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YCQM - Deb Markowitz, David Mears - April 19, 2012 - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

YCQM - Deb Markowitz, David Mears - April 19, 2012

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

April 19, 2012 -- Vt. Natural Resources Secretary Deb Markowitz and Vt. Environmental Conservation Commissioner David Mears join Kristin Carlson of WCAX and Kathryn Flagg of Seven Days to discuss environmental issues.

TRANSCRIPT:

>> GOOD MORNING. I'M KRISTIN CARLSON. THANKS FOR JOINING US. TODAY THE TOPIC IS ALL ABOUT OUR ENVIRONMENT. MY GUESTS ARE DEB MARKOWITZ AND DAVID MEARS, AND JOINING US IS KATHRYN FLAGG, WHO OFTEN COVERS THE ENVIRONMENT. SECRETARY MARCO WITNESS, I UNDERSTAND THERE WILL BE A NEW REPORT.

>> THAT'S RIGHT. TOMORROW IN HONOR OF EARTH DAY, WHICH IS ACTUALLY TODAY, OR THE DAY THIS IS AIRING, WE ARE GOING TO BE ISSUING A REPORT ON THE HEALTH OF VERMONT'S ENVIRONMENT. AND WE CAN ALL AGREE IT'S BEEN A TOUGH YEAR FOR VERMONT. IT'S BEEN A REALLY TOUGH YEAR FOR THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT, AND WE HAVE SCIENTISTS WHO ARE STUDYING IT. WE PUT TOGETHER A REPORT ON THE HEALTH OF THE ENVIRONMENT. THERE IS A LOT THAT WE LEARNED, AND IT GIVES US A GOOD ROAD MAP FOR WHERE WE NEED TO GO NEXT.

>> I UNDERSTAND IT'S BEEN A COUPLE OF YEARS SINCE THE AGENCY HAS PUT OUT A REPORT LIKE THIS?

>> WELL, WE'RE A NEWSTRATION, AND I THINK IT'S A PRIORITY TO GET OUT GOOD SCIENTIFIC INFORMATION. YOU KNOW, THE AGENCY OF NATURAL RESOURCES ARE COLLECTING INFORMATION. WE'RE FULL OF EXPERTS. BUT DAVID AND I, WE TALK A LOT ABOUT THE MISSION OF OUR AGENCY, AND THAT'S TO PROTECT, ENHANCE, PRESERVE VERMONT'S ENVIRONMENT FOR THIS AND FUTURE GENERATIONS, BUT WE KNOW WE'RE NOT GOING TO ACCOMPLISH THAT IN GOVERNMENT ALONE. WE WILL ONLY ACCOMPLISH THAT IF WE ENGAGE VERMONTERS, BUSINESSES, COMMUNITIES, HOMEOWNERS. THE BEST WAY TO DO THAT IS TO PUT OUT GOOD INFORMATION. THAT'S WHY THIS REPORT WAS A PRIORITY.

>> DO YOU THINK VERMONTERS ARE ENGAGED? OR DO THEY THINK OF THE AGENCY AS A PLACE TO GET A ARE PERMIT?

>> THERE IS SUCH A LARGE COMMUNITY OF PEOPLE WHO CARE ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT, AND PEOPLE APPROACH IT FROM DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES. SOME PEOPLE LOVE TO CANOE AND KAYAK, SOME ARE ANGLERS OR HUNTERS, OTHERS JUST ENJOY THE AESTHETIC BEAUTY OF THE MOUNTAINS, BUT IT'S A JOY TO TALK ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT, BECAUSE EVERYBODY GETS IT AND CARES ABOUT IT. WE HAVE NO ARGUMENTS ABOUT PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT, ONLY ABOUT HOW.

>> THERE IS A BIG PHOSPHORUS POLLUTION PROBLEM IN LAKE CHAMPLAIN, AND TENS OF MILLION DOLLARS HAVE BEEN THROWN AT THE PROBLEM. WHY CAN'T WE GET OUR HANDS AROUND THE PROBLEM?

