Sanders Questions High Gas Prices in Burlington

Jul 5, 2012

Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders is asking if northwestern Vermont residents are getting ripped off at the gas pump.  WAMC’s Tristan O’Neill reports… 

The left-leaning independent is calling for a federal investigation of the fact that gas prices are higher in Chittenden, Franklin and Grand Isle counties than elsewhere in Vermont or New England.

Sanders says Vermont's gas prices tend to run higher than New Hampshire's. On Monday, regular unleaded averaged $3.55 a gallon in Vermont, versus $3.36 in New Hampshire.


Vermont's congressional delegation says the farm bill passed by the U.S. Senate that includes a program aimed at stabilizing milk prices is a good step forward.  WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley reports…

A provision of the voluntary program is designed to stop the dramatic swings in prices, by discouraging the oversupply of milk and allowing farmers to buy insurance that pays out when prices plummet.

Vermont Statehouse
Photo by Pat Bradley

More than 1,600 people in the area of South Burlington, Vt., have signed a petition in support of locating new Air Guard jets at Burlington International Airport.  WAMC’s Pat Bradley reports…

The petition presented Monday urges the South Burlington City Council to reconsider its opposition to basing the new jets locally.

The Council voted last month against basing the F-35A at the Vermont Air Guard base. It sent questions to the Air Force related to a draft environmental impact statement related to elevated noise levels.

After applying for a waiver for flexibility from the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law, Vermont has changed its mind and will not pursue the application.

The U.S. Department of Education announced this week that it has approved waivers for another eight states. A total of 19 states have gotten waivers to date in exchange for providing their own plans to improve student outcomes and teaching quality.

Quebec Premier Postpones Vermont Visit

May 24, 2012

Quebec Premier Jean Charest is postponing his visit to Vermont where he had planned to meet with Governor Peter Shumlin and other business and government leaders.  WAMC’s Tristan O’Neill reports…

Charest planned to sign a trade and environmental protection agreement with Shumlin on Thursday and then attend events with the state's business community and at the University of Vermont.

Shumlin's office says Charest will remain in Quebec City so he can attend debates in the national assembly.

Vermont State Police say human remains, including part of a skull, have been found on private property that was being excavated in Northfield.  More from WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley......

Police say the skull piece and other skeletal remains found at the construction site will be sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation laboratory for further investigation.

The office of the Vermont chief medical examiner and a University of Vermont anthropologist determined that the bones are human.

VT Building Evacuated Because of Chemical

May 24, 2012

A government building that houses the Vermont governor's office had to be evacuated after some state workers starting feeling sick.  WAMC’s Tristan O’Neill reports…

The employees at the Pavilion Building in Montpelier reported having headaches and watery eyes on Wednesday.

The source appears to have been a waterproof sealant that was being applied to the outside bricks and wafting into the building.

The employees were sent home and the building was being ventilated.

The state of Vermont is now a part of a federal program aimed at identifying illegal immigrants arrested and charged with crimes.  WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley reports…

The Department of Homeland Security says its Secure Communities program went into effect Tuesday in Vermont.

The program shares the fingerprints of illegal immigrants charged with crimes with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.

Quebec Premier to Visit Vermont, Sign Pact

May 21, 2012

Quebec Premier Jean Charest is due in Vermont this week to meet with Gov. Peter Shumlin and other business and government leaders.  WAMC's Tristan O'Neill reports...

The visit is set for Thursday, when Charest and Shumlin are to gather at Shelburne Farms to sign an updated agreement between the state and the province on environmental, trade and other issues.

New Fund to Help Displaced VT Mobile-Home Owners

May 21, 2012

 A total of 524 mobile homes were damaged in Vermont during Tropical Storm Irene. And many homeowners are still recovering, some paying more for housing.  WAMC's Tristan O'Neill reports...

A new fund has been set up to help mobile-home owners in Vermont who were victims of Irene or flooding last spring.

