Dairy farmers could face severe income drop with MILC set to expire

first_imgLeahy, the most senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said, ‘While many in agriculture are focused only on September 30th when the Farm Bill expires, we in dairy know that we are in a unique position and the date that really matters is August 31st.  We cannot have our nation’s dairy farmers left exposed without a sufficient safety net. ‘ Leahy continued, ‘The MILC Continuation Act addresses this problem and ensures an extension of the MILC program until we are able to enact the important dairy reforms we are negotiating for the Farm Bill.  We are working to include a Margin Insurance Program and a Dairy Stabilization Program.  I remain committed to passing a Farm Bill this year, and I am pleased that Senator Stabenow, who chairs the Agriculture Committee, has announced a hearing schedule that will allow us to continue evaluating policy solutions so we can swiftly and effectively craft the 2012 Farm Bill.’ The Farm Bill, which authorizes many programs under the purview of the U.S. Department of Agriculture ‘ including the dairy safety net ‘ is set to expire October 1, 2012. For the last month of the Farm Bill, after August 31st, the MILC program support levels for dairy farmers drop significantly. That would leave dairy farmers exposed without a sufficient safety net.  Although the delegation is committed to passing a Farm Bill with dairy reforms this year, with prospects for that bill uncertain, this legislation would ensure there is no lapse in the safety net for dairy farmers. ‘Dairy is a major part of Vermont agriculture and farmers are entitled to a fair price. Vermont’s dairy farms are the backbone of our rural economy. The program we are working to renew will give farmers vital and essential support if milk prices fall ‘ and enable dairy farmers to continue the productive work they do,’ said Sen. Sanders. ‘Extending this program for a year will allow the Congress to come up with a long-term solution for the huge fluctuation in the price farmers are paid for their milk.’center_img Vermont’s congressional delegation ‘ Senator Patrick Leahy and Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Peter Welch ‘ has introduced legislation to extend a vital safety net that helps dairy farmers ride out downturns in milk prices. Without action, dairy farmers could face a severe drop in support from the MILC safety net by September 1st.   The MILC Continuation Act of 2012 would extend for one year the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program at current support levels, which helps dairy farmers when the price of milk falls below $16.94 per hundredweight. Once triggered, farmers receive 45 percent of the difference between that price and the current price of milk, which also takes into account feed costs as a factor in triggering program payments. Welch, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, said, ‘Vermont’s dairy farmers are hard-working and resilient. They have endured bad weather, high energy prices and low milk prices. What they cannot endure is the loss of this vital safety net. However Congress proceeds, it has to ensure dairy farmers are not left stranded.’When milk prices plunged in 2009, the MILC program was a critical lifeline for many Vermont dairy farmers. Vermont Delegation. 2.17.2012last_img read more

