Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has rescued $3.9 million to continue the work of two pioneering Vermont organizations that are helping to nurture the emergence of environmental advocacy in China.Leahy, who chairs the Senateâ s committee on the budget for the State Department, foreign aid and other US foreign operations, has secured about $15 million each year for several years to fund a competitive grant program for rule-of-law training in China, where the judiciary is often manipulated by corrupt officials and rapid economic growth has led to unprecedented environmental and public health problems. Under the Leahy-funded initiative, U.S. organizations devise and implement programs to partner with civic reform groups in China in fostering environmental advocacy and enforcement, in challenging official corruption, and in protecting worker health and safety.Vermont Law School (VLS) and the Vermont-based Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC) have been among the programâ s participants, forming the U.S.-China Partnership For Environmental Law, based at the VLS campus in South Royalton. Since 2006 their program has trained thousands of Chinese lawyers, citizen advocates and educators, giving them the skills and academic infrastructure needed to solve mounting environmental and energy challenges through the rule of law. The program helps empower ordinary citizens in China by building legal training capacity for lawyers and civic organizations there in challenging government corruption, local pollution and threats to worker health and safety. Leahy notes that another benefit is that emergence of environmental and safety standards within China helps in leveling the economic playing field with American firms who operate within U.S. environmental and safety standards.The Vermont-based program was on track for another yearâ s work, under appropriations for the overall program secured last year by Leahy, until it ran into a hitch in the U.S. House of Representatives in the congressional clearance process. Leahy this week succeeded in obtaining release of the $3.9 million for the VLS-ISC contract. He informed the Vermont groups of the good news on Friday.Leahy said, â I am pleased that these funds have finally been cleared by Congress. This Vermont-based program is an impetus for reform and action. These funds will support the ongoing programs of two highly respected and innovative Vermont institutions, the Institute for Sustainable Communities and the Vermont Law School, which have trained Chinese lawyers and strengthened public advocacy in support of workers’rights and environmental health and safety. We are already seeing results, as Chinese citizens challenge both the industrial pollution that has poisoned the air and water, and the corruption that has enabled Chinese companies, sometimes with the knowledge of local officials, to undercut their American competitors. This program is an example of how a well-designed effort can be a catalyst for better laws and practices, even in an authoritarian country.’(FRIDAY, April 27, 2012) — Senator Patrick Leahy
The Franklin family has been farming in southernVermont for nine generations. A family operation with one son helping full-time and two others pitching in on weekends, the certified organic dairy farm stays busy raising and milking some 52 dairy cows, along with producing fresh organic eggs and farm-raised organic beef, and some of the best-tasting organic maple syrup in Vermont. Beginning this year, Franklin Farm has the Organic Trade Association (OTA) watching its back and helping to make sure the family can continue its proud traditions. The farm recently joined OTA under the association’s new Farmstead Membership category. This new category makes full OTA membership available to smaller organic farmers for just $50 per year, a doable amount for budget-conscious producers.Ninth generation farmer John Franklin and a new calf. PRNewswire photo.Mary Ellen Franklin, whose husband David bought the farm from an aunt and uncle thirty years ago, says a desire to get more involved and to help organic farms like theirs stay in business caused them to join OTA.”We know that OTA deals in Washington with people in suits, and those folks need to hear from the farmers, from the folks on the ground. If we can increase the farmer voice in Washington, that would be a good thing,” said Mary Ellen. “It’s important that small farms like ours stay around.”The Farmstead Membership is open to organic farmers whose annual income from organic sales is less than$250,000 and who have current membership in one of the farmer-driven organizations with which OTA’s Farmers Advisory Council (FAC) has formed a strategic alliance*. Farmstead Membership farmers get the full benefits of an OTA membership, including the right to vote in OTA’s annual Board of Directors election.”In keeping with OTA’s value that farmers are the foundation of the organic industry, it was imperative for OTA to design a process to hear the voices of all farmers,” said Perry Clutts, FAC co-chair and an organic farmer from Ohio.”OTA is tackling farmers’ issues with stakeholders across the supply chain. We’ve heard some concern that smaller organic farmers didn’t have access to OTA, and we