Readsboro talks!

Many thanks for the enthusiastic conversation and questions on phones and internet, Act 46, Irene recovery (still!), telemarketers and carbon.

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Public Forums on a Cost and Benefit Analysis of Policies to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions in #Vermont.

PRESS RELEASE: Public Forums on a Cost and Benefit Analysis of Policies to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Vermont.

The Joint Fiscal Office (JFO) has finalized a contract for independent professional assistance to complete a study of policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Vermont, per Act 11 of 2018.

That contract is with Resources for the Future (RFF), an independent, nonprofit research institution whose mission is to improve environmental, energy, and natural resource decision making through impartial economic research and policy engagement. RFF has decades of experience delivering solutions to cost-effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions and advance a reliable and clean energy system.

Two public forums are scheduled to gain an understanding of Vermonters’ interests and concerns regarding policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Vermont. RFF will use the information from these public forums to help inform their study. The general public is invited to participate in these two public forums. The Forums are scheduled from 5:00 to 6:30 p.m. and details are as follows:

Wednesday September 26, Room 11,Vermont State House, 115 State Street, Montpelier, VT.

Thursday, September 27, Theater room, Billings Farm, 69 Old River Road, Woodstock, VT.

Please RSVP here https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/XF98YTJ

RFF will examine 4 decarbonization policy approaches and will provide qualitative analysis for other options to reduce carbon.  Currently, the plan is to investigate the following policy scenarios:

1   Carbon fee-and-rebate, as in H.791 or S.284 (2018) – The ESSEX Plan;

2   Expanding cap-and-trade if Vermont joined the Western Climate Initiative (WCI);

3   Expanding cap-and-trade if the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) covered transportation fuels as considered in the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI); and

4   A carbon pricing policy based on further research and input from stakeholders.

People attending the forum are asked to address the following questions:

A What do you think are two or three things that a study of policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Vermont ought to take into consideration, in order to be helpful in answering your questions and in advancing the climate and energy policy dialogue in Vermont?

B  Starting by considering the policy approaches listed above, which approaches do you think RFF ought to focus on?

RFF will be represented by Marc Hafstead and Wesley Look. They will attend both public forums and will be available to answer questions about the study, as appropriate, during the times outlined above.

For those unable to attend, please feel free to email comments by September 28, 2018 to CarbonComments@leg.state.vt.us.

Opportunity: #Vermont Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) program

Announcement on the launch of Vermont’s new Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) program.

In total $2.4 in funding will be available over multiple years to support the installation of Level 2 and DC fast charge stations at qualified locations in Vermont.  The grant proceeds result from settlements to partially resolve Volkswagen’s violations of the Clean Air Act.  This program is a partnership between Department of Environmental Conservation, Department of Housing and Community Development, Agency of Transportation, Department of Health and Public Service Department.

The program prioritizes funding in state designated areas (downtowns, village centers, new town centers, growth centers and neighborhood planning areas), highway corridors, public transit hubs, major tourist destinations, colleges/universities, hospitals, public park and rides, workplaces and multi-unit housing.  Eligible applicants include Governments (Federal, State, municipal, public education institutions, public utilities, and other public institutions), businesses, non-profits, homeowner associations, electric utilities, and EVSE equipment providers.

There will be a total of $400,000 in funding available in the first grant round.  Grant applications are due November 30th, 2018.  Program description and application are available on our website http://accd.vermont.gov/community-development/funding-incentives/electric-vehicle-supply-equipment-evse-grant-program.  The application has several resources available to help guide applicants through the process of applying.

Technical assistance on EV charging equipment, installation and siting is also available through Drive Electric Vermont.  They are available to help answer questions, provide guidance, and discuss EV market conditions in Vermont.

Municipalities and Schools needing technical assistance can contact Dan Edson from Building and General Services (BGS) at Daniel.Edson@vermont.gov.  BGS is contracting with EV equipment providers to offer customized support with siting, equipment selection, installation and application submission.

Gary Holloway from the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development will be offering a webinar on October 9th from Noon-12:30pm for those interested in learning more about the EVSE program.  No need to pre-register, just log on day of event using the instructions below.

————————–

Knowledge Bites Webinar Series Presents:

What: “Knowledge Bites” webinar session on the Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) Grant Program 

Who:   Gary Holloway,  Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development

How to Log On: www.freeconferencecall.com > Menu > Join Meeting > Online Meeting ID: svep > Name and Email

For more information on how to connect (visit www.brattleborodevelopment.com/knowledge-bites/ or e-mail Sarah Lang – Sarah Lang slang@brattleborodevelopment.com)

When: Tuesday,  October 9th, 12p-1230p

Why: To learn more about the newly announced EVSE grant program

BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE BRATTLEBORO DEVELOPMENT CREDIT CORPORATION’S SOUTHERN VERMONT ECONOMY PROJECT

and

Gary Holloway / Downtown Program Coordinator
Community Planning and Revitalization
Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development
1 National Life Drive, Davis Building, 6th Floor
802-828-3220
accd.vermont.gov

More on rural phone service and Readsboro telephone meeting

Many thanks to the Town Clerk’s Office, Selectboard, Schoolboard, Codogni Plumbing and Readsboro Broadband Committee member Omar Smith for making themselves available in the middle of the day to talk with the Secretary of Digital Services John Quinn and the Commissioner of Public Services June Tierney.  The pair were in Bennington County for Governor Scott’s Cabinet for a Day program and asked to come meet and listen to what has been going on with phone service in one of our isolated towns.

