Energy

Energy and renewables reporting.

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Energy siting bill passed without funding section

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MONTPELIER — Language providing funding for regional planning commissions that was left out of an energy siting bill passed by lawmakers in the waning hours of the legislative session will need to be restored when lawmakers return in January. Both House and Senate leaders agree that the funding — about $300,000 — was intended to be part of the final version of the legislation. The money will help regional planning commissions develop regional energy plans and assist municipalities with town-level energy plans. Those plans will be necessary under the law if local communities are to receive “substantial deference” from the Public Service Board when energy products are considered. House Natural Resources and Energy Committee Chairman Tony Klein, D-East Montpelier, said the absence of the funding in the bill was a simple drafting error as the office of Legislative Counsel worked quickly to update the legislation ahead of adjournment. Continue Reading →

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Work begins on potential dam purchase

House Speaker Shap Smith speaks at a news conference announcing the formation of a working group to determine if the state should consider purchasing hydroelectric dams on the Connecticut and Deerfield Rivers. Gov. Peter Shumlin, left, and Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell, right, were on hand to announce the working group. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin and legislative leaders announced the formation of a working group Tuesday to explore a potential state purchase of hydroelectric dams on the Connecticut and Deerfield Rivers. The announcement came ahead of an afternoon hearing held by the Senate Finance and Government Operations Committees to begin gathering information on the dams, and what it will take to for the state to purchase them. TransCanada put 13 dams located on the Connecticut and Deerfield Rivers on the market on March 17 as part of an effort to acquire Columbia Pipeline Group, a Texas-based firm that operates a natural gas pipeline between New York and the Gulf of Mexico, for $13 billion. The sale process involves a total of 4,600 megawatts of power in TransCanada’s northeast power portfolio, including the hydroelectric plants in Vermont that total 560 megawatts, according to spokeswoman Jennifer Link. TransCanada purchased the dams in 2005 for $505 million. Continue Reading →

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Potential dam purchase gets bipartisan support

The Wilder dam on the Connecticut River is among the 13 hydroelectric facilities put on the market by TransCanada. (Len Emery)

MONTPELIER — State officials are mobilizing to explore the potential purchase of hydroelectric dams on the Connecticut and Deerfield Rivers, but plenty of obstacles remain in the way to complete a purchase the state passed on just over a decade ago. TransCanada put the 13 dams on the market on March 17 as part of an effort to acquire Columbia Pipeline Group, a Texas-based firm that operates a natural gas pipeline between New York and the Gulf of Mexico, for $13 billion. The sale process involves a total of 4,600 megawatts of power in TransCanada’s northeast power portfolio, including the hydroelectric plants on the Connecticut and Deerfield Rivers that total 560 megawatts, according to spokeswoman Jennifer Link. The move has prompted a bipartisan group of state officials, including Gov. Peter Shumlin and House Speaker Shap Smith, both Democrats, and Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, to express interest in purchasing the dams through a state-owned power authority. A similar effort under former Gov. Jim Douglas was made in 2005, but TransCanada outbid the state with its $505 million offer. Continue Reading →

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Sen. John Rodgers considering LG bid

Sen. John Rodgers

MONTPELIER — Democratic Sen. John Rodgers is considering jumping into the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor to offer voters a moderate voice focused on affordability, energy and the state’s working landscape. The 50-year-old Glover resident who represents the Essex-Orleans Senate district, told the Vermont Press Bureau Thursday he plans to make his decision near the end of the legislative session. “I am still considering it,” Rodgers said. “I’m still on the fence for several reasons. It’s something I’m interested in and have sort of been interested in for some time.”

Rodgers would join Sen. David Zuckerman, D/P-Chittenden, Rep. Kesha Ram, D-Burlington, and Marlboro businessman Brandon Riker in a Democratic primary if he launches a campaign. Continue Reading →

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Rally for greater local voice in renewable energy projects

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MONTPELIER — Local residents are calling for a greater voice in the siting of renewable energy projects in their communities, and one Senate lawmaker is looking to ban industrial-scale wind projects altogether. More than 100 people packed into the Cedar Creek Room at the State House on Wednesday to protest the current method used by the state to approve renewable energy projects. “Our energy-siting policies and processes have become anti-environmental and anti-democratic,” said Sen. John Rodgers, D-Essex-Orleans, a remark that drew 20 seconds of applause from the gathered crowd. Rodgers argued that renewable energy projects should be treated the same way as any other form of development and should be subject to the provisions of Act 250, which includes a host of criteria such the overall impact a development would have to the aesthetics of the environment. “The process we use to site energy in Vermont is broken and it’s long past time to fix it,” Rodgers said. Continue Reading →