Weinberger says no property tax increase needed to balance Burlington budget

first_imgLetter from Paul R. Sisson, Interim Chief Administrative Officer to Burlington Board of Finance”May 3, 2012To: Board of FinanceCity CouncilFrom: Paul R. Sisson, Interim Chief Administrative OfficerRe: 2013 General Fund Budget Status     When the Weinberger administration took office on April 2nd, the prior administration hadalready announced that there was an approximately $750,000 budget deficit, and had requestedCity Council approval for a two cent increase in the General City property tax rate. The CityCouncil at that time did not support a tax rate increase and, accordingly, there was no proposalon the March ballot for such an increase. Since that time, the budget deficit projected by theprior administration has been increased by approximately $425,000 as a result of the interimsettlement between the City and Citibank in March 2012 relating to Burlington Telecom thatrequires that the amounts previously designated as interest payable to the General Fund be placedin escrow. Accordingly, the Weinberger administration was actually faced with a deficitprojection of nearly $1.2 million when it took office.     Since taking office, the Weinberger administration has worked to eliminate the deficit by acombination of spending reductions and increased revenue forecasts. What follows is adescription of the changes made to the FY13 budget to eliminate the forecast deficit of $1.2million:     · The interim settlement agreement related to BT resulting in a decrease in forecast interestincome to the general fund in the amount of $425,000 (more fully described above).     · In the original forecasted deficit, the City had assumed the cost of living adjustment(â COLAâ ) for its employees would be 3.5%. With the passage of time, the actual rate ofthe increase in the cost of living (as measured by the Consumer Price Index) has becomeknown. The actual rate computed based on the labor contracts was 2.9% for allemployees other than Fire Department. For the Fire Department, the rate is based on aFebruary to February measurement of the CPI and is 2.7% for FY13. Decreasing theCOLA in the calculation of personnel costs in addition to an internal audit resulted indecreased expenditures by $350,000.     · During our detailed review of the Police Department, we learned that the City isobligated for payments of $200,000 per year for the next three years under its lease forthe One North Avenue building. Because of the Cityâ s current cash position and capacitywithin the FY13 budget, the lease will be prepaid before August 31, 2012. Accordingly,the Police Department lease expense budget has been reduced by $200,000 for FY13.     · The DPW budget will be improved approximately $300,000 over initial projections. TheDepartmentâ s building permit fee anticipated revenues have risen as a result of increasedconstruction activity, and other revenue and expense adjustments are being finalized.These adjustments will be finalized for Board of Finance presentation in the comingweeks.     · The City had planned to finance certain capital projects, namely Waterfront North, someDPW equipment and an HVAC unit at the airport, with a capital lease with Jules &Associates. Given the voter approved increase in capital bonding, the City Administrationhas re$evaluated the financing of these projects. Strategically, it is prudent to securerepayment of these project expenses through the bond. Accordingly, because financingwill be by bond, the budgeted expenditures for interest totaling $105,000 related the Julesleases have been removed from budgeted expenditures for FY13.     · The City currently self$insures for workers’compensation claims. Historically, the costsof workers’compensation have been allocated to departments based on categorical wagesas if the City used insurance to fund its workers’compensation. Historically, the highestincidence rates have been at DPW and BED. As a result, other departments areessentially subsidizing the claims costs for DPW and BED because of the allocationmethodology previously in use. Since a portion of DPW is a general fund department,allocating additional costs to DPW does not impact the general fund budget. However,because BED is an enterprise fund, the allocation of true workers’compensation costs toBED would result in less cost to the general fund. Furthermore, BED is expected torecover the additional costs in the ratemaking process. Accordingly, the workersâcompensation expenditures in the general fund have been reduced by $60,000,representing the estimated cost of claims in excess of amounts previously allocated on acategorical wages basis to BED.     · The Clerk/Treasurerâ s office had already eliminated one part$time position in theproposed FY13 budget, but had included $130,000 in the original FY13 budget fortemporary help The Clerk/Treasurerâ s office has since reduced the budgeted temporaryhelp for FY13 by $30,000 based on an updated assessment of how much assistance fromtemporary employees is needed.· The gross receipts taxes forecast for FY13 was increased to reflect the known trend inFY12 of increasing gross receipts tax revenue. Accordingly, the forecast FY13 grossreceipts tax revenue was increased by $50,000.     · CEDO, which is a special revenue fund, has historically received most of its fundingfrom grants. Its largest source of grants in the past has been Community DevelopmentBlock Grants, a grant program that the US government has been reducing funding. Thisreduced funding has resulting in the general fund transferring up to $300,000 to theCEDO fund over the past several years. We have reduced the request of general fundsubsidy to CEDO by $50,000 to accurately reflect rent expense for the Criminal JusticeCenter, and to eliminate the requested funding for graffiti removal, alternative funding forwhich is currently being explored .     · There will be restrictions on travel and other costs will be held to 2012 budget amounts orless. These measures are expected to reduce expenditures by $30,000.The attached schedule summarizes all of the changes that have been made to the FY13 budget asdiscussed above. As you will note on the schedule, we have now achieved a balanced budget forFY13.* * * * * * * * * * * *     I am available to answer any questions you may have, and can be reached at 233$0246 if there issomething you would like to discuss before the Board of Finance meeting on May 3rd.Otherwise I look forward to a discussion of the FY13 budget status at our 5:30pm meeting.” Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger today announced that he will not seek a property tax increase to balance the FY2013 budget.  As an alternative to a tax increase, Weinberger presented a combination of increased revenue forecasts (including gross receipts taxes) and spending reductions (including departmental cost-cutting) that closes the prior Administrationâ s $1.2 million budget gap.   â During the campaign, I committed to working hard to avoid a property tax increase for the FY2013 budget,’said Weinberger.  â In the 30 days since taking office, I have been focused on the imperative that we must not balance the budget at the expense of our community members, whose incomes have been flat since the beginning of the 2008 recession.  While we have balanced the FY2013 budget, there is much more work to do in the months and years ahead to address Burlingtonâ s long-term financial challenges and restore the Cityâ s credit ratings.â  As mayor, Weinberger is charged by the City Charter with presenting to the City Council a balanced budget with sufficient time for the Council to consider and vote on the budget, with budget passage occurring no later than June 30, 2012. City of Burlington 5.3.2012last_img read more

