Vermont projects to boost renewable energy production, reduce consumption

first_imgAgriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA has selected 450 projects nationwide, including 8 in Vermont, that are focused on helping agricultural producers and rural small businesses reduce energy consumption and costs; use renewable energy technologies in their operation; and/or conduct feasibility studies for renewable energy projects. Funding is made available through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), which is authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill.â The Obama Administration is helping agricultural producers and rural small business owners reduce their energy costs and consumption ‘and by doing so is helping to create jobs, preserve our natural resources, and protect the environment while strengthening the bottom line for businesses.’said Vilsack. â This is part of the Administrationâ s â all of the above’energy strategy.  Stable energy costs create an environment for sustainable job creation in rural America.â   Secretary Vilsack made the announcement while touring Metrolina Greenhouses, a family-owned plant and services company in Huntersville, N.C., that has received a REAP guaranteed loan and three grants totaling over $1 million since 2007. Elm Brook Farm in East Fairfield VT, David Schurman of Jay VT,  Nicholas Merritt of Fletcher VT, and the Branon Family Maple Orchards located in Fairfield, VT will all see significant energy savings during the sugaring season as a result of the grants they received to install new reverse osmosis systems.   George Bissell, Jr. of Starksboro VT, and Shire Town Properties located in Brattleboro VT received grants to install solar arrays that will reduce the power they buy from the grid and save money as a result.  Finally, Little Green Hydro, LLC of Braintree VT, received a grant to make energy efficiency improvements that will improve their bottom line.Todayâ s announcement includes $412,304 in grant funding to 20 agricultural producers and rural businesses, including one in Vermont,  to conduct feasibility studies for renewable energy systems.   In South Londonberry, Vermont Woodchips has been selected to receive a grant to help determine the feasibility of installing a 4 megawatt combined cycle biomass gasifier power plant.REAP offers funds for agricultural producers and rural small businesses to purchase and install renewable energy systems, make energy-efficiency improvements, conduct feasibility studies and energy audits, and provide renewable energy development assistance. â Jobs preserved, businesses enhanced, energy and money saved are all accomplished through this program,’commented State Director for USDA Rural Development, Molly Lambert.  â These business people and farmers are top-notch innovators.  USDA is pleased to partner with them.’ These federal funds leverage other funding sources for businesses.  In all, USDA announced nearly $7.4 million in energy grants today.  This announcement is an example of investments the Obama Administration is making to help create jobs and grow the rural economy.  For a complete listing of Rural Energy for America Program grant recipients announced today, please click here.Since taking office, President Obama’s Administration has taken historic steps to improve the lives of rural Americans, put people back to work and build thriving economies in rural communities.  From proposing the American Jobs Act to establishing the first-ever White House Rural Council, the President is committed to a smarter use of existing Federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.  The Council is working to break down silos, find areas for better collaboration and improved flexibility in government programs, and work closely with local governments, non-profits and private companies to leverage federal support.USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an active portfolio of more than $170 billion in loans and loan guarantees. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. Montpelier VT, June 25, 2012 â  USDAlast_img read more

St Albans TIF District plan approved to help finance downtown development

first_imgThe State has given the City of St Albans approval for a Tax Increment Financing District within the city’s designated Growth Center, a move that will allow the City to keep some of the incremental property taxes generated by new development within the Growth Center to fund public infrastructure required for that development to occur.On August 30, the Vermont Economic Progress Council (VEPC) gave final approval to the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District and Finance Plans after many hours of deliberation that included a meeting in St Albans, public comment, and a tour of the city and the proposed TIF District. ‘This authorization will help the City of St Albans undertake and pay for the necessary public infrastructure improvements that will foster responsible economic and community development,’said Stephan Morse, Chairman of VEPC.The TIF District was created by the St Albans City Council on April 30, 2012, following a series of public hearings.‘We are looking to build a stronger and healthier community through economic development. The TIF is essential for us to enable and stimulate development and redevelopment within the district,’said Liz Gamache, St Albans Mayor. It will provide employment opportunities, improve and broaden the tax base, and enhance the general economic vitality of the city, while also benefitting the region and the state.’The authorization allows the City of St Albans to use a portion of the incremental property tax revenues generated by new development within the TIF District to finance certain public infrastructure projects such as the Federal Street multi-modal connector, construction of a parking structure, improvements to Taylor Park, and streetscape improvements, all groundwork that will encourage private sector development projects planned for the Growth Center to move forward. That development, in turn, will generate incremental property tax revenues, that otherwise would not have been generated, to pay for the infrastructure debt.The St Albans TIF plan calls for the sale of the current State Office Building and the relocation of state offices to a new office building downtown. The Administration and City officials are preparing plans for the new building and presentation of a complete development package to the Legislature.  If approved, the new building would serve as the catalyst for the City’s downtown revitalization efforts. According to Governor Shumlin, “The Administration is excited to be working in partnership with the City on this important economic development project.”Before the City can incur any TIF District infrastructure debt, the voters of St Albans City must approve an overall debt level, and then vote on any subsequent bonds to be issued by the city for TIF District infrastructure projects.‘Redevelopment and revitalization is priority number one for the City,’ stated City Manager Dominic Cloud, ‘We are delighted with this approval because the TIF will help us accomplish projects that the public has been waiting for, as well as grow jobs and the City’s Grand List.’With a TIF District the value of the properties within the district are frozen at the time the District is created by the municipality. All property taxes generated by that original base value continue to go to the municipal general fund and the education fund.For 20 years, and municipal and education property taxes generated by any new development are shared, with 75 percent going to finance the TIF District infrastructure debt and 25 percent going to the municipal general fund and state education fund.VEPCThe Vermont Economic Progress Council is an independent board consisting of nine Vermont citizens appointed by the governor and two members appointed by the General Assembly that considers applications to the state’s economic incentive programs.VEPC is attached to the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development, whose mission is to help Vermonters improve their quality of life and build strong communities.For more information, visit: http://accd.vermont.gov/strong_communities/opportunities/funding/tif/sta…(link is external)Soruce: VEPC. 9.4.2012last_img read more