>> FIRST WE HAVE TO REMEMBER THAT IT TOOK GENERATIONS FOR THIS PROBLEM TO HAVE BEEN CREATED. THE POLLUTION IS GENERATION OF POLLUTION, IT'S FROM FARM PRACTICES FOR MANY YEARS, PHOSPHORUS IN THE SOIL ENDS UP IN THE LAKE, AND IT WON'T BE OVERNIGHT THAT WE'LL FIX IT. WE'RE ON THE RIGHT TRAJECTORY. AN INTERESTING FINDING FROM THIS REPORT THAT PEOPLE WILL BE ABLE TO SEE ON OUR WEBSITE TOMORROW, IS THAT IT'S NOT JUST PHOSPHORUS COMING FROM FARMS BUT HOW WE MANAGE OR STREAMS THAT MAKES A DIFFERENCE. POST IRENE, WE SAW A TREMENDOUS SPIKE IN FROS FRUS AND BLUE -- PHOSPHORUS AND BLUE GREEN ALGAE. WE FOUND THAT WAS COMING FROM STREAM BANK EROSION. AS THE WATER WAS RUSHING THROUGH, YOU KNOW, THE FLOODWATERS WERE COMING THROUGH, RUSHING, IT BROUGHT NUTRIENTS INTO THE LAKE. GOING FORWARD, WE'VE GOT TO TAKE A LOOK AT AGRICULTURE, WE'VE GOT TO LOOK AT STORM WATER IN OUR URBAN AND SUBURBAN AREAS, AND ALSO HOW WE'RE MANAGING OR STREAMS, RIVERS, AND THE LAKESHORE.

>> I WANT TO COME BACK TO THE TOPIC OF STREAM AND RIVER MANAGEMENT, A HOT TOPIC AFTER IRENE, BUT I WANT TO TOUCH ON AGRICULTURE. IT'S ANOTHER TOUGH YEAR FOR DAIRY FARMERS. I'M WONDERING HOW AS A STATE WE CAN BE SENSITIVE TO THE FACT THAT FARMERS ARE STRUGGLING, THEY'RE AN IMPORTANT AND TRADITIONAL PART OF THE ECONOMY HERE, YET THERE IS CONCERN ABOUT THE IMPACT ON THE LAKE. HOW DO WE DEAL WITH THAT?

>> IT'S SOMETHING THAT SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE ROSS AND I TALK ABOUT FREQUENTLY, AND THERE IS THIS REALLY IMPORTANT INTERSECTION BETWEEN THE WAY WE WORK, IN TERMS OF OUR FARMS, HOW THEY'RE MANAGED. THE INTERESTS OF FARMS AND PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT, PROTECTING LAKE CHAM BLAIN, ARE -- CHAMPLAIN, REALLY ARE OVERLAPPING. FARMERS WANT TO KEEP THE NEWT REENS IN THEIR SOILS, THEY DON'T -- NUTRIENTS IN THEIR SOILS, THEY DON'T WANT THEM RUNNING INTO THE WATERWAYS. SO WHAT ARE THE BEST METHODS TO DO THAT? OUR ROLE IN GOVERNMENT IS TO CREATE THE RIGHT INFORMATION, THE RIGHT TRAINING, AND THE RIGHT ACCOUNTABILITY. AND IN VERMONT, MOST OF THE FARMING COMMUNITY IS LIVING UP TO THAT OBLIGATION. THEY'RE WORKING COLLABORATIVELY WITH US TO FIND OUT THE BEST METHODS TO PREVENT THIS PROBLEM. AND THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT PROVIDES SIGNIFICANT FUNDING FOR FARMERS TO DO THE KINDS OF PRACTICES THAT PROTECT WATER QUALITY, AND WE'RE HAVING AN UNPRECEDENTED LEVEL OF COLLABORATION BETWEEN THE INVOLVED FEDERAL AND STATE AGENCIES TO TRY TO COME UP WITH THE RIGHT MIX OF POLICY TOOLS, INCENTIVES, AND SO FORTH, THAT WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE. THERE ARE LOTS OF BIG, UNANSWERED QUESTIONS, BUT I FEEL ABOUT GOOD ABOUT THE PROGRESS THAT WE'RE MAKING.

>> DO YOU THINK FARMERS ARE BLAMED FOR MORE THAN THEIR SHARE?