Vermont AG, Department of Financial Regulation, Merchants Bank warn consumers of telephone scam

first_imgAttorney General William Sorrell, together with the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation and Merchants Bank, is warning consumers of a resurgence of fraudulent text messages and telephone calls to consumer mobile phone numbers claiming to come from their bank, in this most recent case Merchants Bank, and indicating that the consumerâ s debit card has been compromised. These calls are scams and do not originate from the bank.These scam calls and text messages direct consumers to call or text debit card or account numbers and information to â confirm’the account. The calls are â phishing’scams, attempts to steal consumer account information by posing as the bank and scaring consumers into providing sensitive account information. The messages are typically some variation of the following:”This is an official notification from Merchants Bank, informing you that your Mastercard (or VISA) needs to be updated for security reasons. To begin the update process, please press “1” now.”Vermont AG May 21, 2012last_img read more

Vermont should lead on climate change adaptation plans, lawmakers and business people say

first_imgby John Herrick July 31, 2013 vtdigger.org Business leaders and elected officials gathered outside Ben & Jerry’s corporate offices to call for a policy-driven charge to combat climate change, a task they say is vital to preserving the character of Vermont.At Wednesday’s news conference, business leaders said climate change is altering the landscape of the state and striking at the heart of Vermont’s brand and quality of life.State Senator Virginia ‘Ginny’Lyons, D-Chittenden, says the state should set a national example to adapt to what she is calling Vermont’s No. 1 economic peril.Climate change has and will affect health care costs due to increased occurrences in new diseases such as asthma and Lyme disease, the maple, agricultural and ski industry due to erratic weather patterns, and road damages due to flooding that threatens tourism, Lyons said.‘We will no longer be Vermont,’she said. ‘Without action, we face a slow, lingering death to our way of life in Vermont.’Vermont must be the first state to lead a national offense on climate change, setting an example for the rest of the country, said George Twigg, director of public affairs for the Vermont Energy Investment Corp.Twigg said Vermont has made gains on reducing energy costs, referring to Efficiency Vermont, a nonprofit organization operated by VEIC that is designed to help reduce the energy costs.The heating and transportation sectors are the two largest contributors to the state’s carbon footprint, he said.‘If Vermont can be a leader in those sectors, the way that we have been in the electricity sector, that can show the way for the rest of the nation,’Twigg said.The state has some policies in place that were designed to combat climate change, Lyons said. This includes diversifying energy sources by using thermal, wind and solar, divesting from carbon fuels, a net metering policy that compels utilities to credit customers for the renewable power they produce themselves, biomass management, and forestry guidelines, for example.In 2012, the Legislature passed Act 113, which called for the establishment of a ‘Genuine Progress Indicator’(GPI). The GPI looks at 25 factors, ranging from personal consumption to air pollution.The Legislature also established the Clean Energy Development Fund in 2005, Act 74, which is designed to increase the development of environmentally friendly energy.In May 2011, Gov. Peter Shumlin established a Climate Cabinet. One recent task of this cabinet was to help the Department of Public Service develop a Comprehensive Energy Plan. The plan’s overview states that Vermont’s energy consumption should be 90 percent renewable by 2050.While the state is making gains on addressing energy consumption, some business leaders from Vermont’s iconic industries, agriculture and maple syrup, said climate change is already forcing them to adapt.Sen. David Zuckerman, D/P-Chittenden, told how climate change is affecting his farm, Full Moon Farm in Hinesburg. Photo by John Herrick/VTDiggerSen. David Zuckerman, D/P-Chittenden, owner of Full Moon Farm in Hinesburg, said the recent increase in extreme weather patterns, including drought, flooding and damaging winds, have introduced new pests to kill crops.For example, spotted wing drosophila, drosophila suzukii, affects small-fruit and tree-fruit crops; swede midge, contarinia nasturtii, is a new pest that affects cold crop families, such as broccoli, Zuckerman said.In some instances, the only way to adapt is to stop growing, he said. His farm does not grow heirloom tomatoes anymore because late blight threatens their harvest.‘These impacts are real,’he said. ‘That’s why as policy makers and business leaders, we’re all standing together to say we need to start implementing policies and as individuals we need to start changing our habits so that we can slow this change down and eventually, hopefully, back it off.’Matt Gordon, executive director of the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association, said the industry is faced with shorter, erratic winter seasons, affecting the hundreds of Vermont families who depend on the product for their livelihoods.The sugaring season is now three to four days, or 10 percent, shorter on average, Gordon said. In 2012, the warm spell in March cut expected maple sugar production in half.‘We can’t plant a different type of maple tree for next year. We have to rely on the trees we have had for generations,’he said. ‘Vermont maple syrup, that’s something that can’t be grown anywhere else.’But new technology in the industry is adapting to the reality of changing weather patters. For example, many sugar producers use tubing to collect sap instead of buckets so they can collect sap throughout the season’s irregular weather conditions.In 2011, Vermont broke two heat records, 28 rainfall records and 10 snowfall records while experiencing extreme flooding and hurricanes that cost the state millions of dollars, a news release stated.last_img read more

