Monthly Archives: March 2010

VY tritium leak solved

Read the official press release from Vermont Yankee.

Download News Release VY Tritium Investigation

– Dan Barlow

Big day for Entergy


Vermont Yankee officials are announcing this morning the results of their tritium investigation and plans for site clean-up. Rutland Herald reporter Susan Smallheer is on site in Vernon for that meeting and we'll have info later on today on what happened.

Entergy officials are also appearing before the New York Public Service Commission today to appeal for its Enexus spin-off plans. That panel seems still unconvinced of the benefits.

Meanwhile, Smallheer also has a story in today's papers about the top Nuclear Regulatory Commission official overseeing Vermont Yankee being a … former Entergy employee.

– Dan Barlow

VTA makes the bid for Google’s fiber network

Brian Dubie leads the pack


A new poll on Vermont politics from Rasmussen is out and the findings are not good for the five Democrats running for the top job.

Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie beats them all.

Here's the match-ups:

Dubie vs Secretary of State Deb Markowitz: 46% to 39%

Dubie vs. Sen. Doug Racine: 48% to 35%

Dubie vs. Senate President Peter Shumlin: 51% to 33%

Dubie vs. Former Sen. Matt Dunne: 51% to 29%

Dubie vs. Sen. Susan Bartlett: 52% to 26%

It seems Dubie has a benchmark of around 46 percent support – creating quite a wall for Democrats to climb if they want to win this race. And those numbers are just awful for Shumlin, Dunne and Bartlett. Markowitz, the only one within single digits to Dubie, seems to have the best chance right now.

But this seems to be Dubie's race to lose.

– Dan Barlow

U.S. support for nuclear power: 62%

Throughout Gallup's years of polling on this issue, a majority of U.S. residents have always supported nuclear power. But this latest poll shows an all-time high of 62 percent.

I wonder how different a poll of Vermonters might be – especially this year, given the long list of problems at Vermont Yankee. Would it be flipped? Would 33 percent support nuclear power and the rest of Vermonters oppose? Or would it be closer to the U.S. average?

If you have any thoughts on the topic, comments are open.

– Dan Barlow

Read Tom Salmon’s letter to Peter Welch

State Auditor Tom Salmon sent a last-minute letter to U.S. Rep. Peter Welch on Sunday urging him not to vote for the health care bill. Read it below.

Download Welch Letter

– Dan Barlow

O’Brien offers “unwavering” support for VY

David O'Brien, the commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Service, told a group of Rutland Republicans why he still supports Vermont Yankee during a fundraiser Saturday.

"Vermont Yankee, as a unit, which you won't read about anymore, is one of the best-performing nuclear units in the country," he said, adding that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has told him it has no problem with the plant.

He also calls out Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin – a 2010 gubernatorial candidate for the Democrats – for allegedly taking advantage of a "poisonous atmosphere."

– Dan Barlow


Health care reactions …

… from Vermont's blogosphere.

At best it ameliorates the worst abuses of the private insurance companies and makes sure 95% of Americans would be covered with or without subsidies. At worst it's a huge dump of public funds to private business with a mandate that everyone must buy coverage.

– NanuqFC at Green Mountain Daily

The liberals' panicked, reckless race to an unprecedented power grab has permanently exposed their flag draped scam to socialize America.

– Jack Harding at Vermont Tiger

– Dan Barlow

Seven Days tries to have it both ways

So, either Seven Days' survey of Statehouse lawmakers and staff for "winners" of categories such as "most ethically challenged" and "best looking" was a solid piece of reporting worthy of the Burlington newspapers' front page and five pages of coverage inside.

Or, it was a failed experiment, a piece of puff full of "dubious categories" that suffered from a "low response rate."

But the paper can't have it both ways. And they can't honestly be shocked that the Republican Governors Association used their survey to attack Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin, a 2010 Democratic gubernatorial candidate.

In light of this news, Seven Days took to their blog to, uh, defend (I guess?) their survey. And they also to downplay its significance.

Are you as confused as I am?

– Dan Barlow

RGA uses Seven Days’ survey against Shumlin

Well that didn't take long.

On Wednesday, Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin – a 2010 Democratic gubernatorial candidate – was named "most ethically challenged" in a survey of Statehouse lawmakers and staff by Seven Days, the weekly Burlington newspaper.

Today, the Republican Governors Association – the national GOP group supporting Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie's bid for the job of Vermont governor – sent out a press release using that finding to slam Shumlin.

Here's what they had to say:

Yesterday we drew your attention to a story in which several people accused Sen. Peter Shumlin of being misleading when talking about Vermont Yankee, and today we bring you the results of a survey conducted by Seven Days, in which his own peers voted him “Most Ethically Challenged.”