>> I ACTUALLY THINK THERE IS BLAME TO GO AROUND WITH ALL OF US. WHEN YOU BUILD AN URBAN OR SUBURBAN COMMUNITY, WHEN YOU MANAGE YOUR LOCAL ROADS, THERE'S RUNOFF, AND THERE'S WAYS TO DO IT TO PROTECT OUR WATER QUALITY, AND WE COULD BE DOING BETTER ACROSS THE BOARD. AN INTERESTING FINDING IN THIS REPORT IS A STUDY THAT WAS RECENTLY CONDUCTED THAT HELPED IDENTIFY THE REAL HOT SPOTS, THE AREAS WHERE IF HE IF WE WERE ABLE TO FIX THE PROBLEM, IT WOULD GET US PRETTY FAR DOWN THE ROAD. BEFORE THIS STUDY, WE WOULD SORT OF HAVE A BROAD-BRUSH APPROACH. WE WOULD TALK TO FARMERS, WE WOULD TALK TO THE FOLKS WHO MANAGE THE ROADS, THE AGENCY OF TRANSPORTATION, OUR COMMUNITIES TO TRY TO GET THEM TO CHANGE THEIR PRACTICES, BUT THIS REPORT FOCUSES ON THOSE AREAS THAT ARE REALLY CONTRIBUTING SO THAT, AS WE HAVE RESOURCES, WE KNOW WHERE TO PUT THOSE RESOURCES WHERE WE'LL LIKELY HAVE THE MOST IMPACT. AND THAT'S VERY HOPEFUL TO ME, BECAUSE THERE'S -- IT'S AN EXPENSIVE PROBLEM TO FIX. WE HAVE TO MAKE SURE WE ARE USING OUR DOLLARS AS BEST WE CAN.

>> LET'S TALK ABOUT IRENE. PEOPLE COULD SEE THAT ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE, AND ON HOUSES AND COMMUNITIES AND ROADS ACROSS THE STATE. DURING THAT TIME, RULES CHANGED, AND THERE WAS ABLE TO GET APPROVAL OVER THE PHONE. NOW YOU'RE GOING BACK TO THE OLD SYSTEM OF PERMITTING. SOME BUSINESSES AND TOWNS ARE SAYING -- I THINK THERE WAS SOMETHING TO BE LEARNED DURING THAT PERIOD OF EXPEDITEED PERMITTING. DO YOU THINK THE PROCESS IS TOO ONEROUS?

>> I ACTUALLY DON'T. WE'VE MADE SURE WE'RE STREAMLINING THE PROCESS, BUT AN IMPORTANT AND NECESSARY PART OF THE PERMITTING PROCESS -- AND REMEMBER, THESE ARE PERMITS THAT RELATE TO FEDERAL RULES, SO WE'VE GOT TO FOLLOW THE FEDERAL RULES, AND THAT REQUIRES A PUBLIC PROCESS. DURING THE EMERGENCY THERE ISN'T TIME FOR A 10- OR 30-DAY PUBLIC-NOTICE PROCESS. WE JUST PUT IN PLACE AN EMERGENCY PROCESS SO WE COULD GET THINGS DONE. WITHOUT THE 10 OR 30 DAYS PROCESS. NOW, PEOPLE IN COMMUNITIES WANT TO HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY ABOUT ANY MAJOR WORK THAT IS AFFECTING THEIR COMMUNITIES AND RIVERS, AND IT'S REQUIRED BY THE FEDERAL RULES. WE HAVE LEARNED A LOT, THOUGH. WE'VE LEARNED THAT WORKING TOGETHER HAND IN HAND, WE CAN GET THINGS DONE MUCH MORE EFFECTIVELY, AND, IN FACT, WE'VE GOT A GOOD THING GOING RIGHT NOW WITH THE AGENCY OF TRANSPORTATION AND THEIR ENGINEERS, WE'VE GOT A GOOD THING GOING WITH MANY OF OUR MUNICIPALITIES WHO MAKE SURE THE ENGINEERS ARE DOING IT RIGHT. AND LET ME JUST SAY THAT IT'S IMPORTANT TO DO IT RIGHT, BECAUSE IF YOU DON'T, YOU'RE JUST GOING TO BE PAYING THAT MONEY OVER AND OVER AGAIN, BECAUSE IF, YOU FOR EXAMPLE, DREDGE AN AREA THAT REALLY NEEDED TO NOT BE TOUCHED, IT'S GOING TO CAUSE EROSION AND DAMAGE UPSTREAM AND DOWNSTREAM, AFFECTING INFRASTRUCTURE AND FARM FIELDS. IT'S IMPORTANT TO HAVE THE EXPERTISE WE CAN BRING WITH THE SITUATION. UNDERSTANDING HOW THE STREAM DYNAMIC WORKS AND HOW IT WILL BE AFFECTED.