Green Mountain Power to pay out $21 million in savings to CVPS ratepayers over four years

first_imgGreen Mountain Power Corp,by Andrew Stein February 25, 2013 vtdigger.org Green Mountain Power presented its plan to the state on Monday for $21 million in energy efficiency improvements for former Central Vermont Public Service customers.If the Public Service Board approves the proposed annual plan, the company’ s Clean Energy and Efficiency Development, or CEED, Fund would pay out $20.9 million over the next four years for residential and business retrofits, farm programs, renewable energy projects, weatherization upgrades and emerging technologies.The company estimates that the gross societal benefits of these programs would total $53.2 million at the end of 2017.The creation of the $21 million CEED Fund was a contentious matter in 2012, when GMP’ s Canadian parent company Gaz Métro bought CVPS and merged it with GMP ‘ giving the company more than 70 percent of the state’ s electric distribution territory.The debate over those funds originated in a Public Service Board decision made in the early 2000s. In the 1990s, the Rutland-based company and Green Mountain Power purchased electricity from Hydro-Quebec at above-market rates that eventually eroded the value of the two utilities, both of which faced bankruptcy. The board allowed CVPS to increase power rates for consumers in order to salvage the company, but with the stipulation that if CVPS were sold for higher than its book value, the windfall would be shared with CVPS customers who helped bail out the company.While some legislators and groups, such as the AARP, in the last legislative session demanded that Gaz Metro pay the $21 million windfall back to Central Vermont Public Service customers in cash, the board decided to allow Gaz Metro to put that money in the CEED Fund for energy efficiency investments. The AARP estimated that GMP owed average households $76 each.Robert Dostis, a spokesperson for Green Mountain Power, said the fund is a better investment for ratepayers than simply handing back money.‘ In the end, we’ re going to be investing $21 million, but there will be at least $53 million worth of benefits back to customers,’ Dostis said. ‘ We all know ‘¦ that when we invest in efficiency programs, the payoff to customers is significant, and it’ s long term.’In 2012, GMP invested $6 million into the fund for the state’ s weatherization program for low-income Vermonters, and in 2013 the utility plans to invest another $4 million. The company estimates that the $10 million investment will net $12 million in overall societal benefits.GMP proposes investing $1.2 million in electric efficiency programs this year that will be broken into three groups: $1 million for existing businesses to retrofit buildings and upgrade equipment; $50,000 in interest-free loans to public schools for energy upgrades, and about $150,000 for farms to improve technology and install biomass heating systems.Between 2014 and 2017, Green Mountain Power plans to invest $7.7 million more in similar electric efficiency upgrades. The company estimates that the combined $8.9 million will net about $19 million in benefits.If the board allows Green Mountain Power to break up its $2 million thermal efficiency program, the utility would invest $1.5 million in 2013 and $500,000 in 2014. Those dollars would go to residential and business energy retrofits, open-air heat pumps and condominium upgrades. The company estimates the $2 million would net $2.4 million in benefits.In the event that the board would not permit GMP to break up the $2 million over two years, the utility would eliminate the condo initiative, and the company estimates that fewer customers would be helped. GMP representatives say the utility and its partners need the additional year to more effectively implement the programs.GMP is teaming up with a range of energy organizations, including Efficiency Vermont, Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network, Vermont Fuel Dealers Association and Vermont Energy Investment Corp.Final comments on the plan are due by the end of next week, and Dostis said the utility hopes to get approval to implement the plan as soon as possible.‘ There are tight timelines and we have to demonstrate the savings this year,’ he said. ‘ In order to meet those timelines the sooner it gets approved the better.’GMP CEED 2013 ANNUAL PLANlast_img read more

