Pat Bradley

North Country Bureau Chief

Ways to Connect

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin is hailing what he calls good news on the corrections front: Vermont has seen a reduction in its prison population, while its crime rates also are down.  WAMC’s Pat Bradley reports…

Numbers released on Wednesday show Vermont's inmate population has dropped by more than 140 since 2008, to 2,059 people behind bars. It had been projected to grow by 26 percent between 2008 and 2018.

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The Vermont Legislature is wading through a sea of pending bills as they try to move towards an adjournment that’s already been delayed.

Courtesy American Lung Association

The American Lung Association has released their annual State of the Air report.  While there has been some improvement in air quality, air across the Northeast is still too polluted.

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Backers of marijuana decriminalization have failed in their effort to bring the measure to the full Vermont House for a vote.  WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley reports…

The measure had been held up in the House Judiciary Committee, with House Speaker Shap Smith opposed to it.

On Tuesday, Representative Oliver Olsen, a Jamaica Republican, called for a vote in the House to pull the bill out of committee and bring it to the floor for debate. That motion failed on a vote of 119 to 21.

A bill has been introduced in the state Senate by Senator Betty Little and in the Assembly by William Magee to give the authority for training and credentialing search and rescue volunteers to state  forest rangers.  Senator Little says with only 112 forest rangers, the agency must rely on properly trained volunteers to aid in searches.

In 2011, Vermont experienced record spring flooding that was followed by severe damage in late summer by Tropical Storm Irene.  The report issued by the  Vermont Agency of Natural Resources: “Resilience A Report on the Health of Vermont’s Environment” assesses 10 indicators.

Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders on Monday outlined some of the successes of geothermal heating projects in Vermont.  More from WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley…

Senator Sanders said geothermal energy is helping heat more Vermont homes, businesses, and schools. 

He says investments in geothermal energy will reduce the $350 billion a year that Americans spend to import oil from foreign countries. 

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, known as RGGI, is a cooperative between 9 northeast states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by periodically auctioning pollution allowances.  Those allowances determine how much pollution can be emitted from power plants.  The money that each state makes is returned, for the most part, to energy efficiency and clean energy programs.

The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources says the emergency rules that allowed people to work in the state's rivers and streams to help clean up after Tropical Storm Irene are no longer valid.  WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley reports…

Effective immediately, anyone who wants to work in a waterway must comply with all rules and regulations and get a permit from a state river engineer.

National Guard units from Vermont and seven other states, including Maine and New Hampshire, helped respond to Tropical Storm Irene when it caused widespread flooding in the state in late August. The state Agency of Transportation had asked the Federal Highway Administration for $4 million to reimburse the guard for help with transportation infrastructure repairs — but the request was initially denied.  Governor Peter Shumlin says the state had to pay the National Guard for the cost of expenses and borrowed equipment.

The federal Food stamp program,  or SNAP - the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program,  would see an eleven percent cut if passed as proposed by Republican House members.   Hunger Solutions New York Executive Director Linda Bopp reports that on Wednesday the House Agriculture Committee voted to reduce the food stamp program by 33-billion dollars.  

Bopp estimates that under the proposal  a family of 4 receiving the maximum benefit would see a monthly cut of 57 dollars.

For the next six months some Vermont cellular telephone users will be able to text 911 emergency calls for help.  WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley reports…

Vermont's Enhanced 911 Board says that Verizon Wireless customers will be able to send a text message to 911 that will be answered at a public service answering point in Williston.

The people who receive the messages will coordinate the emergency response with the appropriate agency.

National Grid has been able to add a weather normalization adjustment, or WNA, to a homeowner’s  bill since 1994.  The WNA is included during the winter gas heating season to stabilize the cost of delivering gas and reduce wide fluctuations on utility bills, according to National Grid spokesperson Virginia Limmiatis.

Photo by Jayd Gardina

Ngawang Choephel  was born in Tibet. He and his mother fled the Chinese occupation there when he was two years old.  A Middlebury College Fulbright scholar, Choephel returned there in 1995 to make a documentary on Tibetan music and culture.  He was arrested by Chinese authorities, and sentenced to 18 years in prison for spying. Choephel  was released after six years and he shows his film to help tell the story of Tibet.