>> WERE THERE CASES WHERE SOME OF THESE PROJECTS WERE EXPEDITEED AFTER THE STORM, WERE THERE CASES OF TRADE-OFFS, OF MOVING TOO QUICKLY?

>> CLS WAS AN ENVIRONMENTAL GROUP THAT RAISED CONCERNS POST-IRENE.

>> OF COURSE BECAUSE COMMUNICATIONS WERE VERBAL RATHER THAN IN WRITING, THERE WERE MISCOMMUNICATIONS AND PEOPLE WENT TOO FAR, THERE WERE CASES WHERE TOWNS HAD TO REDO THE WORK AND FIX SOMETHING THAT WAS OVERREACHING OR NOT QUITE RIGHT. BUT THE MAJORITY -- THINK ABOUT THIS: THIS WAS 80 MILES OF RIVER AND STREAM THAT WE HAD THOSE MACHINES IN, YOU KNOW, TRYING TO REPAIR INFRASTRUCTURE, PROTECT PEOPLE'S HOMES AND ASEDZ, AND GIVEN THE MAGNITUDE OF THE PROBLEM, THE LIMITED SITUATIONS WHERE THERE WAS OVERREACHING REALLY, YOU KNOW -- IT WAS NOT SO WORRISOME AT THE END OF THE DAY. NOW, IT WAS GREAT TO HAVE ORGANIZATIONS LIKE CLS AND THE CONNECTICUT RIVER ALLIANCE, COMING OUT THERE SAYING HEY, THERE IS SOMETHING GOING ON HERE THAT SHOULDN'T BE GOING ON, AND IT GOT THE ATTENTION OF OUR ENFORCEMENT FOLKS SO WE COULD SAY PULL BACK YOU'RE NOT DOING IT RIGHT. AND THE OTHER PIECE THAT'S INTERESTING, VERMONTERS ARE ARE SELF-RELIANT, WE DON'T WAIT FOR SOMEBODY TO ASK US. A LOT OF PEOPLE HAVE BACKHOES FLIGHT THEIR BARN. RIGHT AFTER IRENE, PEOPLE PITCHED IN WITHOUT EVEN KNOWING WHAT THEY WERE DOING, AND DOING DAMAGE. IT TOOK US A FEW DAYS TO FIND SOME OF THAT AND STOP IT. THERE ARE DEFINITELY PLACES THAT WERE DAMAGED BY WORK THAT WAS DONE AFTER THE FACT, BUT IN THE GRAND SCHEME OF THINGS, IT WAS PRETTY MINOR.

>> I WOULD OFFER ONE ADENNEDDUM TO THAT: THERE WERE SOME LESSONS LEARNED. SMALL THINGS, LIKE GIVEN MODERN TECHNOLOGY, WE CAN OUTFIT SOME OF OUR FIELD STAFF WITH MODERN CELL PHONE TECHNOLOGY THAT CAN ALLOW THEM TO DO PERMITTING FROM THE FIELD. AND WITH THE VERMONT AGENCY OF TRANSPORTATION, THERE ARE REMARKABLE AND IMPORTANT RELATIONSHIPS THAT ARE ONGOING. WE'RE LOOKING FOR WAYS TO EXPEDITE APPROVALS, CHANGE THE PROCESS, FIX THINGS SO THEY'RE MORE UNDERSTANDABLE, CREATE BETTER GUIDANCE DOCUMENTS. THERE ARE A LOT OF LESSONS THAT I THINK WILL BENEFIT US IN THE FUTURE.

>> WILL WE SEE PERMITTING IN THE FIELD?

