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Office of the Vermont Attorney General

Environmental Recap: Attorney General Donovan Announces Recent Environmental Actions

February 9, 2021

Contact: Charity R. Clark, Chief of Staff, 802-828-3171

Attorney General T.J. Donovan announced recent environmental actions taken by his office to protect Vermont’s environment and issued the following statement: “Vermonters should know that my team will continue to protect our environment. We also know that the climate crisis is real and the time to act is now. We are glad to again have leadership in Washington that believes in science and protecting our natural world for future generations, but our work here in Vermont will continue.”

Recent environmental actions taken by the Attorney General include:

  • CLEAN AIR: In a ruling on January 19, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit vacated the Trump Administration’s so-called “Affordable Clean Energy (ACE)” rule. The ACE rule was the Trump Administration’s attempt to replace the prior administration’s Clean Power Plan and would have relaxed restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Vermont joined 22 states, the District of Columbia, and seven cities in challenging the ACE rule.
  • AGRICULTURAL WATER QUALITY: On January 4, 2021, the Attorney General’s Office settled claims against an Addison County farming operation for violations of Vermont’s environmental and agricultural laws and regulations. The State alleged that various violations occurred at farm facilities and fields operated by the Nop Brothers and Sons’ large farming operation in 2016 and 2018, including discharges of agricultural waste to waters of the State. In a settlement approved by the Addison Superior Court, Nop Brothers and Sons owners and operators agreed to submit a corrective action plan to permanently eliminate discharges from the farm facilities and fields where the violations occurred. The plan will be implemented following State approval. Until then, Nop Brothers and Sons agreed to follow an interim corrective action plan. Additionally, the farm agreed to pay a $75,000 civil penalty.
  • SOLID WASTE: On December 29, 2020, the Attorney General announced that Chittenden Solid Waste District (CSWD) had agreed to pay over $400,000 for its unpermitted disposal of recyclable processed glass at three locations on its Williston, Vermont property. CSWD also agreed to post information on its website and publications to ensure that it is being transparent with the public about what happens to glass sent to CSWD for recycling. The settlement agreement, which was approved by the Court on February 4, 2021, resolves the enforcement action brought by the State against CSWD for disposing of processed glass.
  • SHORELAND PROTECTION: In December of 2020, the Attorney General’s Office resolved claims against a Windham County property maintenance company, the company’s owner, and landowners for violations of Vermont’s Shoreland Protection Act. The State alleged that Douglas Dix and Deerfield Valley Property Maintenance cleared vegetation along the shoreline of Lake Sadawga in Whitingham, on land owned by Eric and Tawyna Johnson, without a Shoreland Permit. The cleared land was in the protected shoreland area and is revegetating naturally. In a settlement approved by the Windham Superior Court, the defendants agreed to pay a civil penalty of $5,250.
  • AGRICULTURAL WATER QUALITY: In December of 2020, the Attorney General’s Office finalized resolution of an enforcement action for water quality violations at a Craftsbury, Vermont farm. On August 1, 2017, the State filed suit for water quality violations at the Craftsbury farm then-known as Chip’s Place. The State alleged multiple violations of Vermont’s environmental and agricultural laws and regulations, including discharges of agricultural waste to the nearby Black River, Mud Pond, and a tributary to Mud Pond. The parties agreed to a settlement, which was approved by the Orleans Superior Court on November 14, 2019. Under the settlement, Nelson Farms, Inc. was required to perform corrective actions and Douglas Nelson, Jr. was subject to a $60,000 civil penalty. On December 11, 2020, the Court issued an Order on Civil Penalty forgiving a portion of the penalty based on the Defendant’s inability to pay. While the $60,000 assessed penalty amount remains in place, $36,000 was forgiven by the Court. Nelson Farms, Inc. has performed the corrective actions at the farm to address the water quality violations.
  • WATER QUALITY: On November 19, 2020, Vermont prevailed in a proceeding before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to protect waterways in north-central Vermont from harmful impacts associated with the Morrisville hydroelectric facility. The facility currently is seeking a license from FERC and, as part of that process, obtained a “water quality certification” from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources in August 2016. The certification contains conditions to protect fish and other aquatic life in the affected waters. When Morrisville asked FERC to declare that Vermont had waived its authority to issue the certification—to avoid complying with the protective water quality conditions—the Attorney General’s Office successfully argued that Vermont had not waived its authority. Morrisville has appealed FERC’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.
  • AGRICULTURAL WATER QUALITY: On October 7, 2020, the Attorney General’s Office resolved claims against an Addison County farming operation for violations of Vermont’s environmental and agricultural laws and regulations. In a complaint filed in Addison Superior Court, the State alleged that various violations occurred in 2017 at two farm facilities owned and operated by Richville Farms, formerly known as Perry Brook Farm, including discharges of agricultural waste to waters of the State. In a settlement approved by the Court, Richville Farms’ owners and operators agreed to submit a long-term plan to permanently eliminate all discharges of agricultural waste from the farm facilities where the violations occurred. Upon approval by the State, Richville Farms will implement the long-term plan. The farm agreed to follow an interim corrective action plan until then and also agreed to pay a $52,000 civil penalty.
  • AGRICULTURAL WATER QUALITY: In September of 2020, the Attorney General’s Office resolved claims against Vermont Technical College (VTC) for violations of Vermont’s water quality laws and regulations. The violations related to the State’s claims that there had been a discharge of effluent from VTC farm’s digester to Penny Brook in 2018. To resolve the case, VTC agreed to pay a civil penalty of $10,000 and to contribute $40,000 to fund a supplemental environmental project to be approved by the State.
  • CLEAN AIR: In August of 2020, the Attorney General’s Office resolved claims against a Randolph foundry for violations of Vermont’s air quality laws. Particulate matter emissions from the foundry resulted in claims for damage to more than 150 motor vehicles. To resolve the State’s allegations that it had violated conditions of its Air Pollution Control Permit and environmental regulations, Hearth & Home Technologies, LLC, agreed to conduct a test for particulate matter at each of its Randolph foundry’s three main baghouses and provide testing reports to the State. It also agreed to pay a civil penalty of $45,000.
  • CLEAN AND HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT: The Attorney General’s Office, working with outside counsel, continues to pursue its lawsuits against the manufactures of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and PFAS-containing fire-fighting foam. The two suits were filed in June 2019 to clean up contamination of groundwater and other State natural resources, and both are in discovery. The fire-fighting foam case is in multidistrict litigation in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina. The PFAS case is in Chittenden Superior Court. In that case, on May 28, 2020, the court denied the Defendants’ motions to dismiss and ruled that almost all of the State’s claims could go forward.
  • MULTI-STATE ACTIONS: For more information on the multi-state environmental actions taken or joined by the Attorney General’s Office since January 2017, including efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from major sources such as motor vehicles, oil and gas operations and landfills; to protect waterways; to protect the public from toxic substances; and to promote development of energy efficient appliances, please visit: https://ago.vermont.gov/multi-state-environmental-actions-taken-by-vermont-ago-since-january-2017/

For more information on the Attorney General’s environmental work and to keep up to date on the latest activities of the Office, please visit www.ago.vermont.gov – and find us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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Last modified: February 9, 2021