needed to address this concern. We are offering this very reasonable membership so that we can expand the already big and diverse OTA tent in order to represent all of the organic community even more effectively,” said Laura Batcha, OTA’s CEO and Executive Director.The Farmers Advisory Council was formed by OTA in 2013. The group was established to elevate the voices of organic farmers and to provide guidance on how to constructively engage with national policy leaders. FAC helps bring farmer ideas to the attention of the OTA Board for consideration so that, in words of co-chair Clutts, “OTA can better serve the entire organic sector, from farm to plate.”The first year of FAC kicked off with a two-day summit in the spring as part of OTA’s 2014 Annual Policy Conference. The FAC summit focused on ways to expand the domestic supply of organic ingredients and acreage necessary to support long-term growth in the industry. It brought together food companies and organic grain growers, organic livestock producers and distributors. Providing a vehicle for ongoing conversation between the members, FAC, in its annual report(link is external), has identified a number of common themes that the group and OTA are addressing: the supply shortage of organic ingredients, especially grain, and ways to encourage transition to organic production; analysis and feedback on critical regulatory issues like the Food Safety Modernization Act and animal welfare; organic crop contamination from prohibited residues; information on the proposed organic check-off program; access to land for beginning organic and transitioning-to-organic farmers; concerns regarding shortages of labor; and international trade barriers.”As FAC continues to build in size and momentum, this council will become stronger and better help OTA represent the organic farming community,” says Clutts.Farming—particularly organic farming—has never been easy. The Franklins have not used chemicals on their land since 1992, and received their organic certification in 2004. “Economic challenges are always real and always present,” says Mary Ellen, “but our grandchildren and our sons will benefit from our struggles.”For the Franklin family in Vermont and for every organic producer, it’s all about contributing to, not taking away from, the environment.”Farming is a way of life our family loves and is very proud of. Our goals are to enjoy what we do, to produce food of the highest quality, and to leave this farm better than when we first started here,” says Mary Ellen. * OTA’s Farmers Advisory Council was established to elevate the voices of organic farmers, and to provide analysis and guidance on how to constructively engage with national policymakers. It fosters two-way communication between OTA and organic farmers, allowing organic farmers to offer their perspectives to help OTA shape its policy work, while providing a network to share relevant and timely information to organic farmers. Participating organizations include CCOF Inc., Organic Egg Farmers of America, Oregon Tilth Certified Organic, Western Organic Dairy Producers Association, and CROPP Cooperative. For further information, contact Nathaniel Lewis(link sends e-mail).The Organic Trade Association (OTA)(link is external) is the membership-based business association for organic agriculture and products in North America. OTA is the leading voice for organic trade in the United States, representing over 6,500 organic businesses in every state. Its members include growers, shippers, processors, certifiers, farmers’ associations, distributors, importers, exporters, consultants, retailers and others. OTA’s Board of Directors is democratically elected by its members. OTA’s mission is to promote and protect the growth of organic trade to benefit the environment, farmers, the public and the economy.SOURCE WASHINGTON, Oct. 21, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Organic Trade Association
Vermont Business Magazine The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council (SBE Council) has released its 19th annual “Small Business Policy Index 2014: Ranking the States on Policy Measures and Costs Impacting Small Business and Entrepreneurship.” Based largely on broad-based taxes, Vermont was 45th overall. South Dakota was first and California was last. The Index(link is external) ranks the 50 states according to 42 different policy measures, including a wide array of tax, regulatory and government spending measurements.”Policies clearly affect the environment for investment, entrepreneurship and small business growth. In order to compete for capital, business and human capital, many Governors and state legislatures are pushing forward with policies to improve their tax and regulatory climates. This competitive policy environment is a big plus for small business. States like Arizona, Indiana, Kansas, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, and Ohiohave really stepped up their game on the policy front. In each of these cases, tax reform and relief were undertaken, which reduces the costs of risk taking and doing business. Meanwhile, top-tier policy states likeTexas, Nevada, South Dakota, Florida and Wyoming continue to leverage their long-standing policy advantage, and are doing things to get even better,” said SBE Council President and CEO Karen Kerrigan.The most entrepreneur-friendly states under the “Small Business Policy Index 2014” are: 1) South Dakota, 2)Nevada, 3) Texas, 4) Wyoming, 5) Florida, 6) Washington, 7) Alabama, 8) Indiana, 9) Colorado, 10) North Dakota, 11) Ohio, 12) Arizona, 13) Utah, 14) Michigan, and 15) Virginia. In contrast, according to the Index, the most negative policy environments for entrepreneurs are: 40) Rhode Island, 41) Connecticut, 42) Maine, 43) Iowa, 44) Oregon, 45) Vermont, 46) Minnesota, 47) Hawaii, 48) New York, 49) New Jersey, and 50) California.The “Small Business Policy Index 2014” can be read and downloaded here(link is external), with an interactive map on SBE Council’s website here.