Shumlin administration gearing up for the nitty-gritty of single payer

first_imgby Andrew Stein July 29, 2013 vtdigger.org Governor Peter Shumlin put Vermont on a path to creating the nation’s first single payer health care system when he signed Act 48 in 2011. But since then, his administration has made little progress up that mountain, drawing questions and accusations from the far political left and right about the governor’s sincerity.Now, Shumlin and his team are beginning to shift gears, planning the implementation of a publicly funded, universal health care system. In the past two months, the administration has moved two of its policy heavyweights to the fifth floor Office of Health Care Reform ‘right around the corner from where the governor sits.Michael Costa, former policy director at the Tax Department, took the elevator up to his new office at the beginning of June. He is charged with figuring out how to finance a single payer system with tax dollars.David Reynolds, a co-architect of the Affordable Care Act and a former health policy adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders, joined the team in July. He is tasked with bringing the moving parts of a single payer system together.Costa and Reynolds join Robin Lunge, director of Health Care Reform, who helped craft the single payer legislation and has overseen the administration’s health care policy initiatives since July 2011.‘This shows that we’re serious,’said Secretary of Administration Jeb Spaulding. ‘But that’s not why we’re doing this. We’re doing this because we are serious.’Shumlin doesn’t flinch when questioned about the proposal’s vulnerable points, like shifting more than a billion dollars in health insurance dollars to the tax sector.‘I am bound and determined to pass the first sensible single payer health care system in the country, and that’s going to be the most ambitious policy lift in Vermont history,’Shumlin said on Monday. ‘So, obviously, we’re going to gear up our staff and engage Vermonters from all walks of life.’For the past two years, Shumlin’s top health care team has been focused on creating and implementing a new web-based insurance market for more than 100,000 Vermonters. The exchange, called Vermont Health Connect, is slated to open Oct. 1. Then, on Jan. 1, 2014, Vermonters buying health insurance individually or through businesses with 50 or fewer employees will be legally required to purchase plans on this market.The exchange is not the single payer system the administration has in mind. It is a market that is being created in accordance with the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. To deviate from these federal regulations and implement a single payer health care system, Vermont will need a federal waiver from the secretary of Health and Human Services. But, under federal law, states are not eligible for the waiver until 2017.This past legislative session, the administration was supposed to submit to the Legislature a financing plan for funding a universal health care system with public dollars. The plan was called for in Act 48, which became statute.The financing plan, however, did not arrive on legislators’desks. The administration said it would be premature to propose specific taxes and that the Legislature should focus on passing necessary laws for the imminent insurance exchange.What did come was a road map of sorts for drawing up a financing plan. It was created by the University of Massachusetts, which estimated the state would need to raise roughly $1.6 billion in public dollars to finance a single payer system.Robin Lunge, director of health care reform for the Shumlin administration. VTD File Photo/Alan PanebakerSome critics of the study say that it’s an underestimate of the overall cost to the public. But Costa says this study is crucial for developing a single-payer financing plan.‘I am developing a specific financing plan for Green Mountain Care, and we will have that to the Legislature in January 2015,’he said. ‘When I read Act 48 and the UMass report, I basically see who is covered, what is covered and how much this costs. For the next 18 months, my role is to take the ‘how much’and design several different ways that you could pay for it and look at what are the impacts on employers, individuals and Vermont’s economy.’Green Mountain CareGreen Mountain Care is the name of the publicly financed plan that is proposed in Act 48. To get there, Lunge says the administration had to cooperate with federal law.‘Our first step in moving towards Green Mountain Care and payment and delivery system reform was to start with the Affordable Care Act, and so a significant portion of our time and efforts and focus has had to be on the Affordable Care Act,’she said. ‘As we get closer to that being live and up and running, our focus is shifting to the bigger picture, long-term goals.’Act 48 is explicit: Green Mountain Care would provide ‘affordable, high-quality, publicly financed health care coverage for all Vermont residents.’Specifically, Lunge said, ‘It would provide coverage for doctor’s visits, hospital stays, preventative care, prescription drugs, all of the services that will be covered through all of the plans in Vermont Health Connect.’She added that Green Mountain Care would use a sliding scale for deductibles and co-pays based on residents’incomes.Shumlin says he is adamant that Green Mountain Care is applied universally ‘that includes teachers and state workers.‘Everybody in,’he said. ‘This is what we envision: No more health care premiums; public financing instead. Contracting out to one of our insurers to adjudicate the claims. We don’t want to be an insurance company. This means having a health care system where the health care follows the individual as a result of their residency in the state of Vermont, not where they work.’One of the largest pieces to this puzzle is the business community. In 2011, Harvard economist William Hsiao recommended an 11 percent employer tax to fund a single payer system. The proposal was extremely unpopular among many of the state’s largest employers.Professor William Hsiao. Photo by Randolph T. Holhut/The Commons‘Businesses are one of the many sectors that have so much to win if we get this right and so much to lose if we don’t,’Shumlin said. ‘One of the biggest challenges for businesses large and small is the unsustainable rise in costs of health care, which gobbles up our dollars faster than we can make them.’Shumlin’s Business CouncilIn April, the governor organized a group of 20 business leaders from across the state to meet with him in off-the-record sessions about financing options for a single payer system.The council’s representatives span the gamut of Vermont’s businesses, from IBM executive Janette Bombardier to Onion River Sports owner Andrew Brewer to Ken Perine, CEO of the National Bank of Middlebury.David Coates is chair of the council. He heads the Vermont Long Term Disaster Recovery Group and is a former partner of KPMG LLP, the auditing firm.‘It seems to me that business is extremely important for health care, and, as you know, businesses provide a lot of it,’Coates said. ‘At the end of the day, if this is going to have a very negative impact on businesses, then it will have a very negative impact on jobs and the economy.’Gov. Peter Shumlin and David Coates, head of the Vermont Long Term Disaster Recovery Group, in August 2012. Photo by Taylor Dobbs/VTDiggerThe group has met twice thus far and Coates says the members are waiting for the financing plan from Costa. He says his team won’t be devising financing mechanisms, but, rather, will react to the administration’s proposals.‘The hurdle in my opinion will be what is the cost and how will it impact these businesses’bottom lines,’he said. ‘If those things come in in a positive way, then I don’t think there will be a hurdle whatsoever.’But while thousands of Vermonters are keeping a close eye on the administration’s financing plan, one key official says he is focusing on how to make the rest of the system work.David ReynoldsWhen David Reynolds founded Vermont’s first network of Federally Qualified Health Centers in 1976, he says insurance wasn’t the chief issue.‘Coverage alone does not equate to access,’Reynolds said. ‘Before I started Northern Counties, people in the Northeast Kingdom had health insurance, but they didn’t have a place to use it.’Reynolds says a single payer system is about much more than financing, and it’s his task to make the system mesh. On the state government side of things, he is charged with greasing the wheels of state bureaucracies so that they work together.‘You need to have the workforce; you need to have integrated systems; you need to have more integration of mental and physical health; and those are the things I’m working on,’he said.Reynolds left Northern Counties Health Care Inc. in 2007 to become U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’senior policy adviser for health. When he said goodbye to Northern Counties, the network included six federally qualified health centers, two dental clinics and a home health and hospice division.Working with Sanders, he pushed for progressive policies in Washington.‘David was the lead negotiator, researcher, and drafter of legislation to advance the senator’s priorities in health care,’ Sanders’spokesman Jeff Frank said. ‘He was involved in the drafting of the first national single payer bill introduced in the United States Senate.’Reynolds says that one of his token achievements in Washington was helping to negotiate the creation of the 2017 waiver in the Affordable Care Act ‘the very waiver that would allow Vermont to deviate from the law to set up a single payer system.‘When the president gave up on not proposing single payer or a public option, that (waiver) was a compromise to get the votes of the more liberal members,’he said. ‘I call the Affordable Care Act the ‘private health insurance preservation act.’‘In 2011, he returned to Vermont to work on implementing Act 48.‘Having come from the dysfunctionality of Congress, working for Bernie Sanders, this is just remarkable to see,’he said. ‘People are really dedicated to this task.’- See more at: http://vtdigger.org/2013/07/29/shumlin-administration-gearing-up-for-the(link is external)…last_img read more