>> THERE IS NO QUESTION THAT THERE WILL BE. WE'LL HAVE A SYSTEM WHERE SOMEONE CAN BE OUT IN THE FIELD IN AN EMERGENCY, AND THEY'LL BE ABLE TO TAKE A PICTURE OF THE SITE, THEY'LL BE ABLE TO SKETCH A DIAGRAM ON THEIR SMART PAD OR WHAT WITH HAVE YOU AND BE ABLE TO SHARE THAT DOCUMENT WITH THE PERSON ON SITE, AND IT WILL BE AVAILABLE FOR PUBLIC REVIEW, WHICH IS ONE OF THE BIG AND LEGITIMATE CONCERNS, IS THAT THE PUBLIC DIDN'T HAVE MUCH TO SAY ABOUT MANY OF THE APPROVALS. WE'LL BE ABLE TO MAKE SIGNIFICANT ADVANCES IN RESPONSE TO THE

>> WELCOME BACK, WE ARE TALKING ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT WITH THE SECRETARY OF NATURAL RESOURCES, DEB MARKOWITZ, DAVID MEARS FROM THE ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION GROUP, AND KATHERINE FLAG OF SEVEN DAYS IS HERE. BECAUSE OF SOME SENATE BACKLOG, BUT YOU'VE BEEN TESTIFYING, INFORMING LAWMAKERS. SENATOR MARKOWITZ, DO YOU SUPPORT THE IDEA ABOUT PLASTIC BAGS?

>> I REALLY SUPPORT THE MANDATORY RECYCLING BILL. IT'S INTERESTING THAT THAT WAS A BIPARTISAN BILL. THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY SUPPORTS IT, THE ENVIRONMENTALISTS SUPPORT IT, AND IT WILL MAKE A HUGE DIFFERENCE. WE'LL ADDRESS, YOU KNOW, THE SERIOUS CHALL DMJ WE HAVE WITH -- CHALLENGE WE HAVE WITH OUR LANDFILLS. HAVING A ENVIRONMENT OR BAN OR PLASTIC BAGS -- I HAVEN'T LOOKED INTO IT ENOUGH, BUT I TEND TO THINK WE COULD ADDRESS THAT PROBLEM IN A DIFFERENT WAY. I KNOW A LOT OF PEOPLE LIKE TO USE THOSE PLASTIC GROCERY BAGS, THE STORES LIKE THEM, I GENERALLY USE CLOTH OR PAPER, BUT I DON'T THINK THAT'S A HOT TOPIC. I THINK THE INTERESTING STORY HAS MORE TO DO WITH THE FACT THAT WE HAVE A CONSENSUS IN VERMONT IN TERMS OF PUTTING IN PLACE MANDATORY RECYCLING, WHICH NOT ONLY DEALS WITH PAPER, PLASTIC, METALS BUT IT ALSO ULTIMATELY WILL REQUIRE US TO MANAGE ORGANIC MATERIALS IN COMPOST.

>> SO SO SOMEONE AT HOME IS SAYING I ALREADY RECYCLE, MAYBE SOME FOLKS CHOOSE NOT TO. WILL THIS LAW HAVE ANY TEETH TO IT?

>> WELL, IT'S ABOUT OPPORTUNITY. THERE ARE MANY PLACES WHERE YOU CAN TAKE YOUR BAG OF TRASH, AND THERE IS NOWHERE TO TAKE YOUR RECYCLABLES. THAT MAKES IT VERY DIFFICULT TO GET THEM SOMEWHERE. THIS BILL MAKES IT CONVENIENT. IF SOMEBODY IS COLLECTING TRASH, THEY'VE GOT TO COLLECT THE RECYCLABLES FOR FREE, AND OF COURSE THAT CREATES AN INCENTIVE, BECAUSE IF YOU REDUCE WHAT'S IN YOUR TRASH BY TAKING THE REPSYCHABLE -- THE RECYCLABLES, YOU'LL HAVE LESS TRASH, AND THAT WILL COST LESS.

>> THE STATE OF THE ENVIRONMENT REPORT -- IN HERE IS SOME DISCUSSION OF THE ELECTRONIC WASTE RECYCLING REQUIREMENT, AND THERE -- IN THE LAST YEAR, WE HAD A TREMENDOUS UPTICK IN THE AMOUNT OF ELECTRONIC WASTE THAT CONSUMERS HAVE RETURNED, AND THAT'S A MAJOR AMOUNT OF WASTE AND DANGEROUS METALS AND SO FORTH THAT ARE NOT GOING TO BE GOING INTO A LANDFILLS AS A RESULT OF THIS PROGRAM THAT REALLY DEPENDS ON THE SAME PRINCIPLES THAT ARE IN THIS LEGISLATION, MAKING IT CONVENIENT AND FREE FOR PEOPLE TO DEAL WITH THE ELECTRONIC WASTE. BACK TO TO YOUR QUESTION ON THE BAGS, ONE OF MY QUESTIONS -- I HAVE THE SAME KINDS OF QUESTIONS THE SECRETARY HAS. I HAVEN'T HAD A CHANCE TO FULLY UNDERSTAND IT, AND NEITHER HAS THE LEGISLATURE. ONE OF THE PROCEDURES THAT'S IMPORTANT, THE LEGISLATORS NEED TO HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO HEAR FROM EXPERTS ABOUT WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES, WHAT ARE THE FINANCIAL IMPACTS. THOSE ARE BALANCES WE HAVEN'T HAD A CHANCE TO CONTEMPLATE YET.