What the RGA neglects to mention is that only 30 people responded to the survey. And only 12 people voted for Shumlin in this category. That's hardly a referendum.


O’Brien: No regrets over Jay Thayer dinner

David O'Brien, the commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Service, sent a letter to VT Digger this week explaining an issue that has plagued him for a few years: The allegations that he was too cozy with Entergy, the owner of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.

Shay Totten, the columnist at Seven Days, reported last year that O'Brien, whose job it is to represent ratepayers before the Public Service Board, had Thayer, the then-vice president of operations at VY, over to his Stowe home for a holiday dinner.

That raised some eyebrows, especially since Entergy was seeking the department's support – and the Board's approval – for some major plans, including extending the life of the plant for another 20 years. O'Brien denied that the party was improper and said that business was not discussed.

With problems plaguing VY, this issue hasn't gone away. In fact, it's become a bit of a chain around O'Brien's ankle and an easy plot point to point to for someone convinced that the regulators are too close to the industry they oversee.

O'Brien has continued to defend that party and this week took to Anne Galloway's Web site to state that he would do it again if he could.

Here's what he said:

In hindsight I regret being forthcoming about my personal holiday party, I should have answered that it was no one’s business who visits my home. Ever since this matter was first raised I feel as though my personal space has been invaded.

What do you think? Should state officials who oversee certain industries be allowed to party with those executives on their off-time. Is this no big deal? Clearly, O'Brien doesn't benefit from having Thayer over his home. But did Thayer benefit? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

– Dan Barlow

VPB headlines for today

Here are your Vermont Press Bureau headlines this morning:

Markowitz launches gubernatorial campaign

Vowing to tackle partisan gridlock in Montpelier and get affordable high-speed Internet to all corners of Vermont, Secretary of State Deb Markowitz — one of five Democrats hoping to succeed Republican Gov. Jim Douglas — kicked off her gubernatorial campaign Monday.

Lawmakers face busy second half of the session

When lawmakers return today to the Capital City for the second half of the legislative session they will have a lot of work left to complete.

New red flag on state budget

State General Fund revenues were $10 million less than expected in February, making the job of state budget writers even tougher.

– Dan Barlow

Racine to reveal health care bill today

The Senate and House health care committees have spent most of this session studying new formulas and models for Vermont's health care system.

And today, Sen. Doug Racine, the chairman of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee and a 2010 gubernatorial candidate, unveils his bill.

The bill – which will be introduced to his committee at 1:30 p.m. today – would hire independent advisers to design – not study, but actually design – three models for the state. Racine said the idea is that the next Vermont governor – and he hopes that will be him – will have ready-to-go options come inauguration day.

Whatever those models might be is undecided, but Racine said they need to adhere to these principles:

  • Universal access to health care for all Vermonters
  • Affordability for all Vermonters
  • Cost containment within the system
  • Access to health care regardless of employment status
  • Accountability for providers and payers
  • Equity in care

We'll know more this afternoon.

– Dan Barlow

A soundtrack for victory?

Secretary of State Deb Markowitz kicked off her campaign for governor today. And to promote the event, her campaign sent out a list of songs that she will play at the event.

Here's the list:

Free and Easy (Down the Road I Go)
Dierks Bentley

Back On the Train

Rock with You
The Jacksons

Blinded by the Light
Bruce Springsteen

The Best
Tina Turner

Shining Star
Earth, Wind and Fire

Sir Duke
Stevie Wonder

This is Our Moment
Kenny Chesney

Ain't No Stopping Us Now
McFadden and Whitehead

Still the One

 Use Somebody
Kings of Leon

There are some interesting choices here – who knew Deb was a Kings of Leon fan? But did we really need to hear "Still the One" one more time? That song should be retired from all future political events for the safety of voters' ears. And an eagle-eared reader clued us in that "Rock With You" is by Michael Jackson, not the Jackson 5.

– Dan Barlow

Vermont Press Bureau headlines

It's been a few days since I've done this, but here are the VPB headlines for today:

Montpelier pot vote spurs debate

Buoyed by the overwhelming Town Meeting Day vote in Montpelier supporting a nonbinding referendum for decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana, backers of the Vermont Alliance for Intelligent Drug Laws on Wednesday urged lawmakers to listen up.

Law aims to safeguard troops

Surrounded by dozens of soldiers at the Vermont National Guard headquarters in Colchester, Gov. James Douglas enacted a new law Wednesday that will prevent military parents from losing custody of their children solely because they are deployed overseas.

NRC told tritium leak is tip of the iceberg

The radioactive leak of tritium at the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant is just the tip of the iceberg of deferred maintenance, representatives for the New England Coalition said Wednesday during a meeting with the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

– Dan Barlow