It was started with a gift of $50,000 from a Middlebury couple, David and Eleanor Ignat.

Organizers say $500 grants will be awarded to eligible applicants. The deadline is July 16.

The mail processing plant operated by the U.S. Postal Service in White River Junction will remain open, saving 245 jobs.  WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley reports…

Senators Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy and U.S. Representative Peter Welch announced on Thursday that the postal service plant, which earlier had been threatened with closure, will remain open under legislation the Vermont delegation championed. 

Sanders says keeping the center open will help ensure good postal service in Vermont…

Vermont’s governor has signed into law the nation’s first ban on the natural gas drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing.  WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley reports…

There's no drilling currently happening in Vermont, which is believed to have little to no reserves of oil or natural gas.

Lawmakers passed a preemptive ban on the practice and Democratic Governor Peter Shumlin signed the law Wednesday in a ceremony at the Statehouse in Montpelier…

Governor Peter Shumlin has signed into law the next step in a multi-year effort to revamp Vermont’s health care system and make it more like Canada’s.  WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley reports…

The bill Shumlin signed on Wednesday calls for setting up a regulated health care marketplace — or "exchange" — in keeping with the federal health reform law passed two years ago.

The Governor says it helps the state as it tries to move to a single payer system…

Vermont's top fiscal officer says the state's General Fund took in $10.6 million more than expected last month, making it possible for the state to end the fiscal year with a surplus.  WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley reports… 

Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding said general fund revenues were 6.3 percent ahead of expectations.

So far this fiscal year, general fund revenues are four-tenths of one percent ahead of expectations.

Spaulding says the results were largely because of strong corporate income tax filings.

The Vermont Attorney General's office has received approval to hire a special investigator to target child pornography cases.  WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley reports…

Cindy Maguire of the attorney general's office tells the Bennington Banner that person will be devoted to building cases against people generating or sharing child pornography over peer-to-peer networks.

Utilities See Growing 'Smart Meter' Opposition

May 14, 2012

Worries about health effects, privacy and cost are fueling growing opposition to wireless, digital "smart meters" that utilities around the country are installing on homes and businesses and touting as key energy conservation and grid reliability tools.  WAMC’s Tristan O’Neill reports…

Vermont appears poised to take an unusually aggressive stance. While several states have allowed utilities to charge a fee to customers who want to opt out of smart meters, Vermont's governor is expected soon to sign legislation that would allow customers to say no without paying anything extra.

The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department will hold two public hearings this month on deer management.

The topics will include the 2011 hunting results and recommendations for an antlerless permitting and youth season this year.

Last year, hunters took 12,132 deer during the archery, youth, rifle, and muzzleloader seasons in Vermont. Those totals will be discussed in detail at the hearings.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is making $1 million available this summer to some Vermont farmers as part of a program aimed at reducing pollution in streams.

The farmers are in the Missisquoi River watershed. A recent study has identified farm fields in the area as being at the highest risk of polluting nearby streams.

The federal government says it will pay some farmers 100 percent of the cost of making changes to the way they manage their fields.

One round of grant applications is due May 18; a second round is due June 15.

New Index Ranks Vermont Tops in Locally Grown Food

May 8, 2012

A new index ranks Vermont No. 1 in its commitment to raising and eating locally grown food.

The ranking is based on the number of farmers markets and community supported agriculture programs per state resident. In CSAs, customers pay a lump sum up front and receive weekly deliveries of produce during harvest seasons.

According to the Strolling of the Heifers Locavore Index, Vermont has 99 farmers markets and 164 CSAs for fewer than 622,000 people.

The other top states on the list are Iowa, Montana, Maine and Hawaii.

Three VT Men Arrested with Explosive Device

May 7, 2012

Police in Newport City, Vermont, have arrested three people in connection with a pipe bomb threat that shut down Route 5 for several hours over the weekend.