>> WITH JUST A FEW MORE MINUTES, I WANT TO TOUCH ON THE ISSUE OF RENEWABLE ENERGY, WHICH IS AN ISSUE A LOT OF VERMONTERS FEEL DEEPLY ABOUT, ESPECIALLY GIVEN SOME REALLY HEATED INDIVIDUAL COMMUNITIES ABOUT PROJECTS, AROUND BIOMASS. I'M WONDERING, SECRETARY MARKOWITZ, WHERE YOU SEE THE AGENCY PLAYING A ROLE IN BALANCING THIS CONVERSATION, ESPECIALLY WHEN WE HAVE A VERY CONCERNED GROUP OF NEIGHBORS WHO MIGHT FEEL LIKE THE CARDS ARE STACKED AGAINST THEM WHEN THEY GO TO THE PUBLIC SERVICE BOARD, AND IT SEEMS LIKE EVERYONE IS TESTIFYING IN FAVOR OF A PROJECT THAT THEY ARE NERVOUS ABOUT, HOW DO YOU ADDRESS THOSE CONCERNS, HOW DO YOU SPEAK TO THOSE NEIGHBORS?

>> WELL, WE PLAY A REALLY DIFFERENT ROLE. WE'RE NOT AN ADVOCATE FOR OR AGAINST A PARTICULAR PROJECT. WHAT WE DO IS WE ANALYZE THE NATURAL RESOURCE, AND WE TESTIFY ABOUT THEM. AND VERY OFTEN IN ADVANCE OF THAT, WE ARE DEALING WITH THE DEVELOPER TO FIND WAYS TO MINIMIZE THE IMPACT, OR MITIGATE THE IMPACT. FOR EXAMPLE, SOME OF THE HIGH-ELEVATION WIND THAT IS SO CONTROVERSIAL, WE HAVE OUR BIOLOGISTS WALKING THE LAND, TAKEING A LOOK AT WHAT THE IMPACTS ARE AND SAYING HEY, THAT AFFECTS THEIR HABITAT. WE SHOULD BE CONSERVING OTHER AREAS OF THIS PARCEL BECAUSE IT'S BEAR HABITAT, OR WE'RE CONCERNED ABOUT CONNECTIST, THE ABILITY OF ANIMALS TO MOVE ACROSS THE LANDSCAPE, AND THIS MAY INTERRUPT IT, IF YOU'RE PUTTING A DEVELOPMENT AT THE TOP OF THE RIDGELINE, SO HOW CAN WE ACCOMMODATE THAT IN OTHER WAYS. WE ALSO HAVE A LOT OF CONCERN ABOUT WATER QUALITY. WE'VE GOT VERY, VERY STRINGENT STANDARDS TO MAKE SURE THAT THE STORM WATER WHICH RUNS OFF, PARTICULARLY DURING THE CONSTRUCTION PERIOD, DOESN'T AFFECT OUR HIGH-ELEVATION STREAMS, WHICH ARE VERY DELICATE, AND SO FAR WE'RE SEEING THAT OUR TOUGH REQUIREMENTS ARE WORKING, AND THE RESULTS, AS OUR SCIENTISTS GO UP AND TAKE A LOOK AT THE IMPACTS, THEY'RE REPORTING SOME POSITIVE NEWS. OUR JOB ISN'T TO BE AN ADVOCATE ON ONE SIDE OR THE OTHER. WE REALLY BRING EXPERTISE AS TO WHAT THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS ARE, AND THAT'S WHAT WE TESTIFY ABOUT IN THE LEGISLATURE.