(link is external)Raymond J. Keating, SBE Council’s chief economist and author of the study, noted, “The Small Business Policy Index provides the most comprehensive comparison of state policies that affect entrepreneurship, small business and investment. And make no mistake, tax, regulatory, government spending and other governmental performance and cost measures matter state by state. Consider that when it comes to economic growth, population growth, and shifts in population among the states, for example, the top 25 states on the Index perform, on average, far better than the bottom 25 states.”SOURCE: WASHINGTON, Dec. 11, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council. SBE Council is a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy, research and education organization that works to protect small business and promote entrepreneurship. For more that twenty years, SBE Council has worked to advance policies and initiatives that help to strengthen the ecosystem for U.S. entrepreneurship. Please visit:www.sbecouncil.org(link is external). Twitter: @SBECouncil
Vermont Business Magazine Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Thursday joined officials from the state of Vermont and the Waitsfield community to celebrate construction progress on Waitsfield’s new town office. The event marked a major milestone for the Waitsfield community, which recently broke ground on a new site to replace the town office building flooded by Tropical Storm Irene. A Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG) from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development largely supported the project, administered in Vermont by the Agency of Commerce and Community Development.Leahy said: “While the memories of the devastation wrought by Tropical Storm Irene are still fresh even four years later, I know that the way our communities pulled together to support each other and rebuild is what will be the enduring spirit of the storm. Waitsfield’s new town offices play a critical part in making this iconic Mad River Valley community even more resilient and vibrant than before. I am proud to have helped secure federal funds for Vermont to build back stronger, and I am pleased to see them being put to good use on this project.”The town’s offices are currently housed on the lower floor of the Joslin Memorial Library and have been repeatedly flooded. Waitsfield will use $873,200 in CDBG Disaster Recovery funds along with municipal funding and other sources totaling approximately $1.6 million for the new town office building. The site is on Main Street, approximately 280 yards north of the existing location in historic Waitsfield Village. The location is above the 100 and 500 year floodplain and is across the street from the Mad River Valley Ambulance building, which is also a designated emergency operations center.In a statement, Governor Peter Shumlin said, “Waitsfield is to be congratulated for making its community safer and stronger. Because it is designed as a net zero building and moves the town office out of the floodplain, the project is a significant step towards both preparing for and addressing climate change.” He added, “As we’ve recently seen in Barre and Plainfield, floodwaters return. The state is committed to helping communities become more resilient and is grateful for Senator Leahy’s support in securing federal funding to help make it happen.” “The new Town Office is one of many substantial investments in community infrastructure under way that will benefit Waitsfield citizens now and for future generations,” acknowledged Town Administrator Valerie Capels. “On behalf of the Waitsfield Selectboard, I want to express our appreciation for all of the state and federal support the community has received. This support has been crucial toward our recovery from Tropical Storm Irene and to make these infrastructure investments without placing an undue burden on local property taxes.”The CDBG Disaster Recovery Grants are part of $40 million in funding Vermont received as a result of a provision championed by Senator Leahy in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene. The funds have helped towns across the state rebuild and become more resilient in the wake of future events.Waitsfield’s town office project is one of several made possible by the CDBG Disaster Recovery funding. Additionally, five local businesses received a total of $156,500 in grants to help them recover from damage and lost revenue. The town is also one of eight Vermont municipalities to receive assistance from the Vermont Downtown Action Team to develop economic revitalization plans after their community cores were devastated by the 2011 floods. It will also use a $179,976 grant to develop a public park along the Mad River, one of the recommendations in its plan. This park will create a riverfront gathering space near the town’s unique covered bridge and river vista adjacent to the historic business district.WAITSFIELD, Vt. (THURSDAY, Aug. 13, 2015) – Senator Patrick Leahy
