Vermonters for a Clean Environment, Inc.
December 17, 2008
Disrespectful of dissent
I'm not in a position to comment on your analysis of the benefits of the proposed rail spur to assist Omya. I'm sure the project is very complicated, entailing a good deal of research in weighing the benefits and costs. I would hope that the Herald will dig deeply into these issues. One truism is "that the devil is in the details."
My concern in responding to your editorial is your irresponsible reporting of Vermonters for a Clean Environment. Specifically, you report, "the lone dissenting voice came from Annette Smith, executive director of the increasingly misnamed Vermonters for a Clean Environment. Through her ongoing public statements Smith continues to make clear that her group's primary focus is not Vermont's clean environment, but opposition to anything Omya does."
Your attack on VCE and Annette Smith makes one reflect on our past seven years of Bush and Cheney, whereby any dissent at all regarding the war was labeled as unpatriotic. We have just spent over two years electing a new president that espouses a coming together, unifying our effort, but having discussions and dissent on subjects where we disagree. Your editorial indicates you are not ready to put this adversarial approach behind you and provide a forum for discussion and dissent on any issues that you disagree with. Instead you are poised and prepared to hoist the messenger on a petard.
December 9, 2008
Omya contribution benefits all
Everyone is a winner with the Middlebury rail spur. Omya's generosity and creative thinking can be felt all the way from Middlebury to Rutland.
In most public works projects using federal money, there is a required match using "non-federal" money. "Non-federal" in almost every case means your state or local tax dollars. In the case of the Middlebury spur, Omya has offered to pay a user fee, which will be credited as match for other rail projects along the western corridor. The Rutland railyard relocation could be a a major beneficiary of this pool of matching money. For the spur only $2 million to $3 million will be needed to match federal money already committed to the project. Omya's overall commitment is $22 million. If you do the mat, between $19 million and $20 million will be left over to match other projects. The federal government usually requires a match of 20 percent. If $20 million is in the non-federal matching pool, it can be pledged against another $80 million in federal dollars.
Vermont's western rail corridor needs these matching funds to upgrade the rail line for both freight and passenter service. It is not as was indicated in the letter to the editor published on Nov. 26 that Omya is the only winner; it is because of Omya that we are all winners.
Rutland Redevelopment Authority)
December 6, 2008
Annette Smith not a lone voice
I would like to respond to the outrageous comments of the writer about Annette Smith and Vermonters for a Clean Environment (VCE) in the editorial "Spur deserves support." Aside from the fact that VCE has done incredible work protecting citizens from negative impacts due to the greed of Omya, VCE works on many issues besides, including large farms, pesticides, landfills, mercury, groundwater protection, municipal drinking water, quarries, gravel pits, energy projects, housing developments, cell towers, air pollution from outdoor wood boilers, and more.
The work they have done to protect Vermont's environment and citizens is huge and successful.
VCE has been incredibly helpful to make our citizens' voices be heard in the Legislature concerning an unstudied municipal water disinfectant additive that was put into the water of South Burlington, where I live. It is appearing to be making quite a few people quite sick. Getting the attention of the Legislature on this incredibly important health issue would have been impossible without the help of Annette Smith and her VCE staff. Because of them legislators are listening very carefully to what we are telling them.
I highly suspect the accuracy of the statement that Annette Smith is the "lone dissenting voice" on the spur issue. She may be the only one that is (rightfully) bringing attention to it, but her voice represents the concerns of many in the area.
VCE is to be commended, not attacked.
December 4, 2008
VCE's important role in Florence
I read with interest your Nov. 21 lead editorial, "Spur deserves support," in which you enumerate several arguments in favor of constructing the spur. But then you descend into a largely unsubstantiated attack on Annette Smith and Vermonters for a Clean Environment (VCE) which otherwise demeans your editorial.
As a neighbor of Omya's here in Florence, I have long been concerned about Omya's effects on the surrounding neighborhood and especially on its drinking water supply. It is with the considerable support of Annette Smith and VCE that one of Omya's more egregious practices is being terminated. It is now known that the Omya site is contaminated and the groundwater is not fit to drink as a result of years of dumping its waste on the ground and in quarries. In the future Omya is being required to dump its waste in a lined landfill which provides a barrier between its waste and groundwater. Additionally a vastly improved scientifically based on-site well monitoring program is now in place to track and provide warning of potential offsite migration of many of its chemicals. None of this would have happened without Annette Smith and VCE, and for that I am grateful.
November 28, 2008
Omya has poor track record
I recently read an editorial article about an Omya supportive article referring to Annette Smith as a troublemaker, to sum it up.
I would like to make it clear to everyone that Omya has long been trying to take the detour around environmental laws and regulations in Vermont. They have a poor track record to start, including draining water supplies during test pumps and contaminating water supplies that families and individuals depend on for save drinking, not to mention dumping chemical wastes on site which leech into the surrounding environment.
Who is to say that Omya is going to keep their business in Vermont? Once they build the railroad, they can ship out west for all they care. It is vital for Vermonters to speak up, join forces, and put Omya to rest before it destroys anything more. It is time to make the difference we all are looking for.
November 28, 2008
VCE doing good work in state
I am writing to object to the recent editorial, which claimed that Vermonters for a Clean Environment is misnamed.
When we were fighting International Paper's tire burn, we hugely appreciated the efforts of Annette Smith and VCE to combat local, in-state pollution. With so many threats to our environment and public health, thank goodness for dedicated community activists who speak out to protect our soil, air, and water.
VCE works on many issues besides Omya, including pesticides, groundwater protection, mercury, and much more. It is often thankless work, and people working on behalf of the public health are often up against corporations that have a lot of money to spend on public relations. I expect our newspapers, however much they may support Omya's spur, to refrain from badmouthing environmental activists.
November 26, 2008
Life is all about perspective
Life, I have learned this year, is all about perspective. Until you are a tiny minority told to be quiet and sacrifice yourself for a greater good, then you will never understand what Annette Smith and Vermonters for a Clean Environment is all about.
In reality, she is not so different from say, an editor of a paper, because she offers a perspective on a variety of environmental topics. She organizes and distills information to empower voices that might not normally get validated. She stands firm and says "listen to this" and whether they approve or not, everyone pays attention to what Annette has to say.
November 26, 2008
Omya only winner in rail spur
In response to the editorial that appeared on Nov. 21:
I would like to respond to the editorial opinion that appeared last week regarding the proposed OMYA rail spur south of Middlebury. Sadly, the editorial had several important facts wrong something proponents of the spur have done repeatedly throughout the approval and environmental impact process and despite the findings of their own consultants. The arguments against building the OMYA spur are many:
# First, Omya will continue to take marble out of its Middlebury quarry with or without the rail spur and will do so until it becomes economically unviable regardless of whether or not a permanent rail line is built.
# Omya has never committed in writing to reducing or eliminating truck traffic through Brandon despite requests from both Brandon and Middlebury residents. As with the quarry, if it's more economically viable to continue using trucks, it will do so as there is nothing legally binding that would compel them to use the rail.
# According to Omya's own Draft Environmental Impact Statement (may 2007), air pollution will actually increase through the use of rail as pollution reduction techniques for rail use are far behind those of motor vehicles at this point.
# The Omya rail spur will dramatically alter the water flows of Otter Creek (already one of the more polluted bodies of water in Vermont) raising flood levels, increasing runoff into both Otter Creek and ultimately Lake Champlain -affecting many more residents and tourists through environmental degradation than a handful and setting back the Lake Champlain clean up.
# Omya's share of the costs amount to "rent" 90 cents per ton on the rail this will take more than a few decades to pay off their portion leaving the federal and state governments holding the bag in the short term and possibly the long term as well.
# The Omya spur conflicts with the 2007 Middlebury Town Plan that states, "it must clearly show benefits to businesses in order to conform." And yet, no other Middlebury business has committed to use the rail line despite being approached by the town planner.
# Over 60 jobs will be lost through the elimination of the trucking-related jobs jobs concentrated in the Middlebury to Florence corridor…
There are several things the editor also failed to mention: Railroad projects have a federal preemption from state and local laws including Act 250. So, once this land is seized, landowners will lose all their rights and protections from herbicidal use and other activities currently employed by the rail industry. A decision upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Green Mountain Railroad versus the State of Vermont.
The visual impact of the Omya rail spur would be shocking to the average person. It is the kind of sprawl that most Vermonters fight. The Omya rail spur will be elevated over the Otter Creek and fragile wetlands along a 2,000-foot, 23-foot-high viaduct. It will also involve the confiscation of land on two historic sites: the Eddy Farm School for Horse and Rider (the longest operating farm in the state) and the Hathaway Home on Halladay Road.
It is hard to believe that the Omya rail spur is still under consideration. Noone disputes the value of freight and passenger rail use and expansion but this is pork of the worst kind … sort of Vermont's Bridge to Nowhere …. It is an example of egregious waste of both state and federal taxpayer dollars at a time that we should be reviewing all our spending priorities.
Finally, the editor's unsubstantiated criticisms of Vermonters for a Clean Environment make it clear that they could not be bothered to fact check that information either. VCE supports grass roots citizens' initiatives all over the state many of which have nothing to do with Omya including pesticide use, landfills, groundwater protection, municipal drinking water, air pollution from outdoor wood boilers and more. They have also been outspoken supporters of passenger rail service in the western corridor.
With the economy in a shambles, we need to think clearly and responsibly and not green light something simply because it's already under consideration or because we can't be bothered to look at the facts.
Letter to the editor
Industrial waste by another name
May 10, 2007
You can dress up your pig in a suit and call it a gentleman, but it's still a pig. You can take your
industrial waste and call it tailings, but that doesn't make it so.
For years Omya has tried to call its industrial waste "tailings," in order to avail itself of the benefits, but such benefits keep getting denied. Tailings are unprocessed mine waste, at the time. Run it through a factory, and it becomes product or waste, industrial waste.
Stop playing Omya's word game and call the stuff what it is: industrial waste.
Letter to the editor
May 9, 2006
Garage is Omya's cat's paw in Danby
When I first heard about it, I knew immediately what it was all about. Danby town government wants to build a new town garage. The claim was made that they need a new place to store salt and sand; six miles away from the town center, up in the mountains, not on the way to anywhere, totally unsecure from vandals, uphill from rare protected wetlands, in an area where everyone relies on groundwater with no public water supply this is the chosen location? Why?