>> THERE IS CONFUSION BECAUSE YOU'RE APPOINTED BY THE GOVERNOR, AND PEOPLE KNOW WHERE THE GOVERNOR HANDS ON THE WIND-POWER ISSUE, HE IS MOSTLY SUPPORTIVE, AND WE SEE THIS CONTRAST EMERGING NOW WITH ONE OF HIS MEMBERS, HIS COMMISSIONER OF THE HEALTH DEPARTMENT, AND I THINK THERE IS SOME CONFUSION ABOUT, IF YOU ARE INDEPENDENT, IF YOU'RE APPOINTED BY THE GOVERNOR, YOU'RE A SECRETARY, YOU HAVE CABINET MEETINGS WITH THE GOVERNOR, HOW CAN THEY KNOW YOU'RE INDEPENDENT AT THE SAME POINT IF YOU'RE SERVING SOMEONE CLEARLY IN FAVOR OF SOME OF THESE PROJECTS?

>> WHAT I TELL THE GOVERNOR IS THIS: HE GETS TO BE FOR OR AGAINST, AND I'M NOT. I'M FOR PROCESS. I'M FOR BE MAKING SURE THAT WE HAVE THE BEST SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE, THE DATA THERE, THAT SUPPORTS A DECISION OF THE BOARD. AND YOU KNOW, WE'RE HELPING -- AND SUPPORTING OUR PERMITS, MAKING PERMIT DECISIONS. AND HIS BEING IN FAVOR OF A PARTICULAR WIND PROJECT OR WIND GENERATOR MEANS THAT WE'RE GOING TO MAKE THOSE CASES A PRIORITY IN OUR OFFICE, THAT WE'LL GIVE THEM ATTENTION, WE'LL MAKE SURE THEY DON'T LANGUISH AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PILE. IF THERE ARE DEADLINES THEY NEED TO MEET, WE'LL DO OUR BEST TO DO OUR WORK WITHIN THAT TIME FRAME. HE CAN KICK IT UP TO THE TOP OF OUR TO DO LIST AND MAKE IT A PRIORITY, BUT I DON'T TELL MY SCIENTISTS, YOU KNOW, WHAT THEIR PROFESSIONAL JUDGMENT IS IN A PARTICULAR CASE. WE'VE GOT FOLKS WHO HAVE BEEN AT THE AGENCY FOR 20 YEARS, THEY'VE SEEN SECRETARIES COME AND GO, RIGHT? THEY TESTIFY WHAT THEY BELIEVE, AND SO OUR JOB TO IS TO MAKE SURE THAT IT'S THE BEST INFORMATION POSSIBLE.

>> STATE SCIENTISTS ARE RESPONSIBLE IN SOME CASES FOR MONITORING THE STREAM QUALITY HEALTH, THINGS LIKE THAT, ARE THERE RESOURCES IN PLACE TO DO THAT CAREFULLY, TO DO THAT OVER TIME, TO WATCH THIS, TO HOLD ALL THINGS ACCOUNTABLE?

>> THE PEOPLE WHO WORK FOR ME ARE INCREDIBLY PASSIONATE ABOUT THE RESOURCE. THAT'S WHY THEY WORK IN STATE GOVERNMENT DOING THESE IMPORTANT JOBS TO PROTECT THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT, SO, YES, THEY'RE GOING TO GO BACK THERE AND TEST -- YOU KNOW, THIS IS NEW. WE HAVEN'T HAD THESE LARGER DEVELOPMENTS, THE WIND DEVELOPMENTS AT THE TOP OF RIDGE LINES. THEY WANT TO KNOW AS MUCH AS WE WANT TO KNOW WHETHER WE CAN DO IT IN AN ENVIRONMENTALLY SUSTAINABLE WAY. SO FAR, IT LOOKS LIKE WE CAN. THERE ARE LEGITIMATE CONCERNS. PEOPLE BOUGHT A PROPERTY FOR A PARTICULAR VIEW, OR THEY'RE AFRAID IT'S GOING TO IMPACT THEIR ENJOYMENT OF THEIR WILD PLACES, AND AS A STATE, THIS IS A GOOD CONVERSATION TO HAVE. YOU KNOW, WHERE DO WE GET OUR ENERGY? HOW SELF-RELIANT WILL WE BE? AND NO MATTER WHAT KIND OF ENERGY YOU'RE USING, THERE IS SOME SORT OF ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT. WITH COAL, THEY'RE REALLY BLASTING OUT THE WHOLE MOUNTAIN AND TAKING IT DOWN, AND GAS, WE KNOW WHAT HAPPENS WITH THE FRACKING, THERE IS CONTROVERSY OVER THAT, AND WE'VE SEEN THE SPILLS IN THE GULF FROM OIL, SO THERE'S NO QUESTION THAT THESE ARE TOUGH DECISIONS, AND IT'S REALLY, I FEEL, AN HONOR TO BE PART OF THAT CONVERSATION.