Vermont Business Magazine Six months after signing the historic education reform law known as Act 46, Governor Peter Shumlin today highlighted its early success in sparking local conversations statewide about how to enhance educational quality for Vermont’s kids. The governor made the announcement at Essex High School a week after voters from the towns of Essex, Essex Junction, and Westford voted to streamline their governance structure, forming one unified district to serve 10 schools in the three communities. The unification was the first under Act 46 and reduces the number of schoolboards from five to one and superintendents from two to one.The governor was joined for the announcement by House Speaker Shap Smith, Chairman of the House Education Committee Dave Sharpe, Essex Rep. Tim Jerman, Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe, local schoolboard members, students, and others. “The message here is simple: Act 46 is working,” Shumlin said. “Communities around Vermont are having important conversations about how to improve educational quality for their kids because of this law, not despite it. Given the 20 percent decline in school enrollment over the last 20 years, it is clear we need to adapt to preserve the high-quality education we value. Vermont communities are answering that call with local decisions, not prescriptions from Montpelier.”Act 46 provides incentives and assistance to school systems that combine governance structures to share resources, streamline costs, and expand opportunities for kids. Currently, 11 systems are actively exploring or considering accelerated mergers under the law, more than double the five expected earlier in the year. Additionally, about 10 formal study committees have been formed to explore potential unifications and a dozen other communities are in informal discussions about their options under the new law.“Act 46 is about creating more equity for our children,” said House Speaker Shap Smith. “Under the law, more and more Vermonters are focusing their local education decisions on finding efficiencies and maximizing academic opportunities. This communities’ willingness to work together to find solutions will allow community members, teachers and administrators to focus on what’s most important – educating our kids.”The unification vote in Essex, Essex Junction, and Westford provides an example of how communities are using the law to realize efficiencies, cost savings, and expanded opportunities.The newly formed unified district combing the three towns will have one school board that will oversee policy and direction for roughly 4,000 students. An initial analysis concluded that over a 5-year period, more than $1 million in savings could be realized, mostly by consolidating central office administrations. Through additional analysis by the business managers from the respective districts, opportunities for additional cost savings and efficiencies are expected.Technology is one example where costs savings will be realized as a result of the merger. Within a unified union there will be one technology system to update and maintain across the system (e.g., payroll and accounting, human resources, student information and performance data). This will result in fewer vendors and increased buying power for internet service, software applications, and technology hardware. With fewer systems to purchase and manage, resources could be redirected to provide greater access to customized and personalized learning opportunities for students, for example, through personal devices. A single structure will also allow for systemic personalized learning plan (PLP) planning and increased personalized learning opportunities. It will increase the ability to sustain specialty offerings such as Advanced Placement classes, Internships, Science Technology Engineering Math (STEM) Academy, and the Academy of Visual and Performing Arts (AVPA). There will be greater opportunities to share Special Education programs so the needs of children with special needs can be met within the public school setting. And with English Language Learner enrollment in the region continuing to rise, a single district provides an opportunity to share teachers for specialized instruction to meet the needs of this expanding population.A unified district will also enable every student greater access to a vast array of extracurricular choices (i.e. athletics, clubs, string orchestra, band, choral groups etc.) and other choices that may not currently exist in their schools.Finally, by unifying the three districts, the professional learning community (PLC) of school leaders, teachers and support staff will become more diverse, allowing for a greater, richer exchange and sharing of resources, ideas and successes.
