Sanders brings U.S. Senate committee hearing to Vt.

Montpelier, Vermont – August 23, 2010

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is bringing a U.S. Senate hearing on employee-owned businesses to Montpelier this week.

The Senate Committee on Health Education, Labor and Pensions will hold the hearing at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday. It will focus on two bills introduced by Sanders.

The first bill would create an office that would provide training, grants and tech support for programs promoting employee ownership and participation. The second would provide loans to employees who buy a business through a stock ownership plan or cooperative.

Sen. Patrick Leahy co-sponsored both bills.

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SEVCA receives federal money for weatherization


Monday August 23, 2010

WESTMINSTER — Southeastern Vermont Community Action received $900,000 to provide solar thermal and solar hot water technologies for low-income Vermont families.

And the state as a whole will receive another $700,000 after being recognized for achieving weatherization benchmarks from the U.S. Department of Energy.

SEVCA was one of five agencies in Vermont that shared almost $5 million in Federal money to increase the number of solar installations across the state.

Development Director Lisa Jane Clarke stated in a press release announcing the receipt of the funds that people should not have to be well-off to be able to live a simple, sustainable life in their own home.

“This will have a huge impact upon our organization and the lives of the individuals and families that we serve,” she stated. “Not only will this offer opportunities for job creation and training in an emerging green technology, but also options to reduce our clients’ dependency on oil and utility costs overall. Now the people who need the savings the most will have access to this technology.”

By making low-income homes more energy efficient, families save an average of $437 on their energy bills, according the U.S. Department of Energy.

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Vermont Receives $400,000 To Re Develop Contaminated Properties

Source: Governor of Vermont Posted on: 23rd August 2010

Governor Jim Douglas was joined by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and local officials to announce that the State of Vermont has been awarded $400,000 from the federal government to replenish its revolving loan fund for cleaning up contaminated brownfields sites.

The Governor made the announcement at the site of the former Fonda Container Company/Solo Cup property, which received $400,000 in federal funds last year for the ongoing cleanup of contamination caused by paper manufacturing there.

“These funds will help us continue with the re-development of sites like this all over the state,” Governor Douglas said. “Turning these brownfields into clean, safe spaces for re-development will help communities from St. Albans to Springfield revitalize their local economies.”

In addition to the $400,000 for the state’s revolving loan fund, the Environmental Protection Agency also awarded a similar amount to the Southern Windsor County Regional Planning Commission (SWCRPC) to re-capitalize its brownfields revolving loan fund and $1 million to the Northwest Regional Planning Commission (NWRPC) to re-capitalize their revolving loan fund as well.

To date, the state has been awarded over $1.9 million for clean-up of brownfields sites; SWCRPC has been awarded close to $3 million in RLF and assessment funding; and NWRPC is now receiving $1 million for its fund.

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Vermont Yankee Update (2 Articles)

For Vermont Yankee’s owner, hot water in New York

Aug 20, 2010 (The Keene Sentinel – McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) —

Those who live near the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant — it’s just across the river from Hinsdale — might be interested in a recent editorial from The New York Times. It appears that the troubles of Entergy Nuclear, which runs the plant, are not limited to events around here. The company is also facing a firestorm of criticism over its Indian Point nuclear plant in Buchanan, New York. That’s a small town located on the Hudson River about 35 miles from New York City. As is the case with Vermont Yankee, the two Indian Point reactors began operations almost 40 years ago. And, also as with Vermont Yankee, Entergy is asking the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to extend their operating licenses for 20 years.

Although the NRC has yet to deny a nuclear plant license renewal, Vermont Yankee’s request has been complicated by problems with the aging plant’s structure, such as cracks in various pipes and the 2007 collapse of part of a cooling tower. There’s also a string of careless operating procedures; the Vermont Legislature’s Public Oversight Panel recently condemned the company’s “corporate culture” and “miscommunication.” (The latter term has been used by Vermont Yankee to characterize untrue statements the plant’s then-vice president of operations made last year to state legislators and, under oath, to the Vermont Public Service Board.)

This past winter, Vermont Yankee spent two months trying to determine the source of radioactive tritium leaking into the ground near the plant. Along the way, investigators also turned up samples of cobalt-60, cesium-137 and strontium-90. People living nearby were told by company officials and the NRC not to worry their pretty little heads, that the leaked materials didn’t endanger the public.

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NY PSC is still vexed over possible Entergy spin off

By BOB AUDETTE / Reformer Staff

Monday August 23, 2010

BRATTLEBORO — When Entergy learned its plan to spin off five of its nuclear power plants into a new, wholly independent company was in jeopardy of being nixed by both the New York Public Service Commission and the Vermont Public Service Board, CEO J. Wayne Leonard said Entergy might consider the option of spinning off its seven other nuclear power plants instead.

Entergy’s plan was to spin off Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon and four other power plants in the eastern United States into a company called Enexus.

Those power plants are considered merchant plants because they sell electricity directly to the market and are not regulated as are Entergy’s seven other power plants.

The spin off was meant to raise money to retire Entergy debt and to reward stock holders.

Concerned about the financial implication of having a spin off with no direct connection to its parent company, the New York PSC and the Vermont PSB both denied approval of the transaction.

Now New York’s Public Service Commission is concerned that Entergy might follow through on its option of spinning off its regulated reactors into a new company, thereby producing basically the same effect as spinning off Yankee and its sister plants.

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Big Hydro: Changing Environmental Opposition

(Host) Last week in a festive ceremony, Vermont utilities and Hydro-Quebec signed a new power contract.

Vermont will buy up to one-quarter of its electricity from the provincial utility.

Just two decades ago, a power purchase from Canada would raise significant opposition over social and environmental issues.

But today – with climate change in the picture – the deal has faced almost no opposition.

As we open this week’s series on Big Hydro, VPR’s John Dillon tells us what changed.

(truck stop)

(Dillon) A truck stop in far northern Quebec may seem like an unlikely place to find an environmentalist and native rights activist. But Cree native Roger Orr is heading south on a family trip to Ottawa, and I’m heading north to take a look at some of the Hydro-Quebec projects. We’re both driving all night. So, we meet on the road early in the morning.

(Orr) “Wachiya! (Hello) We’re die hards, eh?”

(Dillon) Orr says hello in Cree to a friend. Orr now lives in the village of Nemaska, near the Rupert River. Last November, Hydro-Quebec closed giant steel gates on the Rupert and sent 70 percent of the river’s flow north to power a series of generating stations. It’s not the first time Orr has witnessed the life-changing power of Hydro-Quebec. He grew up in Ft. George, a village near James Bay that had to be abandoned by the Cree because of an earlier hydro project.

(Orr) “And so I remember the river before, and after. And the effects that it had on the environment, the river, and the people, also. And then so I lived it twice, eh? Up in Chisasibi where my hometown is, and then I moved inland to Nemaska. And there the rivers were still flowing, the Rupert River was still flowing freely and pristine. So I lived it twice, eh?”

(Dillon) Back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Cree activists like Roger Orr helped publicize the environmental and social impacts of the big dams.

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Vermont Agriculture Innovation Center releases $45,000 for professional development training

Fri Aug 13 2010

The Vermont Agriculture Innovation Center (AIC) was created in 2009 when Senator Patrick Leahy secured $469,000 in funding through the USDA’s Agriculture Innovation Demonstration Center program. The goals of the Innovation Center program are to fund state-based Agriculture Innovation programs that provide technical, marketing and organizational development services to value-added agricultural businesses. “Value-added” businesses include farms that do some level of processing for raw products, alternative production (e.g. organic), diversified farming, or local foods marketing.

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