>> SHOULD THERE BE A BAN ON FRACKING? THAT'S SOMETHING THE LEGISLATURE IS LOOKING AT.

>> THE REAL QUESTION IS WHETHER FRACKING CAN HAVE AN FERMENTAL IMPACT, AND THERE IS NO QUESTION THAT IT HAS AND CAN AND WOULD IN VERMONT IF IT BECAME COMMERCIALLY VIABLE. IT HASN'T BEEN, SO IN SOME WAYS THE BAN IS NOT IMMINENT. ON THE OTHER END, IT WOULD MAKE SENSE THAT WE HAVE TIME TO EVALUATE. I'M GLAD FOR THE BAN BECAUSE I KNOW OTHER STATES HAVE STRUGGLED TO DEAL WITH THAT ONCE THE BUSINESSES HAVE BEEN ESTABLISHED.

>> STATE FARMS ARE STILL RECOVERING, BUT THE LOGISTICS FOR STATE GOVERNMENT, YOUR AGENCY HAS BEEN SPUN AROUND. THE GOVERNOR IS PROPOSING TO CONSOLIDATE YOU WITH THE TRANSPORTATION AGENCY BECAUSE OF THE LESSONS LEARNED POST-IRENE.

>> IRENE DIDN'T JUST DEVASTATE LOTS OF PRIVATE BUSINESSES AND HOMES; IT ALSO HAD A REAL IMPACT OR STATE GOVERNMENT. WE LOST OUR OFFICES, FOR ABOUT 400 EMPLOYEES. WE'RE SCATTERED NOW, WE'VE GOT GROUPS IN DIFFERENT AREAS, A FEW FOLKS IN WATERBURY, ALL OVER, AND WE'RE EXCITED THAT WE'RE GOING TO BE MOVING TO MONTPELIER, ALL 400 OF US, WE'LL BE ALL TOGETHER AGAIN, WHICH MAKES IT EASIER TO WORK AS AN AGENCY. WE'LL BE NEAR THE AGENCY OF TRANSPORTATION AND THE OFFICE OF HOUSING AND COMMUNITY AFFAIRS AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, AND THAT'S GOOD BECAUSE WE WORK WITH THEM, AND THAT WILL BE GOOD.

>> WHAT CAN WE EXPECT TO SEE OUT OF THE AGENCY IN THE NEXT FEW MONTHS. WHAT'S NEXT ON YOUR RADAR AFTER THIS REPORT?

>> WE'RE LOOKING AT A STATEWIDE CONVERSATION ABOUT HOW DO WE BUILD OUR COMMUNITIES BETTER THAN BEFORE. FOR US THAT MEANS MAKING SURE IT'S RESILIENT TO FUTURE FLOODING. IT REQUIRES US TO LOOK AT OUR LAND-USE PATTERNS. ONE THING WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT IS FORESTS, AND THE IMPORTANCE OF FORESTS TO WATER QUALITY AND FIELD RESILIENCY. OVER ALL OF IT IS CLIMATE CHANGE, AND THE REAL IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON VERMONT. YOU MAY KNOW THAT I'M THE HEAD OF THE CLIMATE CABINET, WHICH INVOLVES CABINET OFFICIALS FROM ACROSS STATE GOVERNMENT, AND WE'RE LOOKING FIRST AT HOW WE'RE GOING TO BE IMPLEMENTING OUR NEW ENERGY PLAN, AND ALSO TAKING A CLOSE LOOK AT CLIMATE ADAPTATION. HOW DO WE PREPARE TO BE RESILIENT TO THE CHANGES WE'LL SEE IN THE NEXT DECADE.

>> I THANK YOU BOTH FOR YOUR TIME, DEB MARKOWITZ, DAVID MEARS, AND KATHRYN FLAGG.

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