The science and value of eating organic

first_imgThink a family on a budget can’t eat all organic all the time? Think again. With proper planning and preparation, families of four can enjoy three organic meals every day for less than’ $25, according to tips and recipe suggestions offered by theOrganic Trade Association’ (OTA), the leading voice for organic trade in’ the United States.And, according to’ The Organic Center, the trusted source of information for scientific research about organic food and farming, families who eat all organic on a budget can also enjoy the full nutritious, sustainable benefits that organic diets offer and the integrity and reliability the USDA Organic seal provides.”Organic food sales are increasing by double digits annually, and more than 80 percent of parents reported buying organic food for their families last year,” said’ Laura Batcha, Interim Co-Executive Director for OTA. “While there’s great momentum for organic sales, the overwhelming reason people give for’ notpurchasing organic is because it’s too expensive. But there are many ways families can enjoy all-organic meals every day for about the same cost as conventionally produced food.”Seven tips for making organic food more affordable:Buy in bulk. A mantra for all food purchases, but nowhere will the value be greater than with organic.Buy in season, then store for the off season.’ Organic produce is more affordable while in season, and holds its full nutritional benefits when frozen or stored for enjoying when not in season.Plan for the month, not just the week.’ By planning meals as far out as possible, you can curb your costs by finding multiple ways to incorporate organic spices, oils, nuts, dried beans, flour/grain, frozen produce and other ingredients many times over the month.Explore private label ingredients,’ which have gone through the same rigorous USDA organic certification procedures as name brand organic products, and are often even less expensive than their conventional products.Join buyers’ clubs and loyalty programs.’ Many buyers’ clubs ship organic food wholesale to doorsteps’and many organic food producers and retailers’ websites and social outlets feature frequent coupons, offers and other incentives. Also, joining organic farm CSAs not only saves you money, but directly supports your local economy.Shop at two destinations.’ With organic food available at most grocers, consumers now have the opportunity to comparison shop at multiple locations to keep their prices down. One strategy could be purchasing fresh produce at organic-focused markets, and packaged, canned and shelf-stable items at larger discount retailers.Go by/buy the books.’ For extra inspiration, discover helpful cookbooks with recipes and ideas for organic on a budget, such as the newly released’ The Essential Good Food Guide’ by’ Margaret Wittenberg’ and’ Wildly Affordable Organic’ by’ Linda Watson.Organic ‘ It’s Worth It for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner’ Families of four can enjoy all organic on budgets of’ $25/day or less, and still reap organic’s full nutritional and sustainable benefits.’ To show yo’ u’ how, OTA offers menu ideas for all-organic breakfast, lunch and dinner, while The Organic Center highlights their scientific benefits*.BREAKFAST: Organic Strawberry-Oatmeal-Yogurt Muffins’ Families can bake and enjoy a dozen heart healthy fresh muffins every morning for’ $3.55. According to The Organic Center, organic strawberries have higher Vitamin C and phenol levels than conventional strawberries. And, the organic oats prohibit the use of herbicide 2,4’D, which has been linked to an increased risk in non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.LUNCH: Organic White Bean-Tomato-Spinach Soup’ This lunch is not only warm and filling for your family, but also sustainable for the planet’all for’ $7.06. Recent studies have found the organic spinach in this soup has higher levels of ascorbic acid and flavonoids’and lower nitrate levels. Meanwhile, organic celery is grown without the use of organophosphate insecticides such as malathion’linked to developmental problems.DINNER: Organic Chicken Tamale Pie’ A delicious dinner for about’ $12.19’ that just may leave you with leftovers for the next day, Organic Chicken Tamale Pies are also delicious for what they don’t include. Organic bean production prohibits insecticides and fungicides, organic dairy avoids exposure to growth hormones, and organic chicken has lower rates of antibiotic-resistant bacteria than conventional poultry.*Contact’ The Organic Center’ for sources to this research.The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is the membership-based business association for organic agriculture and products in’ North America. OTA is the leading voice for the organic trade in’ the United States, representing over 6,500 organic businesses across 49 states. Its members include growers, shippers, processors, certifiers, farmers’ associations, distributors, importers, exporters, consultants, retailers and others. OTA’s mission is to promote and protect the growth of organic trade to benefit the environment, farmers, the public and the economy.The Organic Center’s mission is to convene credible, evidence-based science on the health and environmental benefits of organic food and farming, and to communicate the findings to the public. As an independent non-profit 501(c)(3) research and education organization, operating under the administrative auspices of the Organic Trade Association, The Center envisions improved health for the earth and its inhabitants through the conversion of agriculture to organic methods.CONTACT:’ Barbara Haumann’ ([email protected](link sends e-mail); 802-275-3820)SOURCE BRATTLEBORO, Vt.,’ Dec. 3, 2013’ /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Organic Trade Associationlast_img read more