Vermont Business Magazine Secretary of State of State Jim Condos today applauds the House Government Operations committee for its strong and unanimous bi-partisan vote to pass out H.458 – Automatic Voter Registration introduced by Representative Chris Pearson. “AVR saves time and money by making voter registration easy for eligible voters. It will increase the accuracy of our statewide voter checklist and curb the potential for fraud, protecting the integrity of our elections,” says Secretary Condos. This proposal is poised to streamline the federally mandated voter registration at the DMV with a new process in which the state identifies and automatically provides the data for eligible Vermonters to be added to the voter checklist electronically with confirmation from the local town clerk.This will add more eligible voters to the Vermont rolls, cementing Vermont’s ranking as a state with one of the highest registration rates in the country.“Democracy works best when more people participate, so I once again applaud the House Government Operations Committee for their hard work and support of this important initiative,” said Secretary of State Jim Condos.Source: Secretary of State 2.24.2016
Vermont Business Magazine The following are Public Alerts submitted by Wastewater Treatment Facilities for prompt public awareness of untreated discharges and their locations. A new public alert has been reported by Rutland Wastewater Treatment Facility in Rutland. These alerts have been directly reported by Wastewater Treatment Facilities and may have not yet been reviewed by the State. Wastewater Treatment facilities are required to submit a public alert as soon as possible, but no longer than one hour from discovery of an untreated discharge from the wastewater treatment facility. This time requirement is extended to no longer than four hours if the operator does not have telephone or internet service at the location or they are working to control or stop the untreated discharge. Additional details regarding sewage overflows and incidents are required to be reported within 12 hours of discovery and available below. NEWLY REPORTED OVERFLOWS. These overflows are pending review from DEC Wastewater staffSource: Vermont Watershed Management in DEC at ANR 11.3.2016 https://anrweb.vt.gov/DEC/WWInventory/SewageOverflows.aspx(link is external)NEWLY REPORTED OVERFLOWS. These overflows are pending review from DEC Wastewater staffWET WEATHER COMBINED SEWER OVERFLOWS Reviewed by DEC Wastewater staff
Vermont Business Magazine Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont (BCBSVT) and Terry Bicycles (Terry) are back with the fourth running of Wellness Revolution, a program designed to promote healthier lifestyles for Vermont women through cycling. Registration for the eight-week program begins on March 20 and ends on April 7. The program mission is to improve the lives of Vermont women by providing access to health and wellness resources and to support positive lifestyle changes.Megan Peek, community relations and health education manager at BCBSVT said, “We encourage women of all cycling levels to join us! This eight-week program not only advances our participants’ cycling abilities but also provides them an opportunity to connect with other women in a fun, supportive environment.”Peek adds, “BCBSVT and Terry also urge area businesses to let their employees know about this program. We’re also happy to talk with businesses on how to integrate this into a company wellness program.”“Women love this program because we help them overcome obstacles and teach them to be comfortable and confident on a bike,” relates Terry CEO, Liz Robert. “By taking a holistic approach to cycling with our sincerely committed health services partner, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont, and adding fun prizes and incentives along the way, our participants stick with it. In fact, many participants keep on cycling long after the program is over, which is the real win for everyone.”“The Wellness Revolution came into my life at just the right time,” says a Wellness Revolution alumnus, Erin Creley. “I am so grateful for the wonderful and welcoming group of leaders and participants in the program for not only reassuring me that I’m not alone in my trepidation after an accident but that I am also more than capable of reclaiming my love of cycling.”The program kicks off on April 18 with an informational and goal-setting session. All weekday sessions are from 5:30 to 7 p.m. This year, there will be two groups of 30 women that will meet separately on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The program will culminate on June 3 with a team ride including both groups as well as program alumni.Additional highlights of this free program include sessions on bike maintenance, mindfulness, urban riding techniques, cross training and more. Incentives include free helmets, cycling accessories, a $75 Terry gift card and the chance to win a Terry bike! Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont, a nonprofit organization, is the state’s oldest and largest health insurer, providing coverage for about 250,000 Vermonters. It employs about 400 Vermonters at its headquarters in Berlin and its Information and Wellness Center in South Burlington’s Blue Mall, and offers group and individual health plans. More information about Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont is available at www.bcbsvt.com(link is external). Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont is an independent corporation operating under a license with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, an association of independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans.Source: BCBSVT. 3.20.2017. For more information and to register, visit www.bcbsvt.com/wellnessrev(link is external).