Vermints settles ‘Vermont’ labeling claims with Attorney General’s office

first_imgThe Vermont Attorney General’s Office has settled a lawsuit alleging that VerMints, Inc, violated the law by labeling its flavored mints as ‘Vermont’ products when in fact they were made in Canada largely from out-of-state ingredients. The settlement requires VerMints and its President, Gary Rinkus of Braintree, Massachusetts, to donate $35,000 to the Vermont Foodbank, pay the State of Vermont $30,000, and add corrective labeling to its products for 18 months.‘Use of the term ‘Vermont’ has great economic value,’ said Vermont Attorney General William H. Sorrell, ‘and many businesses go to the expense of sourcing their ingredients and processing within the state in order to market their products as Vermont products.’‘We need to maintain a level playing field when it comes to claims of geographic origin, and to ensure that consumers who care about where their food comes from get accurate information in the marketplace,’ he added.VerMints’ products come in metal tins, and from 2006 to 2011, they were prominently labeled as ‘Vermont’s All-Natural Mints.’ Because they were manufactured in Canada from mostly non-Vermont ingredients, the labeling violated the Vermont Consumer Protection Act and Consumer Protection Rule 120, according to the Attorney General’s Office.The corrective advertising provision of the settlement requires VerMints to add the words ‘Produced in Canada’ to the front of tins sold to states in the northeast United States, to counter the impression that the products come from Vermont.Source: Attorney General, January 13, 2014last_img read more

Coke to buy $1.25 billion of GMCR as part of long-term partnership

first_imgby Tim McQuiston Vermont Business Magazine Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc shares rose rapidly in after hours trading Wednesday to over $110 per share on the news that Coke would buy 10 percent of the company. The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE: KO) and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc (NASDAQ: GMCR), based in Waterbury, Vermont, announced today that the companies have signed a 10-year agreement to collaborate on the development and introduction of The Coca-Cola Company’s global brand portfolio for use in GMCR’s forthcoming Keurig Cold at-home beverage system.Under the global strategic agreement, GMCR and The Coca-Cola Company will cooperate to bring the Keurig Cold beverage system to consumers around the world. In an effort to align long-term interests, the companies also entered into a Common Stock Purchase Agreement whereby The Coca-Cola Company will purchase a 10 percent minority equity position in GMCR.This is seen by analysts as a direct response to the success of SodaStream, the at-home soda maker.Under the terms of the equity agreement, The Coca-Cola Company will acquire 16,684,139 newly issued shares in GMCR for approximately $1.25 billion, which represents an approximate 10% ownership in GMCR (after giving effect to the issuance). The newly issued shares have been priced at $74.98, which represents the trailing 50-trading-day volume weighted average price (“VWAP”) as of market close today.After the news was released, shares shot up over 30 points by 5 pm to over $110 in after hours trading. Shares opened at $109.89 Thursday on heavy volume before falling back to around $105. The 52-week range is $42.25 – $89.66. Coke and SodaStream were both up modestly following the news.SEE Q1 2014 RESULTSAs part of the strategic collaboration, GMCR will be The Coca-Cola Company’s exclusive partner for the production and sale of The Coca-Cola Company-branded single-serve, pod-based cold beverages. The two companies also will explore other future opportunities to collaborate on the Keurig® platform.”With The Coca-Cola Company as a global strategic partner in our multi-brand at-home Keurig Cold beverage system, we believe there is significant opportunity to premiumize and accelerate growth in the cold beverage category by empowering consumers with an innovative, convenient way to freshly prepare their favorite cold beverages at the push of a button,” said Brian P. Kelley, President and CEO of GMCR. “This global relationship combines The Coca-Cola Company’s unparalleled brand, distribution and marketing strengths with GMCR’s innovative technology and beverage system expertise.”Kelley is a former Coke executive.”Our 2020 Vision calls for decisive and timely action to continuously improve and evolve our global system to best serve our customers and consumers around the world,” said Muhtar Kent, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, The Coca-Cola Company. “This agreement demonstrates our creative approach to partnerships and ability to identify and stay at the forefront of consumer trends driving the industry. By pairing The Coca-Cola Company’s brand leadership and global footprint with GMCR’s innovative technology, together we will be able to capitalize on the many exciting growth opportunities in the single-serve, pod-based segment of the cold beverage industry. Importantly, this partnership provides our consumers with a convenient way to enjoy the brands they love through in-home preparation.”The investment is expected to close in March 2014, subject to customary closing conditions, including receipt of required regulatory approvals.GMCR’s Keurig Coldâ ¢ single-serve beverage system is currently under development with expected availability in GMCR’s fiscal year 2015. Keurig Coldâ ¢ will use precisely formulated single-serve pods to dispense freshly-made cold beverages including carbonated drinks, enhanced waters, juice drinks, sports drinks and teas in consumers’ homes with the one-touch simplicity, quality and variety that North American consumers love about the Keurig® brand hot system platform. The cold system is expected to be a similarly open-architecture platform like the Keurig® hot system.GMCR’s Use of ProceedsGMCR intends to execute a meaningful share repurchase program to reduce dilution from the transaction. This will be executed under the Company’s existing $1.1 billion share repurchase authorization. In addition, GMCR intends to use a portion of the proceeds from the new equity issuance to fund anticipated capital expenditures for its Keurig Coldâ ¢ beverage system over the next several years.BofA Merrill Lynch served as financial advisor to GMCR and Baker & McKenzie LLP is acting as legal advisor.About Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc.As a leader in specialty coffee and coffee makers, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc. (GMCR) (NASDAQ: GMCR), is recognized for its award-winning coffees, innovative Keurig® Single Cup brewing technology, and socially responsible business practices. GMCR supports local and global communities by investing in sustainably-grown coffee, and donating a portion of its pre-tax profits to social and environmental projects. For more information visit: www.gmcr.com(link is external). To purchase Keurig® and Green Mountain Coffee® products visit: www.Keurig.com(link is external), www.greenmountaincoffee.com(link is external) or www.keurig.ca(link is external).GMCR routinely posts information that may be of importance to investors in the Investor Relations section of its website, www.GMCR.com(link is external), including news releases and its complete financial statements, as filed with the SEC. The Company encourages investors to consult this section of its website regularly for important information and news. Additionally, by subscribing to the Company’s automatic email news release delivery, individuals can receive news directly from GMCR as it is released.ATLANTA & WATERBURY, Vt.–(BUSINESS WIRE)-2.5.2014last_img read more

