, U.S. District Judge J. Garvan Murtha ruled that Blue Cross doesn't have to pay it. The company would be in violation of that same insurance law barring excessive compensation if it awarded the $575,000 to Milnes, the judge ruled. Murtha also said the "impracticability doctrine" excuses Blue Cross from meeting its contractual obligation to Milnes.

"Mr. Milnes would have BCBSVT pay him additional compensation above and beyond the amount already ruled excessive," Murtha wrote in the 18-page decision. "Although due to Mr. Milnes following his retirement, these payments reward work performed during the same years BISCHA ruled he received excessive compensation."

Continue reading "Judge Tosses Lawsuit by Former Blue Cross Exec Who Got $7M Golden Parachute" »

February 27, 2013

First Sound Study at Lowell Shows Wind Project Noise (Mostly) Within Required Standards

LowellThe first round of noise studies is in from Kingdom Community Wind, the contentious wind-energy development straddling a ridgeline between Lowell and Albany.

The verdict?

For the most part, the 21 Vestas turbines strung along the spine of the Lowell Mountains did not generate enough noise to violate the conditions under which the Public Service Board approved the Green Mountain Power project. But in a few instances, noise at the remote Northeast Kingdom wind project did spike high enough to violate GMP's permit. 

That’s according to a report GMP filed yesterday (PDF) with the PSB. Wind opponents and neighbors, however, aren’t satisfied with the study, and say the noise generated by the 400-foot-tall turbines is still loud enough to disrupt the quality of life for nearby residents.

“I don’t call it that we have a quality of life anymore,” says Shirley Nelson, who along with her husband, Don, lives on more than 580 acres on the eastern slope of the Lowell Mountains. Their property borders the Lowell project, and the Nelsons have been vocal opponents of it. The Nelsons and GMP are entangled in a lawsuit over disputed ownership along a section of the ridgeline.

“I sometimes wake up with headaches, and can’t sleep the night through anymore. My ears ring almost constantly when the turbines are going,” says Shirley Nelson.

Don Nelson likened the noise inside the couple’s farmhouse to the sound of rushing water. Outside, he says, the turbines sound like “a jet plane on the horizon.” The noise isn’t steady, the Nelsons say, but pulses in and out. Nearby neighbors, they say, have to run a fan at night in order to block out the turbine noise and get to sleep.

One condition of GMP's permit to operate the wind farm is that sound levels not exceed 45 decibels outside of any existing homes near the project and 30 decibels in interior bedrooms. (GMP equates 45 decibels to the ambient noise level inside a library.) The utility must collect noise measurements from the project for at least two weeks, four times a year, for the first two years of operation. GMP hired White River Junction-based Resource Systems Group, Inc., to collect and analyze the first round of noise data, and submitted the data to a third party for confirmation that it was sufficient for a thorough analysis.

Continue reading "First Sound Study at Lowell Shows Wind Project Noise (Mostly) Within Required Standards" »

February 21, 2013

This Week's Issue: Closing a Child Porn Loophole; Deciding the Future of South Burlington

Cover022013In this week's issue of Seven Days, starring local musician Jim Rooney on the cover...

Find your copy on newsstands, at sevendaysvt.com or in the App Store.

January 17, 2013

This Week's Issue: A Biomass Battle; The Revolving Door Spins Again

Cover-011613In this week's print edition of Seven Days, which you can read on your iPhone or iPad with our new free app...

January 04, 2013

We're Number … 25?

BoozyBurlington has cracked another "Best place to (insert whatever here)" list. But the Queen City's latest superlative is not as one of the top burghs to raise a family or for the highest rate of smug Prius drivers per capita. According to the folks over at the Daily Beast, BTV ranks as the 25th booziest city in the country. (Milwaukee, Boston was number one, FYI.) 