First of all, trucking all that material up into the mountains and then trucking it out again would greatly increase truck traffic, but maybe that is the point. And what turns salt storage into a whole new town garage? Certainly not need. There is no need for a new salt storage shed, and there is no need for a new town garage all so-called reasons so far presented do not even make it to the level of specious. Perhaps building a new town garage would be more fun than cleaning up their present site. Solving the safety problems with the transfer station does not require a new town garage.
So what is this all about? It's all about Omya.
First thing to understand about Danby is that it is divided into two parts, them and us. Us ("those people up in the valley") is the residents of the valley, Danby Four Corners to Tinmouth, and them is the town government, openly hostile to us ("you people "). So putting a town garage and salt storage up here would be a thumb in the eye to us, and that is one reason that makes sense. Danby's town budget has doubled in recent years, out of proportion to other towns in the area, so it is obvious that they like to spend money and here is the potential for a half-million-dollar (at least) project to be paid for by Danby's 885 taxpayers.
They have been trying to inflict Omya's new strip mine on us for over 10 years. The recently elected selectman promised to make the new town garage plaything his top priority and has already hired an engineer to plan it. No public process, no citizen input. At the May 4 Select Board meeting, he said that "there is a lot of work to do on this and most can be done off the agenda." Thirteen years ago, when he was road commissioner, he started widening and rebuilding a road that Omya wanted to use for heavy hauling when they opened their new strip mine in Danby; no matter that this road is residential, with houses a mere 20 feet from the road, it was all about what Omya wanted.
The land for this new town garage? Adjacent to Omya's planned mine, donated by Omya with deed restriction limiting its use to town garage only. The new selectman? Works for the marble quarry in Danby which is owned by Omya. Any conflict of interest there?
So what's the plan? You only have to look back four years to the pump test done by Omya that caused wells and springs to go dry for a mile around.
Omya claimed no responsibility for this, making the claim "it was the drought." No matter that damaged residents spent more than $6,000 and endured incredible hardship because of the loss of water.
This, then, is the true purpose of a new town garage, to prepare and industrialize the area so that Omya can come back and claim that since the area is already degraded, their mine can go in and hardly be noticed with its further degradation.
Times Argus letter to the editor
April 25, 2006
Douglas' loyalty is to corporations
A recent plea for the governor to get the ANR to " start enforcing " the state's pollution laws is falling on deaf ears; the governor actually calls state agencies and asks them to "ease up," "back off," and not push enforcement of laws and regulations against his corporate friends.
Malfeasance is too nice a term to use for this fascist, corrupt excuse for a governor whose one loyalty is to corporations. As far as he's concerned, the citizens are just an obstacle, an inconvenience and he has no interest in hearing from them or about their plight.
Once again, Omya gets a free pass from the governor to commit flagrant violations of its permits and we see yet again, where the health and safety of the citizens stands in the governor's priorities.
Rutland Herald letter to the editor
April 18, 2006
OMYA accuser's facts wrong
I am concerned that recent inaccurate allegations about air pollution from the OMYA plant in Florence (letters 4/9/06) may cause concern in the community. I'd like to set the record straight.
The Department of Environ-mental Conservation has conducted tests to determine the make-up of gases coming out of the stacks at the OMYA plant (This was done to try and identify the source of odors). The tests identified a number of combustion byproducts typical of what you would expect from a furnace burning #2 fuel oil including benzene, toluene, xylene and 1,3, butadiene. While we expected to find them, we have ordered further testing to determine the exact amounts and concentrations of these chemicals.
Additional testing is under way to determine the source of odors and measure the quantities of any chemicals that might be associated with those odors.
To date there has been no determination that the plant is violating its permit conditions, if that changes further action will be taken.
Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation,
Rutland Herald Letter to the Editor
March 29, 2006
Omya emitting carcinogens
Omya Inc., a multinational mining company with a large processing plant in Florence, has been violating its air pollution permit for the last three years. Despite repeated efforts by residents living near the plant and other concerned citizens to get the state of Vermont to enforce its own permits, Omya continues to send noxious odors and potentially dangerous chemicals into the atmosphere in Rutland County.
What does Omya's permit violation ongoing since 2002 actually mean? According to tests Omya finally ran under pressure from neighbors and Vermont Law School the plant emits benzene, toluene, 1,3-butadiene, styrene, xylene, and other toxics. Many of these are known carcinogens and neurotoxins, but Vermont regulators continue to stand by while Florence residents continue to be exposed to these chemicals with every breath they take.
It is high time for Governor Douglas to get Vermont's Agency of Natural resources to start enforcing the state's own air pollution permits.
Vermont Sierra Club)
Rutland Herald Lettter to the Editor
November 17, 2005
The expedient environmentalist
Is Governor Douglas always an environmentalist?
We commend Vermont's leaders for standing together to oppose International Paper's test tire burn in Ticonderoga, N.Y. Governor Douglas, the Attorney General's Office, the Agency of Natural Resources staff and our congressional delegation are all working to protect public health and the environment from the threat of increased pollution.
And we are heartened that Governor Douglas understands the need to protect our state from unnecessary air and water pollution.
However, it seems important to point out the governor does not always stand for environmental protection. When the air pollution comes from New York, Governor Douglas appears to have no difficulty doing the right thing by just saying no.
But at the same time, Governor Douglas has allowed businesses in Vermont to pollute. For example, a profitable company that operates in Vermont has been polluting the air for at least three years, in violation of its air pollution permit. Governor Douglas, the Attorney General's Office, and the Agency of Natural Resources are all fully aware that the air in Florence is being polluted by Omya Inc. Yet no action has been taken to enforce this multinational corporation's air pollution permit and stop threatening the health of Vermonters.
Protecting public health and the environment requires consistent application and enforcement of our laws. Does Governor Douglas care enough about our health to do the right thing all the time? Or is Governor Douglas only an environmentalist when it is politically expedient?
(Executive director, Vermonters for a Clean Environment)
Rutland Herald Letter to the Editor
Critique of Omya yielded results
June 21, 2005
I want to thank state Sen. Hull Maynard for his letter to the Herald on June 8. It gives me an opportunity to reply to his comments about Annette Smith and Vermonters for a Clean Environment.
As you might recall, Senator Maynard takes Annette to task for repeating "old criticisms" about Omya and the lack of responsibility by our state agencies when it comes to how they balance Omya's needs and the health of neighbors living around their noxious operations in Florence. Mr. Maynard should be asking the people there if anything has changed. Until things do, the criticisms will continue to resonate.
Senator Maynard doesn't approve of Annette's bringing up these very legitimate issues "at just the moment in history when a startling alliance has been formed between Omya and Conservation Law Foundation." Still I think that he kind of likes Annette, as he goes on to praise her "consummate investigative and journalistic skills." Right on! However, having been imbedded deep in this controversy for several years, I feel compelled to point out that had it not been for Annette's tenacious activity, this "moment in history" likely never would have happened. Without VCE's outing of the nature of Omya's operations, no meaningful action would have been taken by anyone, ever, to remediate the situation.
Now Omya is in a real pickle. They are faced with rising concern in the Statehouse and the specter of litigation at the state and federal level. Things look real bad. Trying to buy our love with Green Up day T-shirts for the kids just won't do it anymore. No wonder they are ready to party up with CLF Ventures. VCE has been an ongoing participant in these issues since 2001, and we sincerely hope for progress.
However, I can't help but be a little skeptical about this new moment in history because of how Omya behaved during the months of mediations between VCE, Omya, the Solid Waste Division, ANR, and the Vermont Law School, where Omya slow-walked that group into a wall of nothing. The stalling is useless, and if the owners and management cared about the future of their employees, they would get serious about cleaning up the operation. They have been making a good profit for years here. They can afford to change. Why can't they show some concern and respect? That's all we are asking for.
(President, Vermonters for a Clean Environment)
Rutland Herald Letter to the Editor
Among support of Omya decision
June 8, 2005
Regarding Annette Smith's letter to the editor: I take great pleasure in finding my position as senator mentioned among the many supporters of Omya.
At the same time I am disappointed at Annette's repetition of old criticisms at just the moment in history when a startling alliance has been formed between Omya and Conservation Law Foundation.
Instead of 90 percent of that letter raking over old complaints, it might have been more productive for Annette to use her consummate investigative and journalistic skills to highlight this new development. Just paying a one sentence tribute to this new alliance, she misses an opportunity to become more a part of the solution then remaining mostly a part of the problem.
Sen. HULL MAYNARD
Rutland Herald Letter to the Editor
Don't overlook needs of neighbors
May 10, 2005
It is not too difficult to imagine a Vermont where the state says to a company that is polluting, "Stop. Clean up your mess. Be a better neighbor." In fact, that is what most Vermonters expect. Imagine a Vermont where the state finding (twice in two years) that a multinational corporation's dumping activities pose a potential threat to public health and the environment would be greeted with concerns for the neighborhood that has hosted the offending operation for more than two decades.
Instead, state officials who found Omya's waste in need of oversight have said they will do nothing to stop the ongoing dumping while the permitting process proceeds. And the Rutland Herald's editorial (May 4) expresses concern for Omya and its jobs and investments. The brief mention of the neighbors is in the context of their complaints, not concerns for them or their health.
The message Omya is sending to our elected officials is "poor us, people are picking on us," with some apparent success. Our legislators do not want to be seen as "anti-business" and are supposed to see only the jobs, not the millions of tons of contaminated waste dumped in old quarries full of groundwater.
Turning a blind eye to the very real pollution problems at Omya's site in Florence both air and water, along with noise does not make Vermont pro-business. But it does make our state anti-environment.
It is not a pretty picture. Omya's site is a mess and needs to be cleaned up. Saying so does not mean we are anti-business or that we are demonizing Omya. Omya has support from the Douglas administration, the Rutland county Senate delegation, the representative from Pittsford, and a host of business interests. But have Omya's supporters had the courtesy to meet with the residents of Florence to hear their concerns and make sure they get addressed? More than 50 families get their drinking water from the public water supply located downhill from Omya's nearby waste piles.
I invite Omya's supporters to embrace the possibility that Omya can do better. Omya can be more environmentally responsible, a better employer, and a better neighbor. There is no shame in admitting that this multinational corporation has problems and that it needs to pay whatever is necessary to clean up. That's why we spent months last year and paid to participate in mediated sessions with the state, Vermont Law School and Omya, trying to find answers. And that's why we support the latest attempt by CLF to find solutions.
