Vt. AG: Settlement with 25 companies over drugs

MONTPELIER (AP) -- The Vermont attorney general's office says 25 manufacturers of drugs and medical devices have agreed to comply with a state law that bans most gifts such as meals to health care providers.

The office said the companies self-reported violations. The law requires manufacturers of prescribed products, including pharmaceuticals and medical devices to disclose expenditures deemed appropriate by the Legislature.

Twenty-four of the manufacturers, having failed to file disclosures entirely, paid a total of over $25,000 to the state in fees.

One manufacturer paid $36,000 in civil penalties to settle a total of six gift-ban violations; each one consisted of providing a meal to a health care provider.

6 Vermont homes evacuated after banned pesticide used

RUTLAND (AP) -- State officials hope that Rutland County residents forced from their homes after it was discovered a banned pesticide had been used to kill bedbugs will be able to return to their home after they are cleaned.

The affected families hired a local pest control company to get rid of the bed bugs. One of the pesticides used was chlorpyrifos, which can cause nervous system and developmental disorders. It has been banned since 2001.

Cary Giguere, a chemical expert with the Agriculture Agency, said the chemical would kill bed bugs.

"There were human health concerns and that pesticide is what we were finding on our swab samples at very, very high levels," he told Vermont Public Radio.

The state has identified 262 potential homes and apartments that need to be tested for the chemical, all in Rutland County. So far, 92 samples have been sent to the state's lab. Officials think the most serious contamination has already been found.

Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Harry Chen said his department just released cleanup guidelines.

"We actually have case managers to work with them to try and answer their questions about what they should do about their belongings and what some of them should do about cleaning up their houses," Chen said.

Vermont. says Maine-Quebec pipeline change needs permit

MONTPELIER (AP) -- If the owner of an oil pipeline that runs between Quebec and Maine wants to move tar sands oil from Montreal to Portland it would need a new state land-use permit, a regional environmental official ruled Monday.

The Portland-Montreal Pipeline Corp. had asked the District 7 environmental coordinator to reconsider a ruling issued earlier this year that an Act 250 land-use permit would be needed in the event the company seeks to reverse the flow of oil in the pipeline, which currently carries oil from Portland to Montreal through northeastern Vermont and northern New Hampshire.

The decision issued Monday reconfirmed the earlier decision, saying that reversing the flow would be a significant change to the existing use of the pipeline that would require extensive modifications.

"The above physical changes are not routine maintenance or repairs. The changes are a series of modifications specific and requisite to a change in the pipeline's use," said the ruling.

Pipeline officials have said they have no plans to reverse the flow, but they have been looking at other business uses for the line.

Some environmentalists worried that moving diluted tar sands oil from Alberta through the line would increase the likelihood of a spill. It would also encourage the use of tar sands oil, which some believe contributes more to global warming than traditional crude oil.

It could take several years for the company to get an Act 250 permit.

Officials with the pipeline company did not immediately return a call Monday seeking comment.

Vermont Republican chairman in critical condition

MONTPELIER (AP) -- The chairman of the Vermont Republican party is gravely ill.

Jack Lindley of Montpelier developed an undisclosed illness on Friday and was taken to the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., where he remained in critical condition on Monday.

Lindley, who is described as being in his late 60s, was elected party chairman in 2012. He had previously served in that post from 1978 to 1981.

He's also served as a Republican national committee member at the party's conventions in 1992 and 1996, and was Vermont chairman of three presidential campaigns: Reagan-Bush in 1980 and Bush-Quayle in 1988 and 1992.

The party said Vice Chairwoman Deborah Bucknam is acting as chair pending Lindley's return.

New Hampshire gets $3 million to review insurance rate hikes

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- New Hampshire is getting a $3 million federal grant to fight unreasonable increases in health insurance rates and to make pricing more transparent.

The grant from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is part of the federal Affordable Care Act. The goal is to support state efforts to review health insurance rate increases, educate consumers and hold insurance companies accountable.

Under the federal health overhaul law, insurance companies are required to submit for review and justify any proposed health insurance premium rate increase of 10 percent or more.

New Hampshire was among 21 states awarded a total of $67.6 million Monday.