The Stafford Student Loan rate will double from 3.4 to 6.8 percent without Congressional action. Vermont Student Assistance Corporation President and CEO Don Vickers explains that about four years ago Congress passed a bill to lower the rate on student loans over those four years.

The “Rally to Support Vermont and Defend Democracy” is billed as a way to support the desire of people and elected officials to hold what organizers call a “rogue” corporation accountable and press for the closure of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant. While there have been numerous rallies of late over Vermont Yankee, Dan DeWalt one of the organizers, says this one is different because of who will be speaking.

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The U.S. Department of Labor plans to finalize the proposed regulations by summer.  The New York Farm Bureau wants the agency to eliminate changes in youth family farm work regulations, which New York Farm Bureau Public Policy Director Julie Suarez says could prohibit young adults from using the most basic of tools on a farm.

Since its discovery in a NY cave in 2006, White Nose Syndrome has spread across the Northeast, into 19 states and 4 Canadian provinces.  It’s estimated that nearly 7 million bats have died, some species nearing extinction.  The fungus causing White Nose Syndrome has been identified and named Geomyces Destructans. Researchers from the U.S. and Canada have had two key hypotheses regarding the origin of that fungus.

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Department of Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Darrel Aubertine traveled to the Adirondack hamlet of Keene on the governor’s behalf to make the announcement to local officials that the state will pick up the 61-million dollars in local recovery costs facing 25 counties in the wake of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.

State Police divers continue to search the Connecticut River for evidence in the murder of Melissa Jenkins, a popular Vermont prep school teacher whose body was found in the river in Barnet.  WAMC's North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley reports… 

A Waterford couple has been charged with killing Jenkins and dumping her body in the river on March 25 after luring her from St. Johnsbury home with a ruse about a broken down car.

The merger of Green Mountain Power and Central Vermont Public Service has become controversial due to how the merged company plans to refund $21 million owed to CVPS ratepayers.  The companies want to repay ratepayers through energy efficiency measures, but AARP-Vermont and others have been pushing for direct cash refunds. An amendment was presented in the Vermont House that would force the direct payments to customers.  The House Natural Resources and Energy and the Commerce and Economic Development committees took testimony Tuesday on the appropriateness of Legislative intervention.

Supporters of Physician assisted suicide, or death with dignity,  used a  procedural move to attach the proposal onto a bill banning tanning salons from offering their services to minors.  The entire measure passed the Health and Welfare Committee on a 3 to 2 vote, moving it to the full Senate. A previous effort to move the legislation as its own bill was blocked in committee. Patient Choices Vermont President Dick Walters, who has been working for ten years to get a death with dignity law in Vermont, says there was no other way to move the measure forward.

WAMC

Beginning June first, Canadians coming to the U.S. will be able to nearly quadruple their amount of purchases before being required to pay duties and taxes when returning to Canada.  Currently, duty must be paid on purchases above 50 dollars for a single day visit, and 200 dollars for longer stays.  A provision in the new Canadian federal budget will increase duty and tax limits. And that’s good news south of the border, according to Plattsburgh North Country Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Garry Douglas.

The Vermont Clean Energy Investment Summit was hosted by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Governor Peter Shumlin and the state Department of Public Service.   Senator Sanders says it’s part of continuing efforts to make Vermont a leader in sustainable and renewable energy.

The Montpelier-based Public Assets Institute issued the report: “The 2013 Budget: Is It Adequate?”  which says state leaders have presented Vermonters “...with no vision of what the budget is meant to achieve - other than to keep state government running.”  Institute President Paul Cillo says the state needs a new budget process.

Officials in Saranac Lake have been planning to create a Saranac Lake Tourism Council since a Destination Master Plan was issued in 2009. Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Sylvie Nelson says the  new Council includes representatives from established tourism groups, economic consultants, the chamber, local business, and the village. 

Courtesy IJC

In 2008, the International Joint Commission asked scientists from the governments of the two countries as well as Vermont and the Province of Quebec to produce the Missisquoi Bay Critical Source Area Study.

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