For too long, Omya's neighbors and the communities in which it operates have borne the impacts and expense of Omya's operations. Maybe next time, the Rutland Herald editorial will acknowledge the importance of healthy communities and citizens who have the courage to speak up and protect themselves and their families from problems that, it turns out, are totally legitimate.
(Executive director, Vermonters for a Clean Environment)
Rutland Herald letter to the editor
Direct knowledge about OMYA
February 27, 2005
I would like to respond to Kevin Bradley's letter on Feb. 14, 2005, in which he says people who criticize OMYA are too lazy to check the facts.
First, let me state that I believe Vermont needs more industry with higher paying jobs. However, these companies shouldn't come into a community and disrupt it. OMYA is such a company. We live less than a mile from the OMYA plant in Florence, not in Proctor does Mr. Bradley. I wonder if he or the public is aware that OMYA applied for an Act 250 exemption to make a sludge pile from the waste left over after their process in complete.
OMYA claims this is earthen material because it comes from the ground; therefore, they don't need an exception to put it back in the ground. The fact is this waste is full of biocides and other chemicals after their process is complete. Look up biocide in the dictionary and it says "a chemical that destroys life by poisoning."
The pile they want will cover 32 acres and be 80 feet high. They need to pile the waste because they already filled up an old quarry with this sludge. One wonders where they are getting rid of their waste now.
One reason they haven't got the exemption (and they are still trying) is because some test wells onsite showed contamination. OMYA agreed to test some wells in the area. We had ours tested last spring and still haven't got the results. OMYA not hiding anything? The question begs to be asked would you want a 32-acre sludge pile 80 feet high less than a mile from your well?
My biggest complaint is the steady noise from the plant. Seven days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, there is a constant humming from OMYA. We can't enjoy a barbecue on our deck because all we can hear is the hum from OMYA. We can't open a window on hot summer nights because of the constant noise from OMYA. I have been calling them since 1989 and complaining against the noise. Believe me, Mr. Bradley, the people who live next to OMYA are well aware of the facts and we didn't get our facts fed to us by OMYA at their open house in their Middlebury quarry last October. OMYA is insensitive to its neighbors concerns.
Rutland Herald letter to the editor
Let's support Vermont business
February 14, 2005
I'm tired of reading the rhetoric and outrageous accusations made by people who are too lazy to find the facts, or too extreme to care about the facts. I am, of course, referring to the recent letter to the editor signed by Brennan Michaels of Salisbury. Who are the Vermonters you supposedly represent? Are they natives? Are you?
As a third-generation native Vermonter, I'm too busy earning a living to sit on the green in Brandon counting Omya trucks. I chose to stay here in Vermont and raise my family. This choice was made possible because of the well-paying jobs that businesses like Omya, Velco, IBM, and others offer.
These companies support our economy in more ways than most realize. Their employees frequent other local businesses, grocery stores, mortgage companies, gas stations, lunch spots, insurance companies, and the list goes on.
No, I've never had the opportunity to fly over the Middlebury quarry; probably never will. But, I did take time to fact-find at Omya's Middlebury quarry open house last October along with lots of other Vermont residents and tourists. On a tour of the quarry, I saw exactly what they do there and talked to many Omya employees and subcontractors. I was impressed by Omya's operations and the fact they were so willing to discuss their operations. Omya isn't hiding anything.
The critics of Omya are quick to use blanket statements, based on generalizations. I for one think the burden of proof should be on those who are quick to judge, not on a company who provides so many, with so much.
I would like to see more of the people in Vermont who support business and economic development represented in the news. Let's be Vermonters for Vermont businesses for a change.
KEVIN M. BRADLEY
Omya pollutes state environment
February 9, 2005
To Gov. James Douglas:
I am sickened when I hear Jim Reddy of Omya threaten to move his $180 million to Alabama because the environmental laws in that state are less strict than Vermont. Vermont's environment is literally the lifeblood of its residents, not a thing to use as a threat or tamper with or play with as in a game of chess. So the next time Jim Reddy threatens to leave this state, please tell him that would be fine with us.
Omya's essence in Vermont has been to hurt the environment. Have you ever flown over the huge gaping hole that is Omya's strip mine in East Middlebury? Have you ever seen the unbelievably huge waste pile at the Florence plant site that we now know contains dangerous chemicals? Have you ever talked with the residents of Florence about the air pollution from Omya's plant or their constant worries about their drinking water? Have you ever sat on the Brandon green and counted the Omya trucks go by?
This is a multinational corporation that has and is completely disregarding Vermont laws. Can you explain to me why the state of Vermont has not forced this company to comply with state laws as it does with all its residents? I have enclosed a letter to the attorney general in case you have not had the chance to read it. Many Vermont residents have been sending this letter to Attorney General Sorrel.
People come to visit this state and to live here because we do care about the environment. Please do not let Omya use Vermont as a pawn in their profit game. Our environment truly is our lifeblood and we count on you to keep it healthy.
Rutland Herald, Letter to the editor
Wennberg has failed to protect Vermonters
December 5, 2004
Christopher Kilian says in his commentary about water pollution published in the Nov. 7 edition of the Sunday Rutland Herald and Times Argus that Vermonters should be scared by Commissioner Jeffrey Wennberg's response to the recent ruling requiring compliance with the Clean Water Act.
I have to agree with him, especially after spending two years watching Wennberg's Department of Environmental Conservation fail to address Omya's water and air pollution in Florence, Vt., and fail to protect the health of residents and the environment.
I am weary of hearing excuses from DEC about why the state cannot stop Omya's chemically contaminated waste from being dumped into groundwater and why the residents of Florence continue to have to breathe fumes emanating from Omya's processing plant.
Omya, Vermont Law School's Environmental Law Clinic and Vermonters for a Clean Environment became so frustrated with DEC's ineptness that we entered into mediation with the state in June rather than continue with the bizarre process that DEC set up for reconsidering the reconsideration of an exemption. But mediation has apparently failed.
Two years after the residents of Florence learned that for more than two decades Omya has been dumping chemically contaminated waste into fractured bedrock quarries full of groundwater, Omya's neighbors are no closer to assurance that their water and air are safe. Commissioner Wennberg is protecting the polluter, not the environment or public health.
Christopher Kilian asks if Commissioner Wennberg is up to the task he has been charged with. The residents of Florence have waited patiently for two years for answers. Time is up, Commissioner.
Vermonters for a Clean Environment
Rutland Herald, Letter to the editor
November 23, 2004
A few years ago, Rutland claimed its 15 seconds of fame when the multi-modal parking garage was honored with a "Fleecing of America Award," duly reported on the evening news. In comparison, however, it appears that the planned railyard relocation project has the potential to provide material for a major motion picture.
What got me thinking about this was driving by Rutland's admittedly attractive train station today at noon, and seeing the closed sign in the window, with the notice that no services are available the station, no one is on duty, and tickets can only be obtained by calling Amtrak's 800 number. So what Rutland has done is build a non-functional railroad station next to a completely serviceable parking garage, which for whatever reasons was never really used, then build a new parking garage several blocks away, then encourage the bus operator to move the nearby bus terminal to a more distant location at the new parking garage, and then make plans to demolish the old parking garage. I can only wonder if, in a final act of absurdity, the railroad tracks will now be relocated from the non-functional railroad station to the south side of the city as part of the planned railyard relocation project. Rutland could have achieved the same result by simply building a Mel Brooks-style false front train station out of plywood for a few thousand dollars.
As far as the rail yard relocation goes, the thinking seems to be "If you build it, they will come." With the recent announcement by Omya that they will not be pursuing their Danby operation, "if you build it they will go" might be more accurate. When this project was first dreamed up, a figure of $20 million was being kicked around, but it seems to have somehow grown to $100 million. In my opinion, it doesn't matter if the funding would be local or federal. My suggestion? Spend $1 million to staff the train station for the next 20 years, and use the remaining $99 million to improve every road in Rutland County.
Sunday Rutland HeraldTimes Argus
Danby is in the shadow of environmental activism
October 10, 2004
Omya won't be opening a new marble quarry in Danby. Vermonters for a Clean Environment has established the gold standard for environmental activism blending personal fortunes, neighborhood pride and brilliant public relations capitalizing on the Internet. Are there implications for economic development in Vermont?
Privately held Omya says that it can take a longer view than publicly held companies. Whoever owns the land, such untapped natural resources will retain their value as long as there are markets for them. Omya or its successor could simply wait until a yet unborn generation or two populate that area before trying again.
A helpful deterrent to future quarry proposals could be extensive second-home development surrounding that property. Towns could welcome new tax revenues surpassing increased costs of municipal services. And second-home owners would augment and preserve quarry opponents' natural constituency.
But what about jobs for typical Vermonters? With "around 5,600 employees in some 100 locations in 30 countries," Omya is about as significant in the global economy as IBM's Essex Junction plant. Would such a plant be built in today's Vermont?
Vermonters for a Clean Environment's exemplary success, known worldwide via the Internet and major media coverage that influential part-time residents can obtain, will eclipse Act 250 as Vermont's perceived resistance to economic development. For every Danby, there is another Vermont town hoping for revived prosperity, but living in the shadow of environmental activism.
Where is their place in the Vermont sun? Who will be Vermonters for a Prosperous Economy?
Letter to the editor
June 14, 2004
Environmental record is weak
I scratched my head in wonder as I read Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Elizabeth McLain's glowing analysis of Governor Douglas' leadership on environmental issues.
Is this the same Agency that has so mismanaged Omya's waste case that all the parties are screaming in frustration?
The Douglas administration promised and is claiming credit for efficiency and good process on environmental issues. So why did Secretary McLain remand a reconsideration of an exemption request back to Commissioner Wennberg to reconsider for the second time? And when she called it a "declaratory ruling" process, was she aware that the Agency never promulgated rules for the so-called process, and so the parties are having to make them up as we go along?
Rather than allowing the Solid Waste Division within the Department of Environmental Conservation to do its job regulating and enforcing the disposal of contaminated waste, Secretary McLain has created a real nightmare for Omya and everyone concerned about the safety of the water and air in Florence.
No, we are not seeing decisive action and effective environmental leadership. The Douglas administration is not doing a good job protecting public health and the environment. We are not impressed with the secretary's politically-motivated words about what a wonderful job the governor is doing when, after two years, this administration has not taken the steps required by law to assure that people -- the water they drink and the air they breathe -- are safe from pollution.
