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Sorrell announces Volkswagen settlement

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MONTPELIER — Vermonters who purchased or leased certain Volkswagen and Audi 2.0-liter diesel vehicles are set to receive a cash payment of more than $5,000 from Volkswagen and have the option of having their vehicle modified or bought back by Volkswagen under the terms of a settlement agreement with the company, Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell said. The agreement is a partial resolution of a consumer class-action suit and a lawsuit filed by the federal government against Volkswagen in California. The company has admitted to federal officials that it installed software in cars that would intentionally provide false information to technicians during emissions tests. The software was installed in up to 11 million vehicles worldwide. The settlement announced Tuesday, upon judicial review, will provide about 3,000 owners of 2.0-liter diesel vehicles in Vermont with a restitution payment of at least $5,100 and the choice of having Volkswagen buy back their vehicle or modification of their vehicle that will reduce emissions, as the company originally promised to do. 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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Senators reach bipartisan deal on national GMO labeling law

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MONTPELIER — A bipartisan deal has been reached by two key members of the U.S. Senate’s Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee on a national GMO labeling law that would nullify Vermont’s labeling law set to take effect on July 1. The compromise bill was announced by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., the Agriculture Committee’s ranking member, and its chairman, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas. The legislation would create the first mandatory, nationwide label for food products containing genetically modified organisms that are commonly referred to as GMOs. “This bipartisan agreement is an important path forward that represents a true compromise. Since time is of the essence, we urge our colleagues to move swiftly to support this bill,” the two lawmakers said in a joint statement. Continue Reading →

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Galbraith outlines free tuition plan at Vermont State Colleges

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Peter Galbraith outlines his plan for free tuition at the Vermont State Colleges for Vermont students. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Peter Galbraith released a plan Tuesday to cover the cost of a college education for Vermont students at state colleges by eliminating nearly $50 million in tax breaks and loopholes. Galbraith, a former diplomat and state senator from Windham County, revealed his plan outside of the Community College of Vermont Tuesday afternoon, declaring that “higher education should be a right, not a burden for young Vermonters.”

He said the plan would provide four years of free tuition at all of the Vermont State Colleges for all graduates of Vermont high schools who meet the academic requirements for admission. It would also provide free or reduced tuition at the University of Vermont for high school graduates who meet the income criteria to be eligible for Pell Grants. The total cost of providing free higher education is estimated to be $29 million, Galbraith said. The program would be paid for by eliminating tax breaks and raising the minimum wage, a key plank in Galbraith’s economic agenda. Continue Reading →

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Minter’s first TV ad focuses on Irene recovery

Sue Minter

MONTPELIER — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Sue Minter has launched her first TV ad, highlighting her role in Vermont’s recovery from Tropical Storm Irene. Minter’s ad, titled “Count On,” points out her role as deputy secretary of the Agency of Transportation and later as the Irene Recovery Officer, appointed by Gov. Peter Shumlin. “Vermont’s worst disaster in a century. Destruction for miles. As Irene Recovery Office, Sue Minter helped lead the rebuilding with hundreds of miles or road repaired and thousands of homes restored,” a narrator says. Continue Reading →

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Accuser in McAllister sexual assault case takes the stand

Sen. Norm McAllister in court Wednesday.

ST. ALBANS — The accuser in the sexual assault case of a sitting state senator described her experience with the man as “hell.”

Wednesday marked the first day of the trial of Sen. Norm McAllister, who is facing the possibility of life in prison over two felony counts of sexual assault.

During more than four hours of testimony, the alleged victim — now 21 years old — wore a plaid green shirt and blue jeans and shifted back in forth in her chair as she recounted numerous instances of McAllister assaulting her when she was 16 years old. “I was in hell,” she said, describing the first time McAllister allegedly assaulted her in a barn near his farm in Franklin. McAllister — a two-term Republican senator from Franklin County who is seeking re-election — watched his accuser intently as she described working for him as a farm hand, saying he sometimes made her feel uncomfortable. “Just the way he looked at me, eyeballing me up and down like a person does, undressing someone with your eyes,” she said. Continue Reading →

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Dunne discloses raising $717,855 in voluntary filing

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Matt Dunne discusses his campaign contributions at a news conference Wednesday. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Matt Dunne has raised $717,855 for his campaign, including $150,387 since March 15, according to a voluntary financial disclosure he filed with the Secretary of State’s Office Wednesday. Dunne, a former Windsor County state senator, called on all candidates to voluntarily release information about campaign contributions and expenditures on June 15. But the four other main candidates — Democrats Sue Minter and Peter Galbraith and Republicans Phil Scott and Bruce Lisman — all declined to do so. State law requires candidates to next file that information on July 15, the only required filing before the Aug. 9 primary date. Continue Reading →

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Dunne launches first TV ad, focuses on corporate campaign contributions

Matt Dunne

MONTPELIER — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Matt Dunne has launched his first television ad of the campaign, seeking to link his candidacy with that of Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermonter who ran a stronger-than-expected insurgent campaign against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for president. “What Bernie Sanders started, we need to finish. This campaign is about making Bernie’s vision a reality right here in Vermont,” Dunne, a former Google executive and Windsor County state senator, says in the ad’s opening. The campaign said the 30-second ad is part of “a robust six-figure” buy that will air statewide. The ad focuses on a major theme of Sanders’ campaign — banning corporate contributions. Continue Reading →

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Galbraith calls for universal background checks, ban of “assault-style” weapons

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Peter Galbraith called for a ban on "assault-style" weapons at a news conference Monday. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Peter Galbraith scrapped the planned announcement of his college plan for low-income Vermonters and instead called Monday for a ban on “assault-style” weapons following the massacre in Orlando on Sunday. Galbraith called for several new gun control measures at the state and federal level as authorities continued to investigate the shooting death of 49 people at a night club in Orlando, allegedly by Omar Mateen, who was killed by police. He told reporters at a news conference Monday at the Community College of Vermont there would be “a significant change in topic.”

“Today, with what’s happened in Orlando, I think that is the focus of attention in our state and it raises a broader issue for me, which I really go back to Robert Kennedy and his quote — “When in the face of evil good men do nothing, that is how evil triumphs,” he said. The former diplomat and Windham County state senator decried the lack of conversation in Vermont about new gun control measures. “We pretend that we are somehow immune from the national trends, when in fact, we’re not and when we face these tragedies we often go to a different issue. 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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