Coventry landfill site to host Vermont’s largest solar array

first_imgVermont Business Magazine The Coventry landfill buffer zone will soon be home to the state’s largest solar development. Borrego Solar Systems Inc(link is external), a leading designer, developer, installer and financier of grid-tied solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, today announced that it has partnered with Soltage Greenwood, a joint venture between Greenwood Energy and Soltage LLC to develop a solar project, launched by Casella Waste Systems(link is external) on its Coventry, Vt. landfill site, which would be the largest project of its kind in Vermont.The 2.7 megawatt (MW) project will sell power to Vermont Electric Power Producers Inc (VEPP Inc), a purchasing agent appointed by the Vermont Public Service Board, under Vermont’s Sustainably Priced Energy Development (SPEED) Standard Offer Program—one of the nation’s first feed-in-tariff programs. The project, initiated by Casella Waste Systems with ownership transferred to Borrego Solar in November 2013, is being designed and built by Borrego Solar and financed by Greenwood Energy. The energy produced by the system is expected to generate approximately 3,199 megawatt-hours annually, enough to power 261 homes for an entire year.“I am very proud that in three years we have more than tripled the amount of solar energy in Vermont, leading to our number one ranking nationally in solar jobs per capita,” said Gov. Peter Shumlin. “Coventry is already home to a successful landfill gas energy project, and now the Coventry landfill solar array will add another 2.7 megawatts of renewable energy to the grid. This project is making productive use of this site, and is another example of how solar benefits Vermont’s economy and our environment.”Now in its construction phase, the 9,018-panel ground-mount solar array will be installed on the site’s buffer zone, which is not slated for waste. The site currently hosts the only active landfill in the state, as well as an 8 MW gas-to-energy generating facility that utilizes the methane captured from both the active and capped sections of the landfill.key details:2.7 megawatt (MW) project capacity across 9,018 ground-mounted solar panelsSystem is expected to produce 3,199 megawatt-hours annually, enough to power 261 homes for an entire yearLargest landfill-to-solar project in VermontSolar array will join an 8MW gas-to-energy generating facility in operation at the siteThis project will sell its power to Vermont Electric Power Producers, Inc through the state’s Sustainably Priced Energy Development (SPEED) program, one of the nation’s foremost solar feed-in tariff programs. By comparison, the 1 megawatt, 3,806 solar panel system, installed by REV Corporate Member Alteris Renewables at the corner of Route 7 and Monkton Road, will generate enough electricity to power approximately 170 homes per year. The solar array visible from I-89 in Sharon is a 2.2 MW facility.“Greenwood Energy has been a strong partner in solar energy development in the region. This is our third project together and we’re very proud to install Vermont’s first landfill solar project, especially as we’ve seen landfill solar installations become a rising trend across the country,” said Joe Harrison, project developer at Borrego Solar. “The site’s vacant buffer distance offers the perfect opportunity to put otherwise unused land to productive, clean energy-generating use. With our proven track record of solar project development around the country, this project is the first of many installations Borrego Solar hopes to bring to Vermont.”This is Borrego Solar’s sixth wholesale distributed generation (WDG) project, and to date, the company has developed and installed a total of 17.3 MW of solar energy capacity on seven active and capped landfills in the United States. Landfills and their buffer lands make especially compelling locations for solar energy systems as they are generally close to interconnection systems and are built on already disrupted and cleared land, as in the typical case of a capped landfill, or in vacant buffer zones, such as in the case of the Coventry site. Demand for financing landfill installations through power purchase agreements (PPAs)—a mechanism that allows landfill owners to go solar without paying any upfront costs—is also rising.“We’re pleased to once again partner with Borrego Solar, and are excited to help add new solar power capacity in Vermont,” said Camilo Patrignani, CEO of Greenwood Energy. “Access to upfront capital, long-term project financing through power purchase agreements, and our turnkey approach to development is critical for projects like this one to become a reality while requiring zero upfront costs from Casella Waste Systems.”“We were pleased to offer our landfill site in Coventry as an asset for a solar energy system,” said John Casella, CEO chairman of Casella Waste Systems. “The installation will allow us to utilize the entire property for energy generation, as the rest of the site is already doing so through methane capture and conversion. We’re proud to be a company that is looking at renewing and sustaining resources in an integrative way.”About Borrego SolarEstablished in 1980, Borrego Solar Systems Inc. is one of the nation’s leading financiers, designers, developers and installers of commercial and utility solar power(link is external) systems. Borrego Solar’s photovoltaic systems are efficient, reliable and cost-effective. With more than three decades of experience and more than 1,000 solar power installations completed—totaling close to 90 MW—Borrego Solar offers a complete line of solar systems design and installation services throughout the country. For more information, visit www.borregosolar.com(link is external).About Greenwood EnergyGreenwood Energy (www.gwenergy.com(link is external)) is the North American clean energy division of the Libra Group (www.libra.com(link is external)), a privately owned international business group comprising 30 subsidiaries operating across four continents. Greenwood’s clean energy interests span the manufacture of sustainable fuels that replace coal; ownership of clean power generation plants such as fuel cell and combined heat and power (CHP); solar energy investment and development; and engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) services for the solar sector. The Libra Group is predominantly focused on five core sectors: shipping, aviation, real estate, hospitality and energy. In addition to Greenwood’s clean energy interests in the U.S., Libra Group companies own and operate solar and wind parks and biogas facilities throughout the Mediterranean and Northern Europe.About Casella Waste Systems, Inc.Casella Waste Systems, Inc., headquartered in Rutland, Vermont, provides solid waste management services consisting of collection, transfer, disposal, and recycling services in the northeastern United States. For further information, visit the company’s website at www.casella.com(link is external).COVENTRY, Vt.–(BUSINESS WIRE(link is external))–Borrego Solar Systems Inc(link is external)Photo: Pile driving at the Coventry site for the solar panel installation. April 2014last_img read more