VCLF lends over $900,000 in first quarter 2014

first_imgIn the first quarter of 2014, the Vermont Community Loan Fund (VCLF) loaned $907,500 to Vermont’s small businesses, developers of affordable housing and child care programs. The loans have resulted in the creation and preservation of local jobs, affordable homes, and quality early care and education for Vermont children.Commenting on the busy lending quarter, VCLF Executive Director Will Belongia said “The Loan Fund continues to reach out to borrowers in every corner of our state, with lending capital and other support for those whose hard work, energy and ideas are bringing jobs, homes, quality care and vital services to Vermont communities.”Projects financed include:Bella Farm, MonktonRachel Schattman (owner) and friends at Bella Farm, Monkton. VCLF photo.Bella Farm, an organic farmer and producer of dairy- and nut-free pesto, used VLCF financing to purchase seeds and cover miscellaneous expenses until product sales begin, post-winter. The farm was initially referred to VCLF by The Carrot Project, which conducts outreach and screens applicants that need farm business loan financing. The loan resulted in the preservation of two jobs. bellapesto.comBridport Creamery, Bridport  Owners Julie Danyew (L) and Nicole Foster (R) of Bridport Creamery, Bridport. VCLF photo.This start-up, artisanal cheese maker came to the Loan Fund via the Carrot Project. They used VCLF funding to purchase cheese making equipment and to cover other costs relating to the expansion of their product line. The loan resulted in the preservation of two jobs. bridportcreamery.comCedar Sawmill of Vermont, SwantonCSV buys cedar logs from local area loggers and custom mills them into rough cut lumber, panels, furniture, shavings and sawdust for businesses and consumers.  They used a VCLF loan to purchase logs to fulfill purchase orders where deposits are not received. The loan resulted in the preservation of one job. cedarsawmillofvt.comChester House Inn, ChesterThe Chester House Inn, a circa 1780 bed and breakfast in downtown Chester, is listed on the National Register of Historic places. Their VCLF loan was used to refinance their mortgage, resulting in the preservation of three jobs. chesterhouseinn.comD’s Market & Deli, Bennington D’s Market and Deli, a small market and delicatessen, used a VCLF loan to purchase thebuilding which the business has occupied since starting up two years ago. The loan resulted inthe preservation of four jobs.North Branch Vineyards, MontpelierNorth Branch Vineyards, an award-winning winery, used a VCLF loan to cover expenses during their slower sales period. The company buys grapes from several Vermont growers and has increased sales and production steadily since first borrowing from the Loan Fund in 2011. The loan led to the preservation of one full-time job. northbranchvineyards.com/(link is external)Schoolhouse Learning Center, South BurlingtonThe Schoolhouse Learning Center, a nonprofit, cooperative, licensed child care center and State of Vermont approved elementary school, used a VCLF loan for kitchen renovations which now enable them to serve hot meals through the Child and Adult Care Food Program. Additional renovations also allowed for an expansion of their preschool program. The loan resulted in 99 child care slots and 12 child care jobs created or preserved.W.R. Vilas, Burlington  W.R. Vilas, housing developers, used VCLF financing to acquire and renovate two blighted properties in Burlington’s Old North End, creating Silversmith Commons housing. Silversmith will include three permanently affordable rental apartments, as well as a large retail space – as part of the City of Burlington’s initiative to reinvigorate the area’s commercial corridor.  The loan also resulted in the creation of 24 construction jobs.The Vermont Community Loan Fund’s mission is to create opportunities that lead to healthy communities and financial stability for all Vermonters. Since our inception we’ve lent almost $85 million to small businesses, affordable housing developers and community-based organizations that has created or preserved over 3,600 jobs; built or rehabilitated more than 3,200 affordable homes for Vermont’s families, individuals and seniors; created or preserved quality care for over 2,800 children and their families and supported community organizations providing vital services to hundreds of thousands of Vermonters.last_img read more