VTDigger posted a story on rural communications issues last week which you can find here. I’m relieved to find no one willing to defend 10 day repair times for folks who only have a land line phone, but that doesn’t actually solve the problem many have been facing.  Please make sure to report outages or poor quality connections to your telephone company right away and stay in touch if you experiencing troubles getting a timely repair. In the short term an investigation and possibly work to change rules which impact repair times in rural areas may provide some immediate relief – but the big picture long term is going to require us to consider Vermont’s entire telecommunications system and providers to ensure reliability for all.

      

Time to eliminate the Venn of Doom

“By the 1930s nearly 90% of U.S. urban dwellers had electricity, but 90% of rural homes were without power. Investor-owned utilities often denied service to rural areas, citing high development costs and low profit margins. Consequently, even when they could purchase electricity, rural consumers paid far higher prices than urban consumers.” – from the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives  Research on the Economic Impact of Cooperatives

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Vermont has state-of-the-art communication technologies. We have cell service throughout much of our state and wireless internet solutions in areas where the topography works. We have middle mile fiber, cable and dsl that connects residents and businesses to the global economy, their doctors and public safety and even provides phone service through VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocols).  Modern life is possible in much of Vermont. Still it’s no secret that access to wired and wireless phone and internet is unevenly available in the Green Mountain state. What may not be as widely known is that in some of the most rural parts of Vermont this situation is not static, it’s deteriorating. We have a negative relationship of conditions which has developed; a Venn diagram of doom if you will.

An early morning call from one of my constituents this summer drove this point home. She lives in a community which is almost exclusively limited to dial up or satellite for internet, sadly VTel’s federally taxpayer funded wireless network is still not available in her town. The only cell service in her town, CoverageCo limited 2G, is non operational and has been for some time.  She recently had serious surgery and is also handicapped. It takes over 30 minutes to get the State Police to her town, at least 30 minutes for an ambulance assuming a volunteer and driver are able to respond immediately and the hospitals are 30 minutes away (when the roads are open and not closed with snow accidents or washed out roads). She called because her landline phone line was not working and the repair date she was given – more than a week – had her worried for her safety.

This summer I received an unusually high number of complaints about phone service repairs and installations. There has been a corresponding increase in complaints about repair times to the Public Utility Commission which regulates landline telephone service and other public utilities like electricity.  Because of this, it would not surprise me to see an investigation opened up and action taken against the rural landline telephone provider. The irony here is the regulated landline telephone provider is the ONLY provider required to supply service to those Vermonters who reside at the intersection of the “Venn of Doom” – the place where no cell service, no internet service, and long distances from emergency response and emergency healthcare meet.

Vermont – and all other state’s – have limited ability to regulate the build out of wireless (cell service) and wired internet (cable) due to federal preemption. These for profit providers compete in an extremely dynamic marketplace, with rapidly innovating technologies, in Vermont’s densely populated areas. They compete with each other and they also compete with the regulated telephone providers who must provide service and repairs of critical infrastructure to all Vermonters, not just those they can make a profit selling a high end product to. Guess which type of provider is losing landline customers in the easy – and cost effective to provide service to – densely populated service areas? Guess who still has to provide essential telephone service even when they lose landline customers? Guess who Vermont can penalize for poor service or lack of coverage?

This declining situation is not acceptable.  My colleagues in the legislature have heard me declare more then once that we aren’t just going to roll up rural Vermont and put it away – real people, families, students and businesses live there. Real businesses and towns are unable to participate in Vermont’s economy and services. We have allowed a situation to develop that is increasing risk and vulnerability in rural Vermont.

The time for patiently waiting for this situation to improve has passed. Concerns about vulnerable rural Vermonters landline access have been communicated to the Public Service Department. An RFP to find a provider to replace the CoverageCo cell service has recently been released – which is important to many towns and schools in our district. These short term actions will help. But going forward we need a shift in how we think about telecommunication access and the market for communication products, who is responsible for ensuring critical infrastructure is accessible everywhere in our state, we are going to need to develop a plan for empowering communities or regions to manage and finance connectivity expansions. In each of the last two bienniums the House has overwhelmingly passed funding measures to address parts of this challenge – we will need our Senate colleagues to join us in this next biennium. In the administration we need the DPS to have more resources and partners trying to solve this public safety, education, healthcare access, economic issue. As a state, and with our private sector providers, Vermont must take a long hard look at the regulatory structures that have produced this outcome and ensure our regulatory environment going forward supports reliable affordable essential communications infrastructure availability for all Vermonters.

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Seven years

Marking the seventh anniversary day of our communities awaking to devastation. Honoring the overwhelming and sustained courage of our people that has rebuilt, repaired and rebirthed what was lost. The years since Irene have seen us gain resilience, camaraderie, character and investment that would not have been possible without such a great test.

‘You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.’ Eleanor Roosevelt

The banks are healing, but the scars the Rock River left are still visible.