We have seen political expediency as the primary motivation for Governor Douglas' environmental initiatives. What we are not seeing is the political will to take decisive actions when required. Instead what we see from this administration is paralysis. The secretary's rosy words do not make up for her failures or the failures of Governor Douglas.
Vermonters for a Clean Environment)
Rutland Herald Letters to the editor
May 5, 2004
Solid waste fees should be fair
Omya generates about 100,000 tons of waste annually from its calcium carbonate processing operation in Florence. Vermont's Environmental Commissioner Jeff Wennberg recently ruled that the disposal of this waste must be regulated as solid waste under Vermont law, because some of the chemicals it contains have been detected in test wells located near the deposited waste. If his decision stands, Omya will have to comply with the Vermont solid waste rules, like other solid waste generators.
There are various fees and taxes associated with the solid waste program. They are used both to pay for the administration of the program and also to encourage the reduction of solid waste required to be landfilled. Special legislation has been introduced that would greatly reduce the fees and taxes applicable to Omya's solid waste. According to a recent letter from Representative Flory to the Rutland Herald, Omya's fees and taxes under the proposed legislation would be $25,000 per year, or 25 cents per ton.
By comparison, according to Rutland County Solid Waste District figures, the member towns of the district paid $23.97 per ton in fees and taxes to dispose of their 37,000 tons of solid waste in 2003, or nearly $900,000. By taxing Omya's solid waste at approximately a rate of 1 percent of that applied to other solid waste generators, there appears to be little incentive for Omya to reduce the amount of waste it generates. This undermines the very laudable goal of Vermont's solid waste law, which is to reduce Vermont's overall generation of solid waste. I urge the Legislature to establish fees and taxes on Omya's solid waste, consistent with the intent of Vermont's solid waste law.
ERNEST J. BROD
Rutland Herald letter to editor
April 20, 2004
Better use for city land
As long as our elected and business leaders are willing to engage in grand schemes on which to spend taxpayer dollars, such as the Rutland railyard relocation, with an estimated price tag of at least $100 million, may we play future fantasy, too, and think about other big ideas for that site and money that might offer more benefit to the region?
The 77-acre trapezoid-shaped parcel bounded to the south by Route 4 West, to the west by the Otter Creek, to the east by the railroad tracks and to the north by Park Street is envisioned by some as the ideal spot for an expanded railyard with new industrial sites.
Take a walk on the site and you will find that it contains some beautiful wetlands and acres of farmland. The current proposal for the railyard site involves filling in at least 17 acres of wetlands to create an industrial zone.
While there are benefits to the area in moving the railyard, the primary beneficiary would be Omya. Newspaper articles about the railyard relocation and expansion project say clearly: "Moving the rail would allow freight transport - principally Omya tankers at the moment - to expand."
Omya expects politicians to change the rules just for them and wants taxpayers to fund another $20 million to enable the private corporation's expansion of ore extraction from Middlebury. Is it really in the public interest to enable Omya's expansion by building a huge railyard in Rutland?
What else might be done with the proposed railyard site that would offer more benefits to the people of the region?
The obvious approach is to build on what is already there - the production of food and the existence of natural areas that serve an important water purification function.
The site could be turned into a Rutland version of Burlington's Intervale Foundation's gardens, which produced 6 percent of Burlington's fresh produce in 2003. The natural areas could serve as a community nature trail with education about the important functions of wetlands. Similar to the plans for the Intervale, surrounding businesses might develop ways to share resources and eliminate or use waste products.
People are becoming more concerned about where food comes from and about our planet's health. Rutland can bulldoze and fill and industrialize, or look to the future and plan for local food production and maintaining ecological balance. We have time to make smart choices about our future and about the future of an important large parcel of land in the heart of Rutland.
Vermonters for a Clean Environment)
Rutland Herald Letter to the editor
Thursday, April 1, 2004
Determining fees for Omya
In response to the letter to the editor in last week's paper, I need to clear up what appears to be some incorrect information.
The House Ways and Means Committee was discussing their "fee bill" and, because there was a section that would impact Omya, the chairman of the committee asked me to provide information to the committee. I attended and testified at the committee's request, not at Omya's request.
The issue they were dealing with was not whether Omya should be granted a permit for their tailings pile. Their issue was simply what should Omya pay under the fee structure if a permit were issued. The merits of the project itself are in the hands of the Agency of Natural Resources, which is dealing with Omya's permit.
Prior to 2003, mineral wastes were thought to be exempt from having to obtain a solid waste permit. However, a preliminary decision has been reached that appears to require Omya to obtain a solid waste permit for their tailing pile. Because this would be a new process which would include not only Omya but all of our granite and slate companies among others, it was necessary to evaluate the fee structure.
The fees, taxes, surcharges and tipping fees charged for landfills and other solid wastes are based on tonnage. These fees are intended to offset the costs to the state for the monitoring and processing that the state does for these systems. In Omya's case, if the normal fee structure was used, that fee would be over $2.3 million per year. Clearly this is far more than the state would expend for any monitoring. The proposal the House Ways and Means Committee was considering was to have the charges apply to the non-mineral portion of the tailings. This approach would have amounted to approximately $25,000 per year, which appears to be much closer to the intended offset.
Unfortunately, the discussion of the opponents was primarily focused on objections to the project itself and the concerns raised over impacts the project may have. These are concerns that are being addressed through the permitting process and not appropriate in a discussion of the amount of "tipping fees" Omya should be charged if they, in fact, ultimately obtain a permit.
The statement was also made by the opponents to the Omya project that there was currently no way for residents of Florence to find out if their water was safe "because Omya pays for the tests." This is blatantly incorrect. The town of Pittsford has the water tested by an independent lab, and it is paid for by the water users.
The merits of the Omya project, and the conditions to protect the safety of the residents in Florence, are currently being addressed through the permitting arm of the Agency of Natural Resources.
I continue to work to assist the people and the businesses in our communities to strike a balance that satisfies our need for a safe environment and good-paying jobs.
Rep. MARGARET K. FLORY
Rutland Herald Letter to Editor
Wednesday, March 24, 2004
Flory serving OMYA's interests
Since October 2002, residents in Florence who are neighbors of OMYA have been distressed by OMYA's plans to construct a 32-acre, 80-foot-high tailings dumpsite. It will contain 30 million pounds of chemicals, mostly toxic. This proposed dumpsite is to be located on a hill composed of fractured bedrock with direct access to groundwater. The hill is above the Florence water supply and the Otter Creek.
A group of neighbors have banded together to form Residents Concerned about OMYA. We have received valuable and critical assistance from Vermonters for a Clean Environment, the Vermont Law School, Toxics Action Center, and others. Through efforts that have consumed a great deal of time and expense, we have been fighting this proposal through local zoning, Act 250, and the Agency of Natural Resources, Solid Waste Division.
We want to ensure that this toxic material is put into a lined landfill. At one point Commissioner Wennberg of ANR rendered a judgment against OMYA. This long battle, at the moment of seeming victory, has been utterly subverted by Pittsford's own representative, Peg Flory. She accompanied OMYA to the House Ways and Means Committee to introduce legislation that would eliminate or severely reduce OMYA's solid waste taxes and fees. OMYA wants to be exempted from the very taxes and fees meant to reduce the amount of waste they produce. Taxes are levied by the ton and provide an incentive for recycling or transforming the material from toxic to benign. OMYA generates 100,000 tons of waste per year - every ounce of which is tainted by toxic chemicals. OMYA is the largest user of pesticides in the entire state. Recycling could become an attractive alternative if the presently required fees are maintained. There is no reason to change the tax structure other than to favor OMYA's profits above the health of the community and the environment. Further, the law is designed to assure that the polluter pays the costs of their impacts.
Ms. Flory lives in a section of Pittsford with a different water source than that of Florence, which seems to render her indifferent to our plight. In fact, Ms. Flory gives every appearance of being OMYA's paid lobbyist rather than a representative of her constituents. I urge all residents of Pittsford to help us in our time of need and remove Peg Flory from her seat in the Vermont House of Representatives.
Wednesday, December 31, 2003
Letter to the editor
Omya seeking 'right' answers
In the article about Omya continuing to keep the residents of Danby in limbo for the foreseeable future, Omya President Jim Reddy says some disturbing things about our water; even worse are the things between the lines.
The hydrogeological study is done, the readings have been taken, the data are there and aren't going to change - we hope. So why keep this a secret? What is there to hide? Because it is going to take another year to get "the right answer?"
It is clear that there are already answers, but they are the "wrong" ones - for Omya. It is also clear that the "right answer" has already been determined by Omya - that Omya's pumping did not cause my spring to dry up 10 days later, did not cause wells, ponds and springs to dry up for a country mile around. They just need another year to remanufacture the study to support Reddy's claim that it was the drought, and only the drought that took our water, the indefensible conclusion he has been declaring for a year.
I've done my own water study from inside the zone of depletion, watching those karst aquifer siphons slowly fill back up one by one; seeing my spring fill back up - but my pond stays dry. Why? Because Omya's drilling rearranged some water veins; the water may still be there, but it is going somewhere else.
The damage has already begun. It is very likely that the data will show other locations which - like my pond - haven't come back. Omya's past drilling has already dried up springs.
Every day of secrecy that goes by casts more doubt on the credibility and validity of a report that already has answers that are indefensible and/or wrong. Keeping the secret is indefensible.
December 4, 2003
Guarding against Omya waste
Contrary to the claim of Omya's president, Jim Reddy, that the state's toxicologists and scientists said the company's waste material is safe, the state's toxicologist in Vermont's Department of Health never said that.
What Dr. Bill Bress said was that if the chemicals are evenly distributed and if the chemicals remain the same and do not change, then the tailings meet EPA soil screening standards.
VCE commented using Omya's own submissions to show that the chemicals are not evenly distributed. We also showed that Omya changes the chemicals it uses. Therefore, the tailings do not meet EPA soil-screening standards according to the criteria established by Dr. Bress. It is a big jump from "if this and if that, then EPA soil-screening standards are met" to "it is safe."
In addition to tall oil that exceeds standards in groundwater on Omya's property, as indicated in the Rutland Herald's article, "Omya told it needs permit for 'dump'", Commissioner Wennberg also found amounts of acetone in groundwater samples on Omya's site that exceeded groundwater enforcement and preventative action standards.
According to the fact sheet on acetone from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, "health effects from long-term exposures are known mostly from animal studies. Kidney, liver, and nerve damage, increased birth defects, and lowered ability to reproduce (males only) occurred in animals exposed long-term. It is not known if people would have these same effects."