State slams Vermont Yankee emergency-planning changes

first_imgNorthstar Vermont Yankee,Recchia: Entergy’s deal with New Hampshire over emergency funding a way to ‘put a stick in our eye’by Mike Faher/The Commons, Brattleboro(link is external) If Entergy has its way, Vermont Yankee’s emergency programs — and the funding that goes with them — are due for a major downsizing in the first half of next year. At a September 24 meeting in Brattleboro, several state officials argued that the company’s emergency commitments to surrounding towns and to the state should continue at least for the next several years. Those programs are necessary, they say, to protect public health and the environment around the Vernon plant, where most spent nuclear fuel is stored in a pool in the reactor building.Vermont Public Service Department Commissioner Chris Recchia confirmed that there have been talks between state officials and Entergy aimed at securing an ongoing financial commitment from the company to support emergency operations.But Recchia also complained, repeatedly and vehemently, that the two sides are far apart.“The fact of the matter is, [the talks] have been unproductive and going in the wrong direction,” Recchia said.And if all else fails — if the state can get no long-term emergency-planning commitment via Entergy or the federal government — Recchia pledged to ask the state Legislature to find money for Yankee-related emergency programs.“I fully expect legislative action … and we’ll see where that goes,” he said.Entergy’s position is clear: With Vermont Yankee having ceased producing power on Dec. 29, 2014, and with all fuel having been removed from the reactor the following month, the company sees no need to continue its commitments in what’s called the Emergency Planning Zone.RELATED STORY: Feds: Entergy can dismantle Vermont Yankee’s emergency alert linkEntergy has asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for permission to shrink the EPZ from its current area — defined by a circle that includes all or parts of six towns in Vermont, five towns in New Hampshire, and seven in Massachusetts — to the boundaries of the plant site itself.The NRC has agreed to the change, but the state has appealed that decision.With federal approval, the EPZ change would take place in April or May 2016, and the effects would be far-reaching.Internally, Entergy would reduce its workforce by about half (down to 150) and eliminate programs such as its emergency operations facility and joint information center.Externally, there would be no more Entergy support for warning sirens, iodine tablets, or batteries for emergency radios.The big external hit would come when Entergy stops sending emergency-planning funding to the three states. The current funding would run out when the fiscal year ends on June 30, 2016.According to company figures, Entergy in fiscal year 2015 gave $2.1 million to Vermont, $1.2 million to New Hampshire and a little over $1 million to Massachusetts. Those states used that money for their own emergency operations and also distributed it to the EPZ towns, which maintain their own emergency management directors, radiological officers, and emergency operations center staff.In Vermont, the state’s radiological-planning budget in fiscal 2016 is $1.6 million — an amount funded entirely by Entergy, said Erica Bornemann, chief of staff for the Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.The state maintains three employees and one temporary worker connected to the program, plus a Brattleboro office and associated equipment.The Vermont EPZ towns each receive baseline funding of $32,000 per year, Bornemann said. And she believes the Yankee-related funding, training, and regular drilling in those locales is invaluable.“The emergency planning zone towns are at a pretty steep advantage in terms of incident management as compared to the rest of the towns in Vermont,” she said.Bornemann spoke Sept. 24 at a meeting of the Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel, where she urged a more-gradual “step-down” approach to phasing out the Yankee emergency zone. She lobbied for the towns to remain in an EPZ, albeit with scaled-back planning, training, and exercises.At the state level, “we also need to ensure that there is at least some staff planning-level of support […] for those towns,” Bornemann said.To support that argument, she and other state officials note that the radioactive spent fuel at Yankee remains mostly in a spent-fuel pool. The plan is to transfer all of that waste into more-stable dry-cask storage by the end of 2020.But until that happens, state officials want Entergy’s emergency programs to remain robust.Recchia noted that a federally required exercise at Vermont Yankee earlier this year featured a theoretical hostile attack on the spent-fuel pool. He believes it is “nonsensical” for the NRC to require such an exercise while also allowing Entergy to scale back its emergency operations so significantly.Vermont Yankee Site Vice President Chris Wamser said no such connection should be made. He said drills often are “manipulated to get the desired outcome” — meaning to test all facets of emergency response.