Speaker breaks tie for first time over ‘Sodexho’ bill

first_imgby Anne Galloway vtdigger.org(link is external) Late night sessions can be dangerous fuel, especially when it comes to controversial legislation, and such was the case Monday when the Vermont House became more of a tinderbox than usual. The issue that inflamed lawmakers was a highly combustible labor bill — legislation that prohibits businesses from discriminating against employees who use paid sick time.The trouble is, the Legislature is targeting one business — Sodexho, a company that provides meals at local colleges and other institutions, and which has been accused of unfairly pressuring workers to continue working even when they are sick.The legislation in question, S.213, is broad,(link is external) and a faction of lawmakers — many of whom are blue dog Democrats or Independents — say the provisions in the bill could ensnare businesses that offer fair sick pay policies.The spark started earlier in the day in House General, Housing and Military Affairs Committee. Rep. Will Stevens, I-Shoreham, introduced a strike-all amendment that gutted S.213, the so-called “Sodexho” bill. A study of discrimination related to employee use of sick time remained in Stevens’ amendment.Stevens is concerned that the proposal has broad implications for businesses that have functional paid sick leave policies and could punish Sodexho at the expense of all employers.Shap Smith, Speaker of the Vermont House. Photo by Roger Crowley/for VTDiggerThe committee voted down Stevens’ proposal. Then Rep. John Moran, D-Wardsboro, struck Stevens’ amendment and inserted language from the Senate bill, returning the legislation to its original form. The committee unanimously approved Moran’s proposal.When S.213, also known as the “Sodexho bill” was brought to the House floor, long after the dinner hour, a volatile back and forth ensued.Stevens introduced another amendment that struck the prohibition language from the bill, and within short order, Moran offered his own amendment as a substitute.What happened next was partly the result of hours-long arguments on the House floor over childcare unionization, which narrowly passed, and what happens when a caucus with a supermajority begins to fracture.A small faction of blue dog Dems that night went against the caucus and the speaker and nearly scuttled the bill.That would have been a first for House Speaker Shap Smith, D-Morristown, who in his tenure as the chief executive officer of the House, has never lost a vote on the floor.Smith and his deputies usually count all the votes ahead of time, but the Sodexho bill wasn’t perhaps as crucial as some of the other items on the very full docket on Monday. After all, Smith was focused on the tough fight to pass childcare unionization.Around 10 p.m., it appeared that the blue dog Dems, led by outgoing Rep. Paul Ralston, D-Middlebury, who gave a persuasive speech about why the bill wouldn’t be effective, soon had almost enough votes to kill the Moran amendment.The tally was 60-62, and victory for the Ralston faction was imminent when Rep. Kathleen Keenan, D-St. Albans, changed her vote, creating a 61-61 tie, and enabling House Speaker Shap Smith to break the tie and carry the day for the Moran amendment.It was the first time the Speaker has cast a tie-breaking vote on the floor.Ralston then called for a roll call to divide the question, or break the Moran bill into two parts. Realizing they might not have the votes for a second round, Rep. Helen Head, D-S. Burlington, sent the bill back to the drawing board — her own committee.The next day, smoke from the intra-caucus drama lingered.The implicit rule of the Democratic caucus was violated. Members are supposed to show unwavering support for any union bill, as Rep. Tony Klein, D-East Montpelier, and others in the House made clear at a caucus meeting on Tuesday. Members who remember what it was like to be part of the minority (just six years ago) chastised newer representatives who voted their consciences instead of the party line.After all, the Dems wanted to get another labor bill — that allows childcare providers to form a union — out the door on Tuesday.Klein told his colleagues he could see erosion in the caucus.“That troubles me … because we are the last line of defense. And not every bill that we put out there is perfect,” Klein said. “But when it comes out, that’s the labor bill, that’s the issue that is on the floor. And when we don’t support it, we’re turning our backs on the very people who I think the Democratic Party has always represented and the very people who have sent most of us here.”A few hours later, the Dems passed the childcare unionization bill 78-59.The hijinks of Monday night were over. Order was restored. Tuesday was another day in the House with lawmakers in their seats, the Democratic leadership back in control, and a steady stream of victories for the majority.last_img read more