VCE has recommended to Omya that they invest in phytoremediation, a process that can remove the chemicals from the waste, which is more than 50 percent calcium carbonate. Technologies now exist to clean and recycle waste material for use rather than piling it in a dump that will pose a threat to current residents and future generations.
We are grateful to Commissioner Wennberg and the many people who participated in the year-long process that resulted in this decision to protect groundwater and public health.
We can fight about a lot of things, but we can agree that water is a human right that needs to be protected and conserved for all life and should not be contaminated or wasted.
(Executive director, Vermonters for a Clean Environment)
Rutland Herald, Letter to editor
Nov. 29, 2003
Newspaper’s ad-to-news ratio is out of balance
Most days I read the Rutland Herald while walking from the newspaper tube to the barn. The content has become so weak that it is easy to skim the entire paper while walking 800 feet. If there’s an article I want to read, I sit down on a hay bale and read through it before milking while the cows are munching their hay. Often there’s a newspaper insert, some sort of advertising on which I put my milk pail while I’m changing out of my barn boots.
Sundays are another matter. Deconstructing the paper takes the entire walk to the barn. I’m lucky if some of the shiny ads don’t fall on the ground as I pull them out from between each section. After assembling all the advertising inserts, I leaf through them to try to find the Parade Magazine, the Sunday Magazine and the comics. It seems to have become even more of a puzzle lately and it takes a lot more time to unravel. I always notice that by weight, the newspaper inserts weigh about twice as much as the entire rest of the paper.
Recently, I noticed the article about the proposed tire burn at the Ticonderoga paper plant. I wonder how many tires will have to be burned to produce all those newspaper inserts. And the shiny ones the ones that slip out of my hands as I try to deposit them in the garbage can I keep outside my house as I come in from the barn contain calcium carbonate produced by, among others, OMYA.
I wonder how many trucks, how much dynamite, how much water, how many biocides and other chemicals, how much oil, how much pure white Vermont marble is consumed to produce all that shiny paper; and how much waste (that contains chemicals) and how much more hazardous air pollution is deposited in Pittsford to make something that goes from my garbage can into a Vermont landfill.
I understand that newspapers need advertising. But as a reader of the only local daily paper around, I need stronger content in the news coverage and less junk to throw away especially when it is produced by polluting industries that fail to recognize that the bottom line isn’t just about their dollars. It’s about our health and a sustainable society. We are tired of seeing our air and water polluted and our resources wasted so corporations can pay their executives higher salaries while threatening their workforce with closure if the big chiefs don’t get everything they want.
Letter to the editor
Saturday, Nov. 8, 2003
Mine tailings are not exempt
In his response to my commentary (Oct. 29), OMYA Inc. President Jim Reddy alleges that, as the former commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation, I helped create an exemption to Vermonts solid waste rules that OMYA is now seeking. Nothing could be further from the truth.
As originally drafted in 1987, the rules did include a narrow exception for earth materials, but what we had in mind were tree stumps, rocks, and similar, benign materials, not processed mining waste containing toxic chemicals. At no time during my tenure did the state authorize the kind of dumping of mine tailings that OMYA has been doing for the past two decades.
Mr. Reddy may think this waste is "safe," but he isn’t the one living next to the mine and drinking the groundwater underneath the waste pile. Vermont’s environmental laws are designed to prevent contamination before it happens, not wait until people get sick.
Whatever happened 15 years ago is irrelevant to the question of what should be done now. On that score the law is absolutely clear: This waste must be placed in a certified solid waste facility and properly monitored and managed.
PATRICK A. PARENTEAU
Letter to the editor
November 5, 2003
Is limestone renewable?
In the recent self-promotion advertising insert by a mining company in the Herald newspaper, there is a statement that limestone is a renewable material.
Is there now any reason to believe anything else they say?
Letter to the editor
October 6, 2003
Florence site poses danger
The 32-acre dump site proposed by OMYA Corp. in Florence has the future potential for more problems than this area deserves. Everyone who lives in and around this planned waste dump had better wake and smell the roses.
The long-term effects health-wise and decline in property values are a distinct possibility. If this corporation is the good neighbor it professes to be, let me say the following.
Good neighbors do not create mountainous dump sites with their unknown potential for future problems. Once this artificial waste area has reached its capacity, what then?
In their words, this site has a life span of 10 years for this plant's residue.
Now to address the problem of making any more of it. This land is the only home we will ever have. If its water and air are compromised, what good is the land? Our children and grandchildren should not suffer because of the mistakes and negligence of their forbears.
Now if the project turns out to be doable, let it be done with every safeguard. The future will depend on how well the present stewards do their jobs.
Lastly, the OMYA Corp. is not the enemy. They have a serious problem to solve. The residents of the area must work and be part of the solution. Rational thinking and respect for the rights of all concerned parties is absolutely essential.
Thus, when the history books describe this period in future years, they will reflect and show by example that we did things right.
JOHN J. REARDON SR.
Letter to the editor
Monday, August 18, 2003
Dont thank polluters
It is encouraging to hear that teenagers are learning to become firefighters. That Omya is sponsoring this training does not surprise me. Omya underwrites many community enterprises.
Using large quantities of water, oil and pesticides, Omya makes billions of dollars by grinding our beautiful Vermont mountains into white dust. Once gone, this resource will never be recovered. Omya will be able to poison our water here in Florence, unless we are able to stop them.
Omyas blasting has broken windows, damaged furnace walls, and shaken foundations of neighbors houses.
If one has billions of dollars and gives away even one million dollars, it would be the equivalent of me on my income giving $5 to charity. Do they really deserve a heartfelt thank-you from us all?
Letter to the editor
Congratulations to firefighters
I recently had the opportunity to attend graduation ceremonies for the firefighters cadet training which was held at the Fire and Police Academy in Pittsford.
A group of 47 teenagers, both male and female, attended this week-long program to learn about firefighting and the responsibilities involved in this form of community service.
OMYA Industries was the corporate sponsor of this week. What a great dedication to the Rutland area and the state of Vermont this company has provided. They make products that we use daily in our lives: everything from ingredients in toothpaste and antacid tablets to insulation for our homes and businesses. They deserve a heartfelt thank-you from us all.
I would also like to acknowledge the volunteer fire departments who provide these young men and women the gear required to participate in this training..
These future firefighters are a wonderful example of how teenagers can and do things that are such positive influences in our communities. Congratulations to everyone involved.
LINDA F. WEEDEN
Letter to the editor
June 16, 2003
Clean water issue here
Carolyn Crowley Meub is concerned with the lack of clean drinking water in developing countries. Does she know what is happening just 11 miles north of Rutland?
In tiny Florence we are facing the problem of safe drinking water. However, technology is threatening our water.
OMYA has plans to construct a 32-acre, 80-foot high tailings dump site near and above the Florence municipal well. This is a 10-year project. When completed it will contain 15,000 tons of chemicals! Thats right, 30 million pounds of chemicals.
Many people who live around this site get their water from wells and springs. What will happen to these sources when chemicals begin leaching into the ground?
What chemicals? Pesticides, petroleum by-products and other pollutants. So far OMYA doesnt want to line this landfill.
Carolyn Crowley Meub knows clean drinking water is precious. So do the residents of Florence.
We in the United States are blessed with resources that many in the world cannot even imagine. Shouldnt we be protecting these resources from corporate greed?
Letter to editor
March 19, 2003
Dont buy OMYAs fantasy
Dear Governor Douglas:
When I heard you on the radio (Jan. 21), I was appalled to hear you reading directly from the Jim Reddy cue card in response to the OMYA question.
The sales pitch on this cue card is the same one used in all their operations. Here are the real numbers on the Danby strip mine fantasy there is no plan.
* The mining crew would be transferred from another location, so no new jobs there.
* The plant expansion has already taken place, internally, doubling their capacity; any new construction would be further automation to eliminate a number of jobs in the filter maintenance and loading operations. No new jobs there.
* The trucking jobs would be transferred from those lost to the Middlebury rail spur.
* Their other subcontractor and peripheral services would see no change from the new strip mine in Danby because they would not be involved in it.
* The threat to move their investment (to Canada, Alabama, etc.) is the same pitch they use worldwide. This threat was used in Canada (Give us everything we want or well move out.), as it was being used here.
* They routinely misrepresent employment numbers, as they did last year in their attempt to buy the Deane Davis award. They promised hundreds of jobs at their Vingrau, France, mine, but the end result was one job.
* The Danby strip mine would destroy at least a dozen existing jobs in the local rural economy in addition to destroying local water supplies this has already begun with their groundwater depletion tests during last summers drought. The protected fens and wetlands below the strip mine site would also be destroyed in the massive dewatering of the mine.
Reddy suggested that his economic development strip mine would result in around 100 new jobs; he obviously thinks you are gullible enough to believe this. My cows have deposited a large amount of economic development potential ready for strip-mining. How about methane development? This would be real economic development.
The Ottawa Citizen
Letter to editor
Tuesday, March 18, 2003
Truth is a victim of the OMYA furore
Richard Bowen says the OMYA fuss is based on concern about 3.65 cm of water taken from a reservoir regularly drawn down 1.5 metres.
Re: A Walkerton waiting to happen, Feb. 18 and Perth will pay for OMYA deal, group warns, Feb. 20.
The truth behind the issue of taking water from the Tay River is being buried by sensational headlines.
I visit the shore of Christie Lake, part of the Tay system, almost every day in the summer to go swimming with the kids. I have witnessed the decking of the cottagers' docks floating because the water has risen. This is an irony that is lost on opponents of the water-taking permit. Why does the water rise even during a dry summer? It rises to push more water down the Tay and into the Rideau Canal. Where does all this water come from? From a reservoir called Bob's Lake.
A recent Citizen article reported that Bruce Reid, of the Ottawa Valley Conservation Authority, had recommended that his board of directors vote to endorse the province's decision to allow the original water-taking permit. Why would he do that if the vocal opponents of the permit are right? Why would he endorse another Walkerton? He wouldn't. The people trying to link Walkerton to the Tay issue are playing fast and loose with the truth.
In fact, the water-taking will hardly affect the flow of the Tay. Fisheries and Oceans Canada estimates that it will reduce the level of Bob's Lake by 3.65 centimetres over the course of one year. That's right, all this fuss is over about 3.65 cm of water from a reservoir that is regularly drawn down 1..5 metres.