I was initially surprised, and a little offended, we only ranked 25 — behind the likes of Cleveland and Fargo, no less. That is until I remembered that Burlington is also routinely named among the healthiest cities in the country. So that either means the boozehound portion of the population seriously gets after it to make up for the teetotalers — a notion supported by the study's finding that 19.4 percent of the local populace are binge drinkers — or that Burlingtonians have an uncanny ability to snowshoe/ski/kayak/save the planet/raise kids with devastating hangovers. Either way, slaínte!

January 03, 2013

With A Little Help From His Friends: A-Dog Fights the Good Fight

DJ A-DogThe local music scene was deeply saddened by the news that one of Burlington's preeminent turntablists, DJ A-Dog, was diagnosed with leukemia in mid-December. A-Dog, (a.k.a. Andy Williams), 37, is currently undergoing chemotherapy at the Fletcher Allen Health Center in Burlington. Fortunately, he was diagnosed in the early stages of the disease. Still, he'll be hospitalized for about a month, followed by outpatient treatment. And like most working musicians, he doesn't have health insurance.

To help foot what promises to be a hefty bill, the Burlington music community will come together tonight, Thursday, January 3, at Club Metronome in Burlington for "Friends For A-Dog," the first of what is likely to be several benefit shows in support of Williams. The showcase features a slew of local talent including DJs Craig Mitchell, Disco Phantom and Big Dog, EDM collective Bonjour Hi and punk rockers, Rough Francis, among many others.

If you can't make the show tonight, but still want to lend a hand, A-Dog is accepting donations here. Additionally, rumors are beginning to circulate regarding future benefit shows at various venues around town, and we'll have more details on those as they become available. 

 

December 05, 2012

This Week's Paper: December 5, 2012

F-cover-1In this week's issue of Seven Days, now available in print and online...

Illustration by Stefan Bumbeck

November 29, 2012

This Week's Paper: A Reporter With a Record; Marijuana Dispensaries Face Financial Pressures

618-f-drugwarIn this week's print edition of Seven Days, you'll find these bits of news:

 

October 11, 2012

(AUDIO) Annette Smith: Wind Development Like "a Terrorist Has Landed in Your Community"

Annette_newWrite-in candidate for governor Annette Smith amped up her rhetoric on wind energy today during an appearance on WDEV-FM's "The Mark Johnson Show," comparing wind turbines to "a terrorist" landing in your community.

"Don't shoot the messenger. I'm sorry, I thought wind was going to be part of the solution," Smith told the radio host. "When you work on the wind issue, and you go into these communities — it's like a terrorist has landed in your community."

Here's audio of the quote:

Smith: "Don't shoot the messenger."

Smith, who is waging a write-in campaign as an independent after narrowly losing a write-in campaign for the Progressive nomination, appeared on Johnson's show to talk about her campaign and her choice to remain at the head of the nonprofit advocacy group Vermonters for a Clean Environment, among other topics.

Smith's no stranger to strong words about wind development. In March, she told me developers are "making climate-change victims out of the people who live around the projects" — to which climate change activist Bill McKibben, a supporter of wind development, retorted that there are plenty of people and places around the world that better qualify as victims.

Continue reading "(AUDIO) Annette Smith: Wind Development Like "a Terrorist Has Landed in Your Community"" »

October 10, 2012

The Fact Checker: Would Single-Payer Health Care Result in the Largest Tax Increase in Vermont History?

Factchecker-trueCLAIM: “Montpelier is keeping a $5 billion secret. Why? Because the truth will result in the largest single tax increase in state history.”

 — Television commercial from conservative super PAC Vermonters First

FACTS: So what’s the secret? The super PAC Vermonters First is referring to the state’s current annual health care expenditures, including private insurance and federally funded programs, which total $5 billion. If Vermont moves ahead with a publicly financed universal health care system, residents would pay taxes instead of insurance premiums to cover the cost.

Continue reading "The Fact Checker: Would Single-Payer Health Care Result in the Largest Tax Increase in Vermont History?" »

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