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Commentary: Vermont Should Divest from Coal and ExxonMobil Stocks

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n Christmas Day, I burned brush on my farm in Putney — in a t-shirt. My experience was not unlike that of many Vermonters as we all lived through Vermont’s most tropical Christmas in memory, capping off the world’s warmest year on record. Climate change is here, and it is affecting the Vermont that we love, from our ski areas to our lakes. Now is the time to take every sensible action to combat it if we’re to have a shot at preserving a livable planet for our kids and grandkids. At home, we’ve done a lot; from increasing by ten and 20 times the amount of solar and wind in Vermont, respectively, to investing in energy efficiency to help Vermonters use less energy and save money. Continue Reading →

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Experts debate carbon tax in Vermont

Panelists debate the merits of a carbon tax before a large audience at the Capitol Plaza in Montpelier on Thursday night. From left are John McClaughry, Rob Roper, Paul Burns and Jon Erickson. (Times Argus/Jeb Wallace-Brodeur)

MONTPELIER — Can 600,000 Vermonters slow the effects of climate change? That was the essential question posed Thursday night before a standing-room-only crowd of more than 100 during a debate on the merits of imposing a tax on carbon emissions. During the upcoming legislative session that begins in January, lawmakers are expected to discuss a pair of carbon tax proposals offered by Rep. Christopher Pearson, P-Burlington, and Rep. David Deen, D-Putney. Thursday’s discussion was set against the backdrop of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, where, next week, Gov. Peter Shumlin will discuss Vermont’s efforts to curb carbon emissions and encourage the creation of renewable energy. Speaking in favor of a carbon tax were Paul Burns, of the Vermont Public Interest Research Interest Group, and Jon Erickson, an economist and a fellow with the University of Vermont’s Gund Institute. Continue Reading →

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Commentary: Welch’s Stance Against Corn Ethanol

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hen a Washington-based lobbying outfit started airing television ads in Vermont that attack Rep. Peter Welch because he wants to scale back federal support for corn ethanol, the erstwhile Vermonter in me took offense. It has been a few years since I lived in Vermont, but I was born in Burlington, grew up in Essex Junction, and graduated from Essex High. I now live near Boston, but I’ll probably always consider myself a Vermonter and I think I still have a working sense of what Vermonters value. Related:

Welch responds to attack ad

Vermonters value follow-through, which partly explains Rep. Welch’s skepticism about the Renewable Fuel Standard, a federal law that effectively requires Americans to put billions of gallons of biofuel into our cars each year. The policy is sustained mainly by Iowa’s peculiar role in presidential politics and by the corn ethanol lobby, which has a history of big claims and poor follow-through. Continue Reading →

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Welch responds to attack ad

BARRE — Congressman Peter Welch responding is to a television ad attacking him for his stance on ethanol in gasoline. This weekend, local television stations in Vermont aired an ad from ethanol-advocacy group known as Fuels America, which attacks Welch for being signatory to a letter to Environmental Protection Agency questioning whether the percentage of ethanol in gasoline should be increased. The ad criticizes Welch for “circulating a plan written by oil industry lobbyists” and concludes by asking viewers to “remind Peter Welch to stand up for Vermont values, not oil companies and climate deniers.”

“I understand why they’re doing it,” Welch said of the ad. “The mandate is a moneymaker for the corn ethanol industry.”

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 mandates an ever-increasing volume of ethanol to enter the nation’s motor vehicle fuel supply. At the time, the Energy Information Administration projected demand for gasoline would continue to rise through 2022. Continue Reading →

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Entergy rejects trust fund withdrawal objections

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MONTPELIER — The state of Vermont is ramping up its fight with Entergy Nuclear over Vermont Yankee’s shrinking $600 million decommissioning trust fund. The attorney general’s office, along with the Department of Public Service, filed a petition last week with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, asking for a federal “comprehensive review” into how Entergy is spending the fund, which was $675 million a year ago. Yankee shut down Dec. 29, 2014, and Entergy has made regular withdrawals since then. Entergy estimated a year ago it would cost $1.2 billion in 2014 dollars to decommissioning the reactor. Continue Reading →

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