Rotarians step up for food pantry
I’m writing this letter as a thank you to the Essex Rotary organization. Nearly every month for the past year or more, members of Rotary have given many hours of community service to the Heavenly Food Pantry at the First Congregational Church of Essex Junction. Over a year ago the volunteer pantry staff, most of whom are over 70 years of age, put out a call for help on the day of food distribution. The Essex Rotary asked its members to help with the distribution, which takes an entire afternoon once a month. And Rotary members have responded generously.
The need for food assistance for residents of Essex and Westford has gone up, not down, in the past year, as housing costs continue to take a larger percentage of income. The people using the pantry are working families, students, retirees and the disabled. The work is not light — it requires a great deal of heavy lifting. The week before Thanksgiving, six Rotary members, three men and three women, showed up to volunteer. And they were badly needed. In November the pantry served around 70 families over a four-hour period. It was a long and tiring afternoon.
Of those six people, I knew only one personally. I want to thank all six of them, but especially Max Levy. As an Essex voter, it means a great deal to me to see the chairman of the Essex Selectboard giving his time to serve his neighbors this way. He may not appreciate such a public thank you, but he’s getting one anyway!
The Rotary motto is “Service Above Self.” And these people really believe it.
Another person who deserves special thanks is Curt Echo, manager at the Essex Hannaford store. Hannaford continues its long support of the Heavenly Food Pantry by donating an enormous amount of food and fresh produce each month. That food goes to families who really need it.
As a former legislator, I am concerned about ongoing state meddling at the now-closed Vermont Yankee nuclear plant. You might wonder why anyone living in the opposite corner of the state should care about a closed business four freeway hours away. For better or worse, nowhere in Vermont is an island, in terms of quality of life. Prosperity and a clean environment anywhere are a boon everywhere. They mean more taxes in the state kitty, and a better image of Vermont as a home for business. For the same reasons, economic or environmental failure anywhere hurt us all.
After Vermont Yankee announced its shutdown, its owners agreed to pay millions for economic redevelopment, submitted detailed decommissioning plans ahead of schedule, and took out a $145 million line of credit to move spent fuel into ultra-safe dry casks. They’ve made a good start on safe, prompt, good-neighbor decommissioning. The Town of Vernon is even proposing siting another large (non-nuclear) power plant nearby.
Unfortunately, the State of Vermont, trying to carve out more authority for itself, has fought almost every major Nuclear Regulatory Commission decision, big or small. This makes little safety sense: The well-staffed NRC has an excellent safety record, while the state has no record and little expertise or manpower. Also, prolonged legal and regulatory wars are terribly expensive, and if history repeats itself, will be borne by Entergy and potentially the monies set aside for decommissioning Vermont Yankee.
I wish our state officials would do their job — roads, schools, promoting employment, etc. — and let the federal government do its job.
Policy fixes for phosphorous pollution
The health of Lake Champlain is extremely fragile, and we may soon reach a tipping point that causes our lake to reach a point of no return. Phosphorus runoff is dangerous for the health of Lake Champlain, and this pollution is increasing steadily. An over abundance of phosphorous can lead to over growth of blue-green algae, which kills off plant life and makes water hazardous for humans.
While there are a number of things that contribute to phosphorus runoff, like stream bank erosion, loss of forests, and household pollution, studies have shown that 60 percent of the phosphorous in Lake Champlain comes from farm runoff, specifically fertilizers and cow manure. Luckily there are solutions that can be mutually beneficial.
One is implementing a cap-and-trade policy for the importation and manufacturing of phosphorus. A cap-and-trade policy gives out tradeable permits that have a set quota on pollution, and in this case, the quota would be on the amount of phosphorus able to be imported and used in Vermont.
The second solution would be taxing non-farm phosphorus-containing products, like lawn fertilizer, pet foods, and even some soaps. This has already been shown to work through a similar Danish tax on phosphorus, where after the tax, phosphorus emissions dropped significantly. The money made from this tax can then be used for environmental restoration to reduce natural causes of phosphorus pollution.
The last policy to put in place would be a subsidy on non-phosphorus-based products and research on technologies that can decrease the amount of phosphorus runoff. Subsidies are money given by the government to make the cost of something lower in order to encourage good behavior. There are alternate types of fertilizer made from things like liquefied fish, as well as crops that are able to grow without phosphorus, and crops that better absorb phosphorus from cow manure. If these things are subsidized, it would benefit farmers as well as the environment.
Phosphorus runoff is not only a great threat to our lake, but it can and will have a negative impact on those who live near it. If not stopped now, the impacts may become non-reversible. Lake Champlain is worth the work, and with effort, it can be saved.
University of Vermont junior