Spherion celebrates 25 years in South Burlington

first_imgSpherion,Spherion Staffing Services, a local recruiting, staffing and workforce solutions provider backed by the resources of a $2 billion global workforce leader, announced today that Ken Ballard, franchise owner of the South Burlington office, is celebrating a major milestone – 25 years of exceptional service to local employees and clients. A temporary employee himself, Ballard quickly ascended to a variety of recruiting and managerial positions including recruiter, client services manager, and branch manager, and eventually took over the South Burlington Spherion office in 1997. At that time, he was running his business with just three employees and a handful of clients. Today, he employs eight full-time workers, matches hundreds of workers per year with local jobs and serves as the go-to staffing resource for companies in a variety of industries.“I am thankful for the growth opportunities my office has experienced thanks to local businesses and community members,” said Ballard. “There is no doubt that our success over the past 25 years is directly attributed to our expert recruiters and service team, whose commitment to economic growth and compassion for their neighbors drives their work each day.”Having employed multiple generations of Vermont families, Ballard enjoys seeing the positive impact his business is having on the community. One of his greatest passions is finding local citizens meaningful jobs and contributing to the growth of the economy through his work.“Ken’s strong commitment to the prosperity of Vermonters has been steadfast for the past 25 years,” said Sandy Mazur, division president of Spherion. “I am confident he will continue to grow his business and cultivate opportunities that benefit the Burlington community and his employees, clients and partners.”Ballard’s office primarily focuses on staffing in the clerical, manufacturing and professional services industries. He predicts continued growth in these sectors, along with an increase in healthcare and IT support services, food manufacturing, and finance and accounting.Ballard is actively involved with several community organizations including the Burlington Boys & Girls Club, the Associated Industries of Vermont and the Vermont Association of Staffing Services. As a champion of equal employment and workers’ rights, he has been appointed by two different governors to serve on the Governor’s Committee for the Employment of People with Disabilities. His team also contributes to career readiness forums at local high school and colleges, and are involved in causes such as the Ronald McDonald House Charities and the Salvation Army.About SpherionSpherion Staffing Services is a leading recruiting and staffing provider that specializes in placing administrative, clerical, customer service and light industrial candidates in temporary and full-time opportunities. As an industry pioneer for more than 68 years, Spherion has sourced, screened and placed millions of individuals in virtually every industry through a network of offices across the United States. Spherion offers companies a unique combination of personalized customer service backed by the resources, knowledge and geographic breadth of a $2 billion dollar workforce leader. Last year we helped more than 3,000 clients find the right talent to meet their workforce goals. Each local office is individually owned and operated by a team of staffing specialists who are known throughout the community, well-acquainted with your business and supported by a strong network of talent. As one of the fastest growing industries, Spherion is actively expanding into new territories, with more than 75 franchise markets available. To inquire, visit www.spherion.com/franchise(link is external).Source: SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vermont – Spherion Staffing Services www.spherion.com(link is external).last_img read more

Lavazza sells portion of its Keurig Green Mountain shares for $50 million

first_imgKeurig Dr Pepper,Vermont Business Magazine On January 23, 2015, Italian coffee company and Keurig Green Mountain investor Lavazza sold an aggregate of 378,371 shares of Common Stock ($50,299,273), as a result of which Lavazza currently owns approximately 7.8 percent of the outstanding Common Stock, as described below, worth about $1.7 billion. In a SEC filing statement, Lavazza said it intends to continue to review market conditions for shares of Keurig Common Stock and may from time to time sell additional shares of Keurig Common Stock. Keurig Green Mountain is based in Waterbury, Vermont.Lavazza said it is currently engaged in important strategic transactions unrelated to Keurig for which it will have significant cash requirements. Thus, while Lavazza said it continues to believe in the merits of an investment in Common Stock, it now believes that it would be more appropriate for Lavazza to deploy available capital to its other ongoing strategic transactions and initiatives and, accordingly, on January 23, 2015, Lavazza determined to sell a portion of its holdings of Keurig Common Stock.Lavazza said intends to use the proceeds of the sale of shares of Common Stock, in part, to fund its cash obligations in respect of such other transactions. The exact number of shares of Common Stock that Lavazza will sell has not been determined, and will depend upon, among other things, market conditions generally and for the shares of Common Stock, as well as the amount and timing of its requirements for cash in respect of such other transactions. Lavazza expects, however, that it will sell at least enough shares of Common Stock so that it will cease to own more than 5 percent of the outstanding Common Stock, the public reporting threshold.The sale of at least that many shares would be worth about $600 million in today’s terms. Keurig has a market cap of $21.3 billion, which is the value of all outstanding common shares.Shares of Keurig made a modest spike on January 23 to $136 (SEE HERE(link is external)) before falling back to about $130 over the weekend. Shares are trading at just over $131 Monday with a 52-week range of $74.44 – $158.87.Source: SEC. 1.23.2015last_img read more