The opponents quote large and scary-sounding numbers such as 4.5 million litres per day, but they never mention the same quantity as a percentage of river flow. That would be between one and five per cent, depending on the season. Perhaps now people can understand what Mr. Reid meant when he said, "The scientific information is sound for this permit ..."
I agree that ad hoc ministerial decisions and permit-granting in the absence of any federal or provincial planning for water use are wrong. But it is also wrong to conceal the truth to try to make an environmental point, no matter how noble one's motives.
The Ottawa Citizen
Letter to editor
February 22, 2003
OMYA should pay fee for consumption of Tay River water
I have no idea whether OMYA's extraction of 4.5 million litres per day of water from the Tay River risks harming the environment. But I am sure that the water should not be made available free of charge to this company.
Access to large quantities of water is a significant commercial benefit for which companies should be prepared to pay a consumption fee. Such a fee would legitimately enhance provincial coffers but also represent an incentive for the company to use this valuable resource efficiently.
The Ottawa Citizen
Thursday, February 20, 2003
Minister's meddling an abuse of power
Re: Who's in charge here? Feb. 16.
Environment Minister Chris Stockwell's decision to overrule a tribunal decision on OMYA Canada's extraction of water from the Tay River is deplorable and alarming. The minister should reverse his decision immediately.
It is a misuse of ministerial power to overrule the provincial Environmental Review Tribunal's decision. While it is not beyond ministerial authority to do so, it ought to be.
If Mr. Stockwell felt so strongly about this issue, he had an opportunity to make a submission to the tribunal like everyone else. Overruling the decision reeks of corporate meddling in a legitimate process.
All citizens, including ministers of the Crown and OMYA Canada employees, must abide by the decisions of authoritative public bodies. Ontarians should not have to tolerate what looks like an abuse of power.
The Ottawa Citizen
Thursday, February 20, 2003
Allowing water withdrawal is justified
Re: A Walkerton waiting to happen, Feb. 18.
This Citizen article is nothing more than yellow journalism. It is unprofessional and void of fact. Even your chronology is selective and incomplete.
To link the water withdrawals by OMYA from the Tay River to Walkerton is fallacious, scurrilous and utter tripe. One has nothing to do with the other. Walkerton resulted from an unethical, untruthful, pitiful man who altered records and lied about the purity of water that he was charged with protecting. His unforgivable actions resulted in deaths in his own community.
The fact that OMYA is owned by foreign interests has nothing to do with whether it should be permitted to draw water from the Tay River. Should we not allow General Motors or the Ford Motor Company to access water associated with their Canadian operations? OMYA (Canada) Inc. is a legitimate business, incorporated under the laws of Canada and should be able to do business within the same rules as any other corporation in Ontario.
An application was made for permission to withdraw water from the Tay River by the company; a decision was rendered regarding that withdrawal by the environment ministry; that decision was challenged; a review process took place; a decision was rendered by the Environmental Review Tribunal; OMYA appealed that decision to Environment Minister Chris Stockwell; and after reviewing the facts, he gave his decision. I am in agreement with Mr. Stockwell.
I am an interested party in the Tay River dispute. I am a long-time cottage owner on Christie Lake and also a trained environmental professional. I support the government in this most recent decision. Based on the facts, it is the right thing to do.
Peter M. Higgins,
Letter to editor
February 12, 2003
House member from OMYA
After reading House choice surprise to some (Jan. 31), I was surprised. There isnt even a hint in the article that David Sunderland was probably tapped by Governor Douglas because Sunderland is employed by OMYA. There are a lot of issues on the burner with OMYA in this part of the state, and how convenient for Governor Douglas to choose Sunderland at this crucial time. In the case of Mr. Sunderland, a House seat could become a lobbying position. Is this a possible conflict of interest?
At the risk of repeating myself ad nauseam, Im surprised that more voters arent concerned and vocal about the protocol of filling a vacated state Senate or House seat. Protocol calls for the governor to tap someone forwarded by a caucus or choose someone himself, sans caucus. Who doesnt want to get a pal or crony into office? With only 40 or 50 people (Im guess-timating) voting at a caucus, its pretty darn easy. To my way of thinking, if the governor picks someone without a caucus, an elected seat becomes a political plum.
A different route for filling a vacancy might be to go back to the primary election if one took place and the next highest vote-getter would fill the vacancy. An even better system would be instant runoff voting for all elections and offices. Who could question motives then?
As an active voter, I want to be represented by a person who has campaigned and whose stances have been publicized.
Letter to editor
February 12, 2003
Tapping handy campaign money
In these frigid, uncertain times, it is heartening to know that Rutland Towns newly arrived and appointed state representative, OMYA engineer Sunderland, can count on the Good Fairy dropping his hoped-for $25,000 campaign chest in his lap when needed (Rutland Herald, Jan. 31) and that, by appointing him, our governor equally enjoys the warm and fuzzy security of assured campaign monies resulting from dwelling in OMYAs encompassing green-lined pocket.
Letters for Friday, Jan. 31, 2003
How to buy a legislative seat
Can Rutland Town's legislative seat be bought?
That's a question raised by Gov. Jim Douglas's recent appointment of an unknown newcomer as Rutland Town's representative to the Vermont House.
The governor passed over two local folks to appoint David Sunderland to represent the town he has lived in for just over a year. In a letter sent to Rutland Town Republicans, Mr. Sunderland promised, if appointed, to raise $25,000 to defend his newly acquired seat in the 2004 elections. With that glitter of gold in their eyes, eager Republicans embraced Mr. Sunderland as one of their three candidates for town representative. Ironically, most of those voting had not met Sunderland - or even heard of him - until he threw his pricey hat into the ring.
Brushing aside any notion that he lacked experience to represent his new town, Sunderland, who has apparently never held elected office, was quoted by the Rutland Herald of Jan. 28 as saying, "This is really a decision based on the future, not on someone's past." Small wonder he wants voters to ignore his past contributions to the town. He hasn't any.
By contrast, Lori Mesli has done much for our community. Lori's name went to the governor, too. She is a small business owner - her Peanut Gallery provides much needed child care to the area and jobs for our youth. But kids are not just a business for her - she is a staunch advocate for them and for their needs.
Lori is and has been a loyal, but not lockstep, Republican. She is past president of a local Rotary Club, has run for and held local office, helped Bill Meub in his recent campaign, and has actively served as justice of the peace. Lori thinks for herself. Is that why she was passed over? Is it because she does not work for a high-profile, foreign corporation like OMYA? Or is it because she did not pledge to spend an obscene amount of money on the next campaign?
Governor Douglas has done a disservice to Rutland Town with his new appointment. In two years voters will have a chance to correct that error. Then we can send the message that Rutland Town's seat in the Legislature is not for sale.
MARY C. ASHCROFT
Burlington Free Press
Letter to the Editor
January 29, 2003
Profits vs. people
"OMYA symbolizes Vermont fight over jobs, the environment" (Free Press, Dec. 23) misses the point of the strong opposition to OMYA's expansion plans. OMYA is not in business to create jobs. Indeed, like all businesses, it is constantly seeking ways to reduce costs and provide fewer jobs. It is in business to create profits -- for its Swiss owner. And the environment is not the only loser in OMYA's expansion plans; it is whole communities whose lives will be disrupted, whose property values will decline, whose local road maintenance and other costs will increase.
OMYA would very much like to have the public and regulators see this controversy as "jobs vs. the environment." But it is profits vs. people and communities. Some business expansion plans, like OMYA's, just cost local communities way too much for the few jobs they do provide and the incremental money they spend locally. A full accounting of costs vs. benefits would show that.
Saturday, January 18, 2003
Railyard meant to aid OMYA
It is understandable that Vermonts environmental organizations have gotten on board the proposed rail improvements for the western corridor. It is the sort of project that Vermonters for a Clean Environment would like to be supporting. We can all agree that rail improvements in this part of Vermont are in the regions best interests.
But the devil is in the details, and those details are still being glossed over by David OBrien and Tom Donahue in their commentary Rail project good for economy (Rutland Herald, Jan. 8, 2003). For instance, is it true that the railyard relocation proposal calls for filling in 18 acres of wetlands?
OBrien and Donahue say, We hope that the opportunity to divert truck traffic off local roads and onto rail is a benefit that we can all appreciate. This project is not at all focused on one industry or company, but rather the development of the Rutland region and the entire Route 7 corridor of Vermont.
I beg to differ. The size of the railyard relocation project is focused on meeting the expansion desires of one company, OMYA, which accounts for the majority of rail traffic in Rutland. In February 2001, OMYA produced a graph called OMYA Rail Business Trend Projection, 2001-2010, showing the number of OMYA rail cars at 130 in 2001, increasing to 270 by 2010, with congestion occurring in 2003.
A Feb. 28, 2001, Rutland Herald article, New railyard may be six years away, says Kenneth Enzor, director of logistics and distribution for OMYA, said, Thats too late. Enzor said that if OMYA, a marble processing company based in Florence, continued to grow as projected, it would have more business than the railyard could handle in three years.
The question remains: Where is OMYA going to get the raw materials to fuel the growth projections? Those of us who live in the Danby Four Corners valley have been led by OMYA to believe that it intends to get that raw material here. If so, then we would like to see the transportation plan that supports the movement of that raw material to OMYAs plant in Florence, where it will be turned into product to be shipped out by rail from the relocated and expanded Rutland railyard. Planning the details must be a part of this process.
If the raw material is not coming from Danby, then where will OMYA get it, and what is that transportation plan?
Approaching this project piecemeal may serve OMYAs process of business development, which does not involve sound planning in cooperation with the communities affected. However, allowing OMYA to piecemeal its expansion in the absence of detailed planning does not serve our region or our economy well.
(Vermonters for a Clean Environment)
Burlington Free Press
Thursday, January 09, 2003
Letters to the editor
Matt Sutkoski made a very important point in the article "OMYA symbolizes fight over jobs, the environment" (Free Press, Dec. 23) by not saying that it was jobs vs. the environment.
The article correctly states that Vermont manufacturing jobs decreased from 47,600 in 1997 to 46,100 in 2001, which is a 3 percent drop. Over the same period on the same basis from the same source (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics), national manufacturing employment decreased 9.2 percent, which is three times the Vermont rate. The reality is that manufacturing jobs are moving from the United States to overseas locations.
Even more impressive is the fact that Vermont manufacturing jobs from 1992 to 2001 increased 6 percent, whereas the U.S. national numbers for manufacturing jobs show over the same period that U.S. manufacturing employment declined 6 percent. It is difficult to argue that environmental laws have had a negative impact on Vermont manufacturing employment.