“You should not necessarily conclude, just because we drilled on something, [that it] means that it’s likely or probable or even possible,” Wamser said.Joe Lynch, Entergy’s government affairs manager, discussed training sessions for Vermont Yankee’s security force in which the NRC sends “adversaries” into the site in an attempt to break through to sensitive areas.“We have successfully completed all of our force-on-force exercises over the years, demonstrating that our security force is second to none when it comes to nuclear safety,” Lynch told the panel.Wamser also asserted that, even after scaling back, “Vermont Yankee will continue to have an emergency plan after April 2016.” And Wamser said the changes planned at Yankee are consistent with those that occurred at other shuttered plants such as Maine Yankee, Connecticut Yankee, and Yankee Rowe in Massachusetts.“In general terms, it seems like [state officials] are characterizing this as a want versus a need — what we would like to maintain versus what we must maintain,” Wamser said.Bornemann disputed that notion, pointing out that it will be years before all spent fuel is moved into dry casks at Vermont Yankee. And her fellow presenter at the Sept. 24 meeting, Bill Irwin of the Vermont Department of Health, argued that there are extensive, ongoing risks that require monitoring at and around the Yankee site even after the fuel is loaded into those casks.According to Irwin’s presentation, the rationale for decreased emergency requirements outside the plant site is that no Vermont Yankee accidents could result in radiation doses that exceed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guidelines.But Irwin contends those guidelines were not meant to determine whether a nuclear-plant operator ought to maintain emergency-response capabilities outside the plant.He argued that even radiation doses that fall below EPA standards “are unacceptable from incidents occurring at a shut-down nuclear power station awaiting cleanup.” Radiation doses still could come from contamination released by the plant and deposited offsite; possible incidents include leaks caused by transportation accidents, fire, natural disasters, and attacks, Irwin said.“From the Department of Health, we demand a response to contamination, and we believe other Vermonters will demand a response to contamination of their environment and the risk to their economic well-being,” Irwin said.“This contamination has to be measured,” he added. “Measurements are made of samples taken from the environment. Samples and measurements are obtained, calculated, interpreted, and acted upon by people with skills other than those possessed by firefighters, law enforcement officers, and emergency medical service providers.”Irwin said the Department of Health can develop a “scaled-back budget” to continue its monitoring work throughout Yankee decommissioning.“We maintain that zero resources are not the appropriate amount to which the state and locals should scale back,” he said.New HampshireNew Hampshire officials already are taking a scaled-back approach to Vermont Yankee emergency planning. Entergy said it has committed a total of $279,000 over four years — from fiscal 2017 to 2020 — for continued support of emergency operations there.Diane Becker, chief of technological hazards at New Hampshire Homeland Security and Emergency Management, praised that deal. Entergy administrators “have been more than willing to sit down and talk and, as a result, we ended up with funding,” said Becker, who also serves on the citizens’ advisory panel.Decker added that officials in her state “did not feel the high level of anxiety over the potential for any kind of [radiological] event” at Vermont Yankee.Recchia characterized the New Hampshire deal as a way for Entergy to “put a stick in our eye.” Both Becker and Lynch took exception to that comment.“The state of New Hampshire approached Entergy on a long-term emergency-planning deal,” Lynch said. “We did not approach them. We worked with them in good faith. We negotiated something that I think they appreciate greatly.”Wamser said Entergy has begun similar discussions with Massachusetts and also is willing to discuss “some kind of scaled-back support in Vermont.”And it was clear that there have been extensive talks between Vermont and Entergy on that topic, though the discussions have not gone well from Recchia’s perspective.He declined to get into specifics during the VNDCAP meeting. But afterward, Recchia said $850,000 annually for the next five years is “what we think is necessary to support appropriate emergency management.”In negotiations with Entergy, “we did not get where we needed to get to,” Recchia said. He is hoping those talks will continue, but he added that “they have not been fruitful at this point.”commonsnews.org(link is external) 9.30.2015last_img read more