Police say a witness saw three men leave a house with the explosive device, and police stopped the men a short time later Saturday night. Route 5 was closed until the state police bomb squad said it was safe reopen the road at about 10:30 p.m.

VT Nuke Plant Wants Year in State Permit Case

May 3, 2012

The Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant wants Vermont's utility regulator to allow it to take more than a year to file documents that could lead to it being allowed to operate for another 20 years.

The state of Vermont is suggesting a similar time frame, but wants Vermont Yankee to file its main documents earlier than the company would like.

The plant and the state presented their cases to the Public Service Board on Wednesday. The board is deciding whether the plant's owner, Entergy Nuclear, should be given a state permit.

Vermont's U.S. Representative Peter Welch is going to be compiling stories about student debt.

Welch is going to be at the University of Vermont on Monday where he will launch an initiative to compile stories from Vermont students and families about the burden of student loan debt.

In Vermont, almost 70 percent of college graduates have an average of $30,000 in debt.

Student debt is topping $1 trillion dollars, exceeding credit card debt.

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.

VT Debates Letting Parents Say No to Vaccines

Apr 23, 2012

Vermont is embroiled in a debate over ending the philosophical exemption that allows parents to have their kids skip childhood immunizations required for attending school.  WAMC's Tristan O'Neill reports...

The state Senate voted 25-4 recently to end the exemption, while the House has voted 93-36 to preserve it.

Vermont is among the highest states in the number of parents who exempt their children from immunizations. State health officials say Vermont had 102 pertussis cases between January and the first week of April, more than were reported in the state all last year.

VT House Panel Nixes Senate Vaccination Change

Apr 5, 2012

A Vermont House committee has reversed a Senate action and reinstated the philosophical exemption for parents who don't want to meet requirements that their kids get vaccinations before attending school or child care.  WAMC's Tristan O'Neill reports...

The Senate passed a bill — hotly opposed by some parents — that ended the philosophical exemption that allowed parents to let their children skip some or all immunizations on a state Health Department list of those kids should get before attending school.

VT Judge Orders Company to Pay $2M Fine

Apr 3, 2012

A Vermont judge has ordered a Texas debt settlement company to pay a fine of $2 million in a consumer fraud case.  WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley reports...

Credit Solutions of America also must pay full refunds to 207 Vermonters totaling about $350,000.

The Vermont attorney general's office had sued both CSA of Dallas and its owner, Doug Van Arsdale, in July 2010, accusing them of using unsubstantiated claims that people can reduce their debt "in 60 seconds" to advertise its services.

VT Routinely Violates Law on Moving Mentally Ill

Apr 2, 2012

Mentally ill Vermonters who are involuntarily put in state care are still mostly being moved from place to place in shackles, seven years after the state decreed that they should be transported with "the least restrictive means necessary."  WAMC's Tristan O'Neill reports...

State officials and county sheriffs tell The Associated Press s very small percentage of patients are combative or are deemed to present a threat of violence.

Snow Plow Driver, Wife Charged in VT Woman's Death

Mar 29, 2012

Court documents say a Vermont snow plow driver and his wife lured a beloved prep school teacher from her home by pretending their vehicle had broken down and they needed help, and then strangled her before throwing her body in a river.  WAMC's North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley reports…

The only motive suggested in the court documents filed in the case against 30-year-old Allen Prue and his 33-year-old wife Patricia Prue, of Waterford, was that Allen Prue told police he wanted to "get a girl" on Sunday night.

VT Police Believe Body Is That of Beloved Teacher

Mar 27, 2012

The discovery of a woman's body believed to be that of a beloved teacher at a prestigious Vermont boarding school sent shudders of grief and anxiety through a small New England town a day after her SUV was found running with her unharmed 2-year-old boy inside.  WAMC's Tristan O'Neill reports...

Melissa Jenkins, a 33-year-old single mother, taught science at St. Johnsbury Academy, whose alumni include former President Calvin Coolidge.