A nuclear power plant, a landfill and a pipeline in Vermont are among New England’s 12 worst polluters, according to an annual report from the nonprofit Toxics Action Center. Moretown Landfill, owned by Advanced Disposal Services Inc., and Entergy-owned Vermont Yankee are household names in the state. The tar sands oil pipeline doesn’t actually exist yet, but the Toxics Action Center decided its pollutant potential is enough to earn a spot on the list.
A committee of environmental and public health professionals hand picks the “Dirty Dozen” companies each year. The 13-member committee includes Paul Burns, executive director of VPIRG, and Doug Ruley, director of the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic at the Vermont Law School.
Kalyn Rosenberg, community organizer for Toxics Action Center, said the common thread among “offenders” is that they have failed to develop sustainable business models. The other nine offenders are the Brayton Point Coal Power Station in Somerset, Mass.; Casella Waste Management in Maine; Central Landfill in Johnston, R.I.; Connecticut Environmental Council; Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority; General Electric in Pittsfield, Mass.; Harbor Superfund Site and Parker Street Waste Site in New Bedford, Mass.; the Department of Public Service of New Hampshire, and Raymark Superfund Site in Stratford, Conn.
The selection process, which begins with nominations from the public, doesn’t limit itself strictly to objective or quantifiable criteria. The committee looks at “emerging threats” as well as longtime offenders. It also pays particular attention to repeat offenders that have yet to reform their practices.
“This isn’t the first time that Vermont Yankee has been awarded this dubious distinction, and I’m certain it won’t be the last,” said Chris Williams of the Citizens Awareness Network, citing the discharge of heated water into the Connecticut River, insufficient spent fuel storage, and tritrium leaks as Yankee’s most egregious violations. Vermont Yankee was named a member of the “Dirty Dozen” in 2004, 2006 and 2007.
A handful of Moretown residents, who are part of a group called Moretown CLEAR, attended the event, thanking the Toxics Action Center for calling attention to what one resident, Martha Douglas, referred to as a “squalid Mount Trashmore.”
Jim Murphy, the Wetlands and Water Resources counsel to the National Wildlife Federation, said a 2008 proposal by Exxon Mobil to transport tar sands oil from central Canada to New England would pass through Vermont, making Lake Memphremagog, the Missisquoi River and Victory State Forest, and the Connecticut River potential spill sites. The proposal was shelved but Murphy said there is evidence that the project is being revisited.
Though the announcement was held on the steps of the Vermont Statehouse, Kalyn Rosenberg says in most cases, it’s the Obama administration that needs to crack down on offenders by taking steps such as re-instituting the “polluter pays” policy to the Superfund.