Donovan joins attorneys general to file amicus brief supporting Washington State lawsuit

first_imgVermont Business Magazine Today, 16 Attorneys General announced the filing of an amicus brief in support of Washington and Minnesota in the federal lawsuit against the Trump Administration’s executive order on immigration. In an amici curiae brief filed with the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, co-authored by Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts, the Attorneys General signatories declared: “Although the amici States’ residents, institutions, industries, and economies differ in various ways, we now all stand together in facing concrete, immediate and irreparable harms from the Executive Order.”The amicus brief is signed by Attorneys General from Vermont, California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia. The amicus brief follows other legal action by state Attorneys General to oppose President Trump’s order. The amicus brief is available here(link is external).“I am proud to support Washington and Minnesota in their legal action against this unconstitutional order,” Attorney General Donovan said. The amicus brief makes clear that the states have standing to challenge the immigration executive order because of the harm the order inflicts on the states themselves, including:State Educational Institutions. The brief details the disruption of faculty staffing, student attendance, and on-going administration at state colleges and universities, as well as additional costs many of these resource-constrained public institutions cannot afford, caused by the immigration order. In particular, it notes the thousands of faculty and students from the seven affected countries who currently work or study at Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, California, and Virginia state universitiesState Medical Institutions. The brief makes clear the similar injuries President Trump’s order causes to state medical institutions and the provision of care, disrupting the matching process at medical schools and impacting medical residents and other physicians, faculty, and researchers. These institutions serve some of the neediest populations, and are now at risk of decreased staffing as a result of the order.Diminished Tax Revenues from Students, Tourists, and Business Visitors. The executive order abruptly halted the entry of students, tourists, and other visitors from the affected seven countries – and at the same time stopped the millions of dollars they contribute to the states’ economies. The brief also makes clear that there are longer-term harms to the states’ regional economies as a result of the order, as it hampers the movement of people and ideas into the states.Irreparable Harm due to Establishment Clause Violations. As the states have made clear in other filings, the executive order represents an egregious violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment – and this “erosion of religious liberties cannot be deterred by awarding damages to the victims of such erosion.”Harm to States’ Sovereign and Quasi-Sovereign Interests in Enforcing Their Own Statutes. The executive order also undermines the states’ abilities to enforce their own antidiscrimination laws, ensure the benefits of existing federal laws and regulations – such as the Immigration and National Act – are not denied to individuals arriving in these states, and protect residents, businesses, and communities.The amicus brief calls for a denial of the federal government’s emergency motion for stay, as it would return the country to the confusion and chaos created by the executive order in its implementation last weekend.Vermont AG: Feb 6, 2017last_img read more

Vermont Marks Canada Day, welcomes Canadians with communications campaign

first_imgVermont Business Magazine The State of Vermont has launched a “Welcome” communications campaign in Canada to reassure Canadians that Vermont greatly values their friendship, tourism and trade. The campaign launch coincides with Canada Day on Saturday, July 1, and includes 15-second(link is external) and 30-second(link is external) video spots in French that are running throughout Quebec.A welcome letter from Vermont Governor Phil Scott will be inserted into the official Vermont Vacation Guide that is distributed to residents of Canada. This year marks Canada’s 150th anniversary of the Canadian Confederation.”As a border state, Vermont has a deep and long connection with our Canadian neighbors, particularly people from Quebec and Ontario,” said Wendy Knight, Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing. “Each year more than 650,000 Canadians visit Vermont, and we hope this ‘Welcome’ campaign conveys how much we appreciate the time they spend in our state.”The Canada “Welcome” campaign also includes video messages from Senator Patrick Leahy(link is external), Vermont’s senior Senator, Governor Scott(link is external), and Commissioner Knight(link is external). The videos will run on social media in both Quebec and Ontario on Saturday, July 1, and are also being shared with the Office of the Consulate General of Canada in Boston.  Source: State of Vermont 6.30.2017 VBM vermontbiz.comlast_img read more