Vermont doing well, but could do more in cancer fight

first_imgVermont Business Magazine Vermont is one of the three top states in its legislative activity to reduce the incidence of cancer. Legislation that includes smoke-free public areas and laws against tanning booths are two of the methods states can employ to reduce the chance its citizens get cancer. But all states, including Vermont, could do more, according to a recently released national report. Indeed, a majority of states are not measuring up on legislative solutions that prevent and fight cancer, according to a report released by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN). “How Do You Measure Up?: A Progress Report on State Legislative Activity to Reduce Cancer Incidence and Mortality” rates states on the strength of proven policies that help to prevent a disease that kills more than 1,600 people a day nationwide and will cost the country an estimated $216 billion in health care costs this year alone.The report, which was released last week at the National Conference of State Legislatures annual meeting in Seattle, WA, finds that 25 states have reached benchmarks in only two or fewer of the nine legislative priority areas measured by ACS CAN, the advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society. Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia measure up in just three to five areas and only three states – Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont – meet benchmarks in six of the nine categories. No state meets benchmarks in seven or more policy areas.“Most states are failing to implement laws and policies that not only prevent cancer and save lives, but lower health care costs and generate revenue at the same time,” said Chris Hansen, president of ACS CAN. “By enacting evidence-based policies that encourage cancer prevention, guarantee access to affordable health care, curb tobacco use and improve patients’ quality of life, state lawmakers can create a legacy of better health.”The 13th edition of How Do You Measure Up? rates states on the strength of policies including smoke-free workplace laws, tobacco taxes, funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs and cessation coverage under Medicaid, funding for cancer screening programs and indoor tanning restrictions for minors. The report also looks at whether or not states have accepted available federal funds to increase access to care through their Medicaid program, passed policies to increase patient quality of life and adopted balanced approaches to provide access to pain medications.A color-coded system is used to identify how well a state is doing. Green represents the benchmark position, showing that a state has adopted evidence-based policies and best practices; yellow indicates moderate movement toward the benchmark and red shows where a state is falling short.How Do You Measure Up? also offers a blueprint for effective implementation of provisions of the federal health care law that benefit cancer patients and their families, such as ensuring transparency in health plans sold in state exchanges, ensuring access to cancer drugs and providing essential health benefits for chronic disease patients. In addition, the report highlights strategies to increase access to healthy foods and places for physical activity in communities.“Roughly half of all cancer deaths could be prevented if everyone were to stop using tobacco, eat healthy foods in moderation, exercise regularly and get recommended screenings. Lawmakers play a key role in making this a reality,” said Hansen. “This report highlights the proven policy interventions available to state lawmakers that can not only eliminate barriers to the prevention and treatment of cancer but also benefit the financial health of their states.”Although many states are falling short when it comes to passing cancer-fighting policies, others are making steady progress. The 2015 report shows that increasing access to Medicaid is the most-met benchmark, with 29 states and the District of Columbia having accepted the federal funds set aside to improve access to health care through Medicaid. This is a 6 percent increase from the number of states that received a “green” ranking in this category in the 2014 report.Unfortunately, 8 million low-income adults and families continue to lack access to affordable health coverage solely because their states have not yet increased access to Medicaid.The number of states that met the benchmark in increasing access to palliative care doubled from 2014 to 2015. Palliative care is specialized medical care focused on improving the quality of life for patients and families by providing coordinated, team-based care and offering relief from often debilitating symptoms of treatment.In 2014, only five states measured up when it came to passing ACS CAN model legislation or similar legislation to increase awareness of and access to palliative care. In the 2015 legislative session, Alabama, Texas, Maine, Oklahoma and Oregon passed such legislation.Alarmingly, funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs is one of the issues with the fewest states meeting the benchmark in this year’s report. Tobacco is the number one preventable cause of death nationwide and this year alone, it will claim the lives of more than 480,000 people in the United States. Yet, just seven states measure up when it comes to adequately funding tobacco prevention and cessation programs proven to help prevent young people from using these deadly products and help those already addicted to quit. Not only would investing in these evidence-based programs save lives, it would reduce health care costs associated with tobacco use, which this year will total $170 billion nationwide.An estimated 1.6 million people in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer and more than 580,000 will die from the disease this year. One-third of all cancer deaths are attributable to tobacco and one-third to overweight and obesity.Source: WASHINGTON, D.C. – Aug. 6, 2015 – ACS CAN. For a copy of the complete report, visit www.acscan.org(link is external). ACS CAN, the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, supports evidence-based policy and legislative solutions designed to eliminate cancer as a major health problem. ACS CAN works to encourage elected officials and candidates to make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer with the training and tools they need to make their voices heard. For more information, visit www.acscan.org(link is external).last_img read more