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The ongoing circus surrounding the leak of radioactive tritium, and now the more dangerous cesium-137, at the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant at least has the benefit of making the NRC show its true colors.

First, there was the inaction and the assurances that there’s nothing to worry about while water contaminated with tritium in astronomical amounts leaked for two-and-a-half months before the company was able to find the source of the leak and then plug it up.

Now comes the news that the NRC had invited Vermont state and local officials, and company officials, to a meeting in Keene, New Hampshire to discuss the investigation and the plans for cleanup. Odd that it would be in a different state. Even more interesting was the fact that specifically excluded from the meeting were the press and people opposed to the Vermont Yankee plant.

The NRC tried to rationalize this by explaining company officials might feel uncomfortable in a public forum. Too bad!

Luckily, this idea didn’t pass the smell test. Vermont attorney general Deborah Markowitz called the idea of the closed meeting “legallly questionable and ethically repugnant.” Good for her!

The NRC apparently has seen the error of its ways, and the meeting is now a “workshop” open to the public, April 12, at the Ramada Inn in Brattleboro – just a few miles up the road from the plant itself.

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Once again I’m sitting here, watching the rain, looking out over my back yard, the birches and maples still leafless, and pools of water forming where I’ve never seen them before. Earlier I was trying to think when was the last time I’ve seen such steady rain. Last summer was grey and rainy, but the amount of rainfall wasn’t all that much. Not like this. Then the weather report confirmed it. It’s been a hundred years since we’ve had this much rainfall in a single three-week period. I may be old, but I’m not that old.

It was only a few years ago that we were going through a dry spell. There were smaller brooks drying up during the summer. Swamps were shrinking. There was concern that we were using more water than our watershed could replenish. We’re not hearing about that anymore.

Now there’s a good-sized pond in the swamp down below, full of peepers. Migrating ducks and geese are using it for a stopover. Beavers have settled in.

I can’t wait to get out and see what’s new down there.

It’s happened again. I decided to do a little birding, a little exploring and ran smack into a wall of No Trespassing signs.

Bartlett Pond is a small conservation area – much smaller than I thought, as it turns out – along Route 117 on the border of Lancaster and Leominster, Massachusetts. I’ve driven by there dozens of tmes, and always thought I’d stop and have a look. Sunday I finally did.

There’s a nice, well-kept parking area, a couple of picnic tables and benches overlooking the pond. The pond itself is fairly small, maybe an old mill pond or ice pond, judging from the old dam at one end. I can’t tell you how big it is, because when I started walking along the shore looking for a path, I was by stopped a line of No Trespassing signs. Looking back at my car, I realized that my back yard is bigger than the accessible land.

I wandered a little way further to see how close a house might be. But I didn’t see anything. Which leads to the question – why bother designating this as a conservation area if it’s smaller than your average building lot?

Even as the New Hampshire legislature is considering creating a special license plate to help fund its state parks, there’s news that they’ve been raiding a fund supposedly dedicated to land conservation and preservation projects.

The same thing happened in Connecticut some months ago, when it decided to raid money from a special license plate dedicated to funding environmental projects along Long Island Sound.

In New Hampshire, they’ve been charging a fee of $25 for mortgage and deed filing, with the proceeds to go towards Historical Preservation and Land Conservation projects. In practice, only a fraction of it remains, while the rest has been diverted to the general fund.

Now that same legislature is considering creating another dedicated fund, this time to help finance their state parks. This would be done through the sale of a special license plate, with the proceeds going to help maintain the state parks. But who can believe them?

People pay these fees, or buy these plates, trusting that the money will go to a good and worthwhile purpose. When something like this happens, it puts the state legislators on a par with the fraudsters who pretend to be raising funds for some worthwhile cause while pocketing the money for themselves.

Small wonder people don’t trust their elected officials.

The Gorge Along Falulah Brook

Lately I’ve been thinking about the smaller wild places. Just now, I don’t have the time it takes to travel to the Adirondacks, the Maine Wilderness, or any of my other favorite areas. So I’ve been using the time I do have exploring some of the out-of-the way places closer to home.

This mini-gorge is only about two miles from downtown Fitchburg, Massachusetts, but it might as well be a hundred miles away. It’s tucked away in a cleft between two hills in the city’s watershed area. It’s not a deep-dark secret – a lot of people know about it, but many more don’t. There is a trail that goes by it, but you have to know where to look. In the summer the brook that runs through it is just a quiet gurgle. But today, on the first day of spring, when it’s swollen with all the recent rain and the spring run-off, it creates quite a roar.

