New England briefs

Vermont towns seek stronger say on siting renewables

Local officials from communities around Vermont are demanding a greater say in the siting of wind and solar energy projects.

The Vermont League of Cities and Towns on Wednesday brought local officials and activists from around the state to the Statehouse to express their concerns.

Rutland Town Select Board Member Don Cioffi told the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee that his town had become host to a large number of solar power installations, and that he felt it had done its share in the fight against climate change.

Ciioffi complained that current state law puts no effective limit on the number of renewable energy installations that can be built.

Committee Chairman Tony Klein says Vermont is struggling with how to deal with the renewable energy boom.

Slow start to winter worries snowmobile businesses

A slow start to winter has stalled snowmobile season in Vermont, cutting down on out-of-state tourists and worrying area businesses.

Snow coverage throughout the state is hurting and every county in the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers trails system is reporting either little or no coverage. That system includes more than 5,000 miles of riding trails.

Howard Smith of Snowmobile Vermont in Plymouth says it's not just the snowmobile industry that's having a rough season. Smith says everyone from snow plowing businesses to convenience stores are feeling the effects of the slow winter.

Snowmobilers contribute millions of dollars annually to the region, but Smith says it all depends on the weather.

Current path of storm takes it south of northern New England

The nation's capital is bracing for a major snowstorm, but it looks like the storm is going to miss northern New England.

The National Weather Service says the storm is expected to track south of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. If that holds, then southern Maine and New Hampshire could see up to 1 to 2 inches of snow — or perhaps none at all.

It's a different story for the District of Columbia, which could see up to 2 feet of snow.

Heavy snowfall is expected to extend northward to Philadelphia, and to brush southern New England.

Meteorologist Tom Hawley says the track could shift, but right now "all indications are that it will not amount to much" in northern New England.

Rutland County quarry proposes to build on-site solar array

A quarry in Rutland County has proposed the construction of a small solar array that would provide up to 85 percent of the company's electric power.

Troy Chemical submitted a proposal to the Vermont Public Service Board for a 660-panel array that would take up about an acre of space at the South Wallingford Quarry on U.S. Route 7.

Marlene Allen, co-owner of Same Sun of Vermont, says the proposed array would generate more than 237,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a year.

Same Sun is the contractor hired to develop and install Troy Chemical's solar array if the proposal is approved.

Fellow co-owner Phillip Allen says the proposed array is unlike others because it would not generate electricity to be sold "into the grid."

House sends substance abuse bills to governor's desk

Two bills aimed at stemming New Hampshire's substance abuse crisis won passage in the House and are now headed to the governor's desk.

One omnibus bill strengthens the penalties for dealing fentanyl, a drug 40 times more powerful than heroin, standardizes insurance coverage for substance abuse treatment, adds members to the board of medicine and requires prescribers of opioids to check the state's prescription drug monitoring program.

Another creates a committee to study the use of the overdose reversal drug naloxone, more commonly known as Narcan.

A third bill that encourages yearly drug and alcohol education in schools needs final approval from the Senate. As written, the bill would have mandated that schools provide substance abuse education annually, but the House watered down the language to say schools "should" provide the lessons annually.

Several House members said the language change made the bill moot, while those in favor of the looser language said a requirement would be onerous for schools. The Senate will vote on the change Thursday.

The bills are the product of a task force created last fall to address substance abuse. Officials estimate 400 people died from drug overdoses in 2015, and lawmakers from both parties say improving prevention, treatment and recovery services is a top priority.

The substance abuse crisis is likely to play a major role in the Legislature's upcoming debate on reauthorizing Medicaid expansion. Insurance through the program covers substance abuse services.

Official barred from school property after attack comments

A New Hampshire elected official who described at a budget meeting how he would attack students has been barred from school property.

Jorge Mesa-Tejada can access the Hampstead School District's property only with written permission from Timberlane Regional School District Superintendent Earl Metzler.

The order stems from comments made at a Jan. 14 advisory budget committee meeting over concerns a school's classrooms aren't connected to the main building, leaving students vulnerable.

Committee Chairman Mesa-Tejada objected to proposed renovations, saying if he were planning a shooting attack he wouldn't do it while the students were walking to the main building but would wait until recess and "have a field day."

Metzler's office says a no-trespass order is in effect, with the exception of voting rights.

Mesa-Tejada has apologized for the remarks.

State House committee considering 2 pipeline bills

Lawmakers are considering two bills that could affect the development of a proposed natural gas pipeline.

The two bills received hearings before the New Hampshire House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday.

HB 1101 aims to keep the financial burden for the construction of any high-pressure gas pipeline from being placed on state residents. HB 1544 proposes a tax on revenues received under any contract that covers the transmission of natural gas through the state.

Kinder Morgan's pipeline, known as the Northeast Energy Direct project, would cross 70 miles of southern New Hampshire to pipe natural gas from the Gulf of Mexico, Texas and Louisiana to the Northeast.

A company lobbyist argued against the bills, saying the pipeline will decrease energy costs in the state.

– The Associated Press


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