What may be needed is a plan to promote the increase in the many high paying non-manufacturing businesses that are environmentally friendly. We should also promote industries that don't increase jobs on the one hand and then cause even more unemployment in other industries.
Burlington Free Press
Tuesday, January 07, 2003
Letters to the Editor
OMYA's true cost
Jobs or the environment? ("OMYA symbolizes Vermont fight over jobs, the environment," Free Press, Dec. 23). What a phony question, without any fact, information or support -- unless you count the future jobs to be created cleaning up after the damage is done.
I want to see that formula, that secret equation that states how many jobs will magically appear when we further degrade the environment and pollute the air and water.
Real world cost accounting will quickly reveal the true costs and benefits. Environmental degradation transfers costs and burdens from business to the taxpayers. This is not economic development.
Economic development is a serious activity that requires responsible professional efforts aimed at understanding the real world; turning it into a cult religion with phony slogans and unfounded dogma serves only the evil private agenda of greed and power.
Ottawa Citizen -- Letter to the Editor
OMYA should have to pay for study of Tay watershed
The Ottawa Citizen
Tuesday, January 07, 2003
Re: Critics of OMYA's request for water should cite facts, Dec. 11.
Letter-writer Wayne Steele suggests that decisions on OMYA's water demands be left to the experts, or experts representing all residents along the Tay River near Perth.
The average flow in the Tay is not well documented, and since the life of a mine can be 30 years or more, flow records for a similar length of time should be examined. Such records do not exist. We do know that destruction of the natural habitat has caused excessive spring flows that occasionally caused flooding, and summer flows are extremely low. Furthermore, to judge from coliform counts above Perth, the Tay River above Perth is already polluted. Consequently, any water taken from the Tay, however small, will increase deterioration of an already marginal water quality.
A hydrological study of the Tay watershed is imperative. It is possible that storage of the excess water in the spring with release in the summer months would benefit everyone, even to offering OMYA more water than they currently request.
Why should the people along the Tay be expected to pay for such a study? OMYA is making the request for more water, so OMYA should be prepared to find a solution beneficial to all.
As OMYA wishes to use our common natural heritage, it is up to the company to find the solution that accommodates all. OMYA has the money and will profit from this so they should undertake the steps and modifications that are required.
Burlington Free Press
Letter to the Editor
January 6, 2003
The Real Story
Facts in response to the superficial article (Dec. 23) regarding OMYA, jobs and the environment:
Jobs: OMYA claims it employs "over 300 people." Vermont's DET reports the actual number is 100 to 200. There is no evidence that OMYA's expansion will create jobs or tax benefits.
Economic development: The Danby Four Corners valley has a vital rural agricultural economy -- dairy farms, sheep farm, horseback riding stable, home-based businesses, and an educational facility for at-risk students. This economy has tremendous value. Jobs already here are in jeopardy due to OMYA.
Environmental degradation: Without any permits required, OMYA pumped millions of gallons of water out of our aquifer during drought. Springs dried up. Some residents spent thousands of dollars to have water. OMYA denied any responsibility.
Poor planning: OMYA admits it does not have a plan to develop the Danby mine.
Leadership failure: No elected official has had the courage to speak out about OMYA. This amounts to tacit approval for the company's business tactics, which universally involve spending money on litigation, public relations and lobbying, rather than working with the communities impacted or taking responsibility for the extensive damage caused.
OMYA needs to change the way it does business. Vermont's leaders need to put Vermonters and small businesses ahead of corporations proposing projects out of scale for our state.
Annette Smith is executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, Inc.
Letters for Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2002
OMYAs use of chemicals
There is more than meets the eye in the OMYA story. The tailings piles which OMYA wants to extend to over 30 acres will be contaminated with by-products mentioned ever so briefly in the article. One of these is toluene. The neighbors are right to wonder about whether these by-products are safe. Their private wells are downhill from the operation, and private drinking water sources are not regulated as public wells are.
Toluene is characterized by the National Institutes of Health as reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen. Toluene is also considered to be a nerve toxin and one of many endocrine disruptors, which can cause adverse affects at unusually low concentrations. Toluene is also known to leach into groundwater.
The burden of proof should lie with OMYA and the state that these contaminants will not move from the tailings site to neighboring groundwater sources or to the Otter Creek. As the states largest user of biocides and having a record of spills, OMYA must be held responsible for this aspect of their operation. The Agency of Natural Resources must see that the issue of chemicals at OMYA is kept open for public discussion
Letters for Friday, Dec. 27, 2002
Railyard is costly project
The Agency of Transportation wants to transplant the rail lines outside Rutland City. But the last time anybody checked, it was the rubber-tired vehicles that were causing gridlock at rush hour not the trains. And wasnt the EPA in a dither a while ago over benzene from auto exhaust in Rutlands air? The impetus to move the tracks cant possibly derive from economic issues. Theres very little freight traffic as it is, and if the main customer, OMYA, is forced out of business (as some zealots would prefer) the rights-of-way are likely to devolve into bike paths.
Previous stories on the proposed track removal have put the cost at $100 million.
Thats a lot of money for a state to spend when its having trouble funding welfare benefits and the opening of the new Springfield prison.
For decades the state has been unable to build a proper circumferential around Rutland. What was built is hardly conducive to promoting modern railroading. Where else but in Vermont would one find a grade crossing in a four-lane?
We should have reservations about an agency that paints a yellow line down Route 140 one week and has it paved over the next (as happened in Wallingford last September) being in charge of such an extravagant project.
Letter to the Editor
Sunday, December 15, 2002
OMYA mining experience elsewhere
Until about a year ago, I lived in Lucerne Valley, Calif., above which, on the north slope of the San Bernardino Mountains, OMYA has extensive mine workings.
Thus, Lucerne Valley can serve as an example to Vermonters as to what to expect if OMYA mines at Dutch Hill.
A visit to Lucerne Valley would enable decision-makers to get the actual feel of the haul trucks as they rumble down the mountainside and to hear the grinding of their gears; to listen to the blasting and determine if it really is done only two times a week, mid-morning and mid-afternoon; and to see the ravaging effects mining has wrought on the mountain.
As in Danby, Lucerne Valley is connected to the outside world by a two-lane highway on which driving east into town at the 55 mph speed limit, it is not unusual to get a real jolt when a glance in the rearview mirror shows the giant grill of a tailgating haul truck.
Several years ago, OMYA requested a permit to extend mining westward to what is called White Knob. As part of the deliberative process, reportedly OMYA agreed to do certain things at the extension, among them to remove top soil, store it (replace it when mining ceases), and to do hydro-seeding. I have heard from people who have visited the mine that none of these has been done.
I do know that there is real anger about the enormous amount of waste limestone being thrown down the mountain front. A spokesperson for OMYA, in response to queries at a public meeting, assured those present that the mine workings would not be visible from the valley floor. The statement You wont even know we are there is etched indelibly in their minds, and now they laugh ruefully as they look up at the big ugly hole with all the waste limestone below it.
After the new extension of mining, the only possible so-called salutary ripple effect on economic growth that I know of is a busy diesel truck repair shop. But if all the haul-truck drivers live in Lucerne Valley, the number of new jobs was considerable because there are a lot of haul trucks. I do know that none of the upper echelon administrative staff of OMYA or of the other two mining companies in Lucerne Valley live there.
Tuesday, December 10, 2002
Letter to the editor
Questions about railyard project
Jeffrey Munger, Sen. Jim Jeffords legislative liaison in Rutland is incorrect when he says that there is no one rallying against the $100 million Rutland railyard relocation. Mr. Munger was hand-delivered a letter by me during last years legislative session that expressed numerous concerns about the project. The letter was also sent to the House and Senate Transportation committees, and there are legislators who share similar concerns.
The crux of the problem with this project is that it is sized to support one companys expansion plans OMYA to serve as storage for its railcars.
Now that the Danby Four Corners valley deposit has been mothballed for the foreseeable future, where will OMYA get the material it says it needs to expand? Will it be Dorset (above John Irving and Walter Freeds homes) or will OMYA attempt to open up the 200 acres it owns in South Wallingford north of the existing mine? Will OMYAs expansion be fed by exercising its ownership of mineral rights around Florence, or will it come from the hundreds of acres the company owns in Salisbury?
OMYA expanded its plant in Canada to produce four times the capacity of the Vermont plant. The company is developing the capability to ship slurry from its plant in Alabama, which will take business away from the Vermont plant. Jim Reddy of OMYA says there are constraints in the rail system outside of Vermont that limit how much product can be shipped by rail. Are there any guarantees that OMYA will fulfill the promises it is making to utilize this huge facility?
The proposed railyard is to be located in a 100-year flood plain full of wetlands that is reported to have 30 feet of sand as a basis. Isnt there still a lot of work to do to determine whether the site can meet environmental permitting requirements? We must have the answers to these basic question before building a huge complex with taxpayer money, primarily for the benefit of one company. The Rutland railyard relocation project could be sized to meet the needs of the region and cost much less than $100 million. OMYA can develop and pay for its own railcar storage.
(Vermonters for a Clean Environment)
Letter to Editor
November 25, 2002
OMYA worked by Vermonters
A. E. Williams of East Poultney recently stated in a letter to the editor that OMYA shows no reluctance to desecrate another persons homeland. For the record, approximately 300 OMYA employees call Vermont home. This is our homeland, and we are part of the landscape.
Vermont has been blessed with many natural resources, granite, timber and marble among them. Marble has been quarried in Vermont for over a century. Quarries and quarry workers are inextricably a part of the past and present Vermont.
In the 1800s people flocked from Europe to Vermont to work in the quarries. Individual freedom, Americas abundant natural resources, and the promise of jobs brought them here.
The honor rolls of those who served our state and country, who died in our wars, reveal Polish, Italian, Welsh, Irish, Swedish, and a host of other nationalities; a testimony to the extraordinary diversity of the citizens who came. The ancestors of tens of thousands of Vermonters are among those immigrants.
These Vermonters served in our wars, raised families, built places of worship, and contributed to the Vermont culture. The beautiful St. Deniss marble church in Proctor was built by craftsmen of Italian ancestry. The Swedish Lutheran Church prayed in Swedish and English until recently. The Union Church is constructed of split face marble; its congregation produces a concert every Christmas. Proctor also boasts a white marble high school and a white marble firehouse.