It’s mid-afternoon, and there’s not a lot of bird activity. The woods are a mix of hemlock, pine, oak, maple, ash and birch. There’s some scat on the trail. Could be fox or coyote, but judging from the size it’s probably coyote. The ground is too hard for me to see any tracks. The fur in the scat looked like it might have belonged to a rabbit. A little farther down, I see some deer tracks wandering through. And then a crude lean-to. It doesn’t look recent. It also doesn’t look like a serious effort at making a shelter. I look inside. It was on a pretty damp spot. It wouldn’t have been dry or comfortable under the best of circumstances. In any case, whoever it was didn’t leave any litter behind. That much was good.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to try to make some improvements to this blog. Maybe add some pages to divide posts up based on the different things I want to write about. Anyone who happens to see these and has suggestons, let me know. I’m still getting used to the idea of bloggng.

There’s a Nor’easter blowing through here this weekend, but instead of being knee-deep in snow, all we’re getting is rain, which pretty much sums up this winter. There’s a certain irony here. Most years, this part of central New England gets snow when nobody else does. And we get more than anybody else. But not this year.

I took this picture of a Wood Duck box during a cold snap several weeks ago. The prolonged cold gave me a chance to explore a swamp that’s usually inaccessible. It’s in Gardner, Mass., in an area called High Ridge, a piece of state-owned land now administered by the state Dept. Fish & Wildlife.

When I was growing up, it used to be part of the grounds of a state mental hospital. Maybe it’s just knowing this, but I can’t help a feeling a sadness here. There are deserted roads leading nowhere, the landscaped grounds are gradually being reclaimed by nature, slowly becoming more wild. Part of the land is being used as a state prison. Another corner has a national veterans cemetery. It’s still a sad place.

Looking at the Wood Duck box, I wonder how long it’s been there, and does anybody come and check it? There are others around. They don’t look recent, though they’re still serviceable. I’ll try to get back, and see if there are any tenants later this spring.

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RSS The Ecocryptic

  • Maine DEP update July 31, 2013
    Maine Department of Environmental Protection has reversed itself and will schedule a public hearing on proposed changes to the state's clean air standards. No date has been set.Environmental groups, legislators, and the general public were outraged when the Portland Press Herald reported yesterday that the state agency had tried to sneak through the cha […]
  • At Maine’s DEP, it’s the fox guarding the henhouse July 30, 2013
    What happens when you put an industry lobbyist in charge of environmental protection? Just take a look at what’s going on in Maine. According to an article in today’s Portland Press-Herald, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection wants to weaken the state’s clean-air regulations, and they don’t want anyone to know about it.No public hearings have […]
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    Despite massive public opposition, significantly over-budget, and three years behind schedule,  the CEO of the Northern Pass Project vows the controversial high voltage transmission line will be built.The project is a 180-mile power line that would bring power from Canada to New England. It first came to the attention of environmentalists and others when the […]
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    Here in the northeast, we’ve been hit by a succession of “weather events” – ice storms, wind-storms, hurricanes, early snowfall, late snowfall. Each one offered the utility companies serving this area to demonstrate once again that they were completely unprepared. In each case, customers in the most advanced country in the world were left without power for w […]
  • Victory for the Blackstone: Court backs EPA, Worcester must stop dumping sewage into river August 7, 2012
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  • NH Senate Denies Eminent Domain for Northern Pass – Or Does It? January 30, 2012
    Under intense public scrutiny, the New Hampshire Senate last week approved a bill that supposedly sets limits on the use of eminent domain to seize property for public projects and excludes using it for privately-funded projects. That would seem to exclude the controversial Northern Pass project, a proposed 180-mile transmission line that would bring hydroel […]
  • Northern Pass Developers Pushing State To Take Land By Force January 24, 2012
    Ever since the controversy began over the construction of a new transmission line to bring power from Canada into New Hampshire slicing through some of that state’s most scenic landscape, the backers of the project have been quietly lobbying for eminent domain powers to force reluctant landowners along the proposed route to sell.The issue gets its first real […]
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RSS Martin Laine – Digital Journal

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    Pity James Tully who has the misfortune of resembling Eric Frein, the object of a massive manhunt following the ambush shooting of two police officers six weeks ago, and who lives in Canadensis, Pa., the epicenter of the search.
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    Nine people, including a family of six, have been ordered to stay in their homes for the next three weeks while public health officials check for signs that they have contracted the Ebola virus. None of them have shown any signs of the illness so far.
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