Vermont Business Magazine American Resort Management, LLC of Erie, PA today announced that the new Hampton by Hilton located in the heart of downtown St Albans will open with a ribbon-cutting at 3pm on Friday, June 2. Members of the community along with City dignitaries are expected to attend. The hotel was developed by PeakCM and will be professionally managed by American Resort Management, LLC of Erie, PA.The Hampton by Hilton St Albans will include 84 spacious guest rooms, and will feature Hampton Inn’s signature free hot breakfast, a 24-hour business center, an indoor swimming pool, a fitness center, and meeting space ideal for small business meetings, events, or social gatherings. The convenient location in the heart of downtown St Albans affords close proximity to large regional companies as well as state and federal government offices, and is perfect for hub and spoke leisure tourism to a myriad of area attractions and a variety of outdoor activities in Northwest Vermont“Today’s guests are more demanding than ever. It is no longer just about providing excellent service, but rather in today’s age it is critical to provide a POSITIVE GUEST EXPERIENCE,” according to Richard Coleman, Senior Vice President, of Development & Operations with American Resort Management. “We believe the Hampton by Hilton guest experience will demonstrate perfect fit with this philosophy and the Hampton by Hilton, St Albans will be committed to providing a superior hotel experience to every guest during every visit,” Coleman said.The Hampton Inn in downtown St Albans under construction last summer. VBM photo.St Albans City Manager, Dominic Cloud states, “The City worked hard with PeakCM and American Resort Management to launch a hotel with a brand as strong as the Hampton brand. This is a proud time for our community.”ABOUT AMERICAN RESORT MANAGEMENT American Resort Management, LLC is a rapidly growing full service hospitality management and hotel development company with several new hotels under development. American Resort Management, LLC’s concentration is on the development and the long-term management of select and full-service hotels, indoor water park resorts, outdoor water parks, family entertainment centers and franchised and independent restaurant concepts. American Resort Management, LLC is an approved operator of facilities featuring brands from industry leaders such as Hampton Inn, Hyatt Place, Starwood, IHG and various other flags.Source: St Albans, Vermont – May 31, 2017 – American Resort Management, LLC
Vermont Business Magazine Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan joined five other state Attorneys General seeking to intervene in a lawsuit to force federal action on a toxic pesticide, Chlorpyrifos. Chlorpyrifos, a widely-used pesticide on food crops – including those consumed by infants, young children and pregnant women – has been shown to negatively impact proper development and functioning of the central nervous system and the brain.The Attorneys General are seeking to join a case, which is before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, to compel the EPA to take final action on a petition submitted by a coalition of environmental, human health and farmworker non-governmental organizations (NGOs), to revoke all chlorpyrifos “tolerances” – or permitted residues – on food.“Vermont deserves safe food. Our children deserve safe food,” said Attorney General Donovan. “Vermonters’ health is at risk by continued exposure to this pesticide on food.”The public health dangers of chlorpyrifos are well-documented. EPA scientists have been unable to identify a safe level for the pesticide on food. In 2015, the EPA issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to revoke all tolerances for the pesticide on food because the Agency was unable to identify a safe level of chlorpyrifos on food. In a 2016 notice related to the proposed rulemaking, EPA reiterated that it was unable to make the safety finding required to allow the tolerances to remain in place. But in March 2017, in a sudden reversal of course, the EPA issued an administrative order denying the NGOs petition and failed to allow the proposed revocation of food tolerances to take effect. The order puts off until October 2022, if not longer, any decision on whether to revoke or modify current residues or tolerances for the pesticide.This filing marks the second recent action by Attorney General Donovan opposing the EPA’s position on chlorpyrifos. Last month Attorney General Donovan joined six other state Attorneys General to file comments in opposition to the EPA’s March order.Along with Vermont, the motion to intervene includes the Attorneys General of Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Washington, and the District of Columbia.Source: Attorney General 7.7.2017