A. E. Williams further states that our own citizens are bad enough, (as desecraters of Vermonts Landscape). I do not feel that quarries desecrate our landscape; I see them as part of the human and the historical landscape. Nor do I belittle Vermonters as desecraters of the landscape. Im very proud of these citizens who have chosen to live the American dream. And Im equally proud of OMYAs current employees who choose to carry on the tradition of developing Vermonts natural resources.
(Former president, Vermont Marble Co. and OMYA)
Letter to Editor
November 21, 2002
OMYAs amoral attitude
Dear old OMYA is still at it. Money, money, money, anti-environment, saying how great they are to provide jobs, letting the dust settle into the lungs of employees these are a few examples of their lack of conscience and amoral attitude.
Plus, do we really have to have white shiny paper? This is what they provide from the excavation. We, too, are to blame. Lets not buy what they sell.
HELEN B. MICHALOWITZ
Letter to Editor
November 15, 2002
Economy and environment
As a member of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, lets clear up a few issues. Its not that we complain about OMYAs jobs that are here. Its the expansion that we are questioning what its going to do to our roads, our infrastructure, our jobs and our rural landscape. And are they living up to our environmental standards?
The fact that a mining company is here in Vermont is in this area isnt the gripe. Its where are we going with this mining company in the next five to 50 years? Is it going to pollute our environment and change this area into a total mining area? We understand the balance in our economy that is needed to keep our rural, scenic areas and also to provide jobs, either manufacturing or mining or tourism or farming for our citizens. It is this balance that VCE and other organizations are trying to keep.
Heres a question I have for people who may read this letter. Whose job is it to create jobs? We at VCE have never said it was our job to create jobs. We would love to be in the discussion and help wherever we can, but we feel that our mission is to make sure that we balance environmental issues and job issues so that everyone comes out a winner. Sprawl can be everyones problem if we do not watch how we regulate companies like OMYA. There are other businesses that will not benefit by OMYAs expansion, like the ones that are already operating in the Danby Four Corners valley and hotels, restaurants and tourist-based businesses, even the ski resorts.
Rather than stooping to personal attacks on hard-working Vermonters like Annette Smith, who almost single-handedly in the last three and one-half years has brought these environmental issues to the forefront, lets all start working together with our new governor to make Vermont a better place for all of us, and keep the balance that we all so love.
Letter to Editor
November 13, 2002
OMYA exports desecration of land
During a two-week visit to Switzerland, I was impressed with the pristine landscape and the neatness of that small country. One saw no loose papers, no rubbish along the railroad or in the streets. A Swiss person would help to keep the landscape, streets and neighborhoods spotless by picking up debris. It therefore stuns me with the attitude of the owners of OMYA who show no reluctance to desecrate another persons homeland. No industries are allowed to tarnish Switzerland. These are shipped to another persons homeland, as is evident when we read about other countries complaining about the same problems that exist due to OMYAs greed.
We existed for many years without these self-protective countries helping to desecrate our landscape. Our own citizens are bad enough. As far as I can determine, Switzerland is not helping much in the United States.
I, therefore, applaud the efforts of the people who oppose another scar in our Green Mountains. We have too many already.
Letter to Editor
November 7, 2002
OMYA dumpsite is a concern
The Rutland Herald?s headline of Friday, Oct. 11, was extremely misleading. It read: ?OMYA reassures public on residues.? Having attended the meeting, I can attest that few, if any, were reassured by OMYA?s presentation.
OMYA?s proposed 32-plus-acre tailings dumpsite contains chemicals that threaten our water, air, and quality of health and environment.
To avoid permanent impact on surrounding lands and waters, the District Commission must deny the Act 250 permit allowing OMYA?s proposed dumpsite. To protect its citizens, the town of Pittsford should also oppose this mammoth project.
Please help Residents Concerned About OMYA in this fight to stop the 32-acre tailings dumpsite. To voice your concerns, contact the Pittsford Select Board and your local legislators. You may also join our efforts by contacting me at 483-0090.
Letters for Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2002
OMYA is what Vermont needs
In the Oct. 6 Vermont Sunday Magazine, Annette Smith was quoted as saying OMYA?s quest for a new source of marble is ?the ultimate sin.?
How can a company that rescued a dying company and industry, that puts to use a Vermont resource in a responsible way and creates hundreds of Rutland County?s best jobs, be described as the ultimate sin?
To me the ultimate sin is committed by those who move here and try to tell the working Vermonters what is best for them, yet they seldom ever contribute to creating jobs or opportunities, so like Annette Smith at 45, they can retire to their 52-acre sustainable farm.
OMYA is the best thing to happen to Rutland County?s economy in 30 years. OMYA is a good company, and we need them.
JOHN RUSSELL Jr.
John A. Russell Corp.)
Letter to the Editor
August 20, 2002
Look to broader economic picture
OMYA, OMYA, OMYA. Arent we bored with the rhetoric? Theyre good. Theyre bad. They pollute. They dont. Great citizens. Bad citizens. Did. Did not.
How pointless! Where is the real jobs dialogue we desperately need in Rutland County?
Where is public discourse on how to have the best hospital and medical care infrastructure in the Northeast? Where is talk about leveraging existing assets to develop the best schools and colleges in the country? Where is debate on ways to create the best environment for technological development in northern New England? Where is discussion about how to internationally promote tourism in our spectacular hills and valleys? What about rebuilding our agricultural infrastructure of milk-processing and slaughterhouses?
Like Wendys old commercial: Wheres the beef?
Jim Reddy and OMYA have a golden opportunity now to genuinely serve the community by changing the everyday dialogue. As a successful regional force, they can quickly set a new tone for large-scale job development for all throughout this area of Vermont.
Let them consider:
1. Ending their practice of endless litigation to overturn state decisions with which they do not agree.
2. Rereading the rule book and to then make an internal pact to stay more comfortably within every state standard of chemical use. No one will then have to loudly question their environmental standards.
3. Working harder to employ OMYAs ample own global assets to finance materials transportation off-road.
4. Making an agreement with people who live near their operations and routes to respect ones human need for tranquility and security.
5. Suspending the divisive and, in the view of multitudes of fervent opponents who will never stop defending themselves, harebrained scheme to explode the fabric of life in towns around Danby Four Corners by opening a new mine on Dutch Hill.
If Mr. Reddy and OMYA choose not to follow this course, our society neglects debate over whats really vital for people and jobs. Then our brightest citizens on all sides of the issues battle, divide and waste more precious time.
If OMYA really cares about Vermont, let them embrace true corporate citizenship and declare unswerving allegiance to widespread social and economic progress over their own self-centered interests.
Letter to Editor
Aug. 7, 2002
Questionable facts on OMYA
Carl Spanglers statements in his July 17 letter to the editor raise many questions about his sources of information and therefore conclusions.
First, at least one of his statements is wrong. Marble for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington came from Colorado not Vermont as Mr. Spangler stated. It is know as Yule marble. The quarry was owned by Vermont Marble. (My sources include: U.S. Army, Arlington Cemetery.)
Second, Mr. Spangler says: "Study OMYA’s agreements to supply calcium carbonate." How can Mr. Spangler tell us to study these when he has probably never studied them himself (perhaps a self-serving OMYA summary with many redacted facts but not the agreements themselves) as they are probably the most secret documents around since they contain prices, quantities, bacteria level specifications, which OMYA surely claims are private? If I am wrong, could Mr. Spangler indicate how I can see these actual agreements so I too can "be proud"? At the Chamber’s offices? At OMYA’s offices?
Is Mr. Spangler drawing his conclusions from "facts" provided by the PR department of OMYA?
Letter to Editor
Aug. 6, 2002
OMYAs effort at publicity
Readers of this page may wonder about the flurry of OMYA letters. They are in response to a memo Jim Reddy of OMYA sent to employees, June 14, which reads in part: In the last two weeks, the local newspaper has run several negative articles and letters about our company. A majority of the news is unfounded. Most, if not all, of you know that there is a small group of people in the Danby-Tinmouth area that formed in opposition to a proposed quarry site in Danby.
Employees are obediently writing letters attempting to correct misinformation which they never identify. Most interesting is their choice not to identify themselves as OMYA employees.
Steve Thompson, author of a recent letter, is the manager of OMYAs plant inFlorence. Another OMYA employee, Scott McCalla, in charge of OMYAs rail shipping, has personally attacked me through letters and e-mails.
Residents of the Danby Four Corners/Tinmouth valley have been clear about our position regarding OMYAs desire to open a strip mine in Danby. As stated best by the chairman of the Tinmouth Select Board: What we have here is absolutely precious and invaluable, and you cannot put a price tag on it, and were not for sale.
(Executive director, Vermonters for a Clean Environment)
Letter to Editor
Letters for Thursday, Aug. 1, 2002
The comparison is not good
I am responding to a letter from Carl Spangler, chairman of the Vermont Chamber of Commerce.
Mr. Spanglers painting together the historic marble industry in Vermont and OMYAs operations is an unbelievably dreadful comparison and an insult to the proud men and women who labored to create some of the classic architecture and monuments that grace the landscape of this country and around the world. A once-proud industry has been reduced to an automated rendering operation that grinds up this beautiful stone into dust to be used as filler in products that will soon add themselves to the waste stream. Is this a good thing? Is this what we want to put a made-in-Vermont sticker on? Our ancestors who gave this state its reputation for excellence in craftsmanship must be rolling in their graves at the spectacle of it all.
I was one of the 257 Vermont Marble Co. employees, displaced by OMYA as it tried to automate and then deconstructed this once world-dominant marble fabricating operation. OMYAs management will tell you that this was because of a slump in the market; well, there were many ups and downs before, and as Vermont Marble was being taken apart the satellite operations in the area grew. Today the world market for building stone is strong and marble is still valued. The question now is whether there will be any usable marble left in a hundred years as OMYA searches out and locks up the best material all over the world. I just cant seem to work up the same affection that Mr. Spangler has for this company. Mr. Spangler wishes that there were 10 companies like OMYA in Vermont. Its frightening that this is coming from the chairman of the Vermont Chamber of Commerce. I hope that his views do not reflect the thoughtful opinion of the general membership of this well-intentioned organization.
Theres business and then theres business, and I would be careful which sort I would endorse if I were leading a business promotional organization. I cant think of another company that operates here that causes such controversy, has such an impact on our infrastructure and physical landscape, or creates such stress on the very social fabric of this state as OMYA does. You can see on this page how OMYA is playing