Energy

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Dunne position on wind draws fire

Matt Dunne

MONTPELIER — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Matt Dunne is drawing strong criticism from environmental advocates and leaders after calling for local referendums over the siting of wind energy projects less than two weeks before the state’s Aug. 9 primary. On Friday, Dunne, a former Google employee and Windsor County state senator, distributed a press release detailing his stance on the siting of renewable energy projects. At the top of the three points listed Dunne stated that “wind projects should only take place with the approval of the towns where the projects are located.”

“As governor, I will ensure that no means no. Towns should be voting by Australian ballot, and if a town says no to a large industrial wind project I would use all the power of the Governor’s office to ensure that is the end of the project,” Dunne wrote. Continue Reading →

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Minter outlines plan for energy future

Sue Minter

MONTPELIER — Sue Minter, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, has laid out a plan for Vermont’s energy future that she said will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the energy sector, support job growth in the clean energy sector and cut energy costs for Vermonters. Minter’s plan focuses on two main goals — reducing peak electric demand by 10 percent over the next five years and cutting back on carbon dioxide pollution in the transportation sector by expanding the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative that covers fossil fuel-burning power plants to include transportation fuels. Expanding RGGI, however, would require the consent of several other Northeast states that participate. “I am the candidate who is concerned about climate change, and who wants to make more progress on energy efficiency and local renewable energy,” Minter said in a statement. “It is unbelievable to me that we have candidates running for governor in the year 2016 who want to ban renewable energy when we now have over 17,000 Vermonters proudly working in the clean-energy sector.”

Minter said her administration would reduce peak electric demand, which is more costly and often generated through means that produce more carbon, through energy efficiency, solar power and new energy storage technologies. Continue Reading →

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Lawmakers craft replacement language for vetoed energy siting bill

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MONTPELIER — Key lawmakers have drafted replacement language for an energy siting bill vetoed by Gov. Peter Shumlin on Monday they hope will be passed during a legislative veto session on Thursday to fix issues he identified in his veto message. Shumlin, a Democrat who is not seeking a fourth two-year term, vetoed S.230 Monday over concerns that language approved on the final day of the legislative session would have unintended consequences. He said the emergency rule-making process called for in the bill for new wind turbine sound standards unintentionally invokes a provision in statute that would make Vermont the first state in the country to declare a public health emergency around wind energy “without peer-reviewed science backing that assertion up.”

Additionally, Shumlin said new temporary sound standards for wind turbines “unintentionally relies on a standard used in a small 150 kilowatt project as the standard for all wind” projects, which “could have the clearly unintended effect of pushing wind projects closer to homes where the background noise is higher.” Another provision in the bill requires notice of certificates of public good for energy projects on parcels of land to be filed with land records. He said that “could create problems for residential solar customers when they go to sell their home.”

The fourth concern deals with money. Under the bill, regional planning commissions are supposed to help municipalities develop local energy plans that conform to the state’s energy goals. Continue Reading →

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Shumlin vetoes energy siting bill

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MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin has vetoed a controversial energy siting bill, triggering a special legislative veto session on Thursday where lawmakers can try to override his rejection or look to fix the portions he finds unacceptable and send it back. The legislation, S.230, was passed by lawmakers on the final day of the legislative session last month after last-minute wrangling by House and Senate negotiators and the Shumlin administration. It seeks to provide local communities with more say over the siting of renewable energy projects if they craft their own energy plans that are approved by the Department of Public Service. It also seeks to create sound restrictions for wind generation projects. The governor, a Democrat, said the bill would hurt the state’s renewable energy progress, which he said has created more than 17,000 jobs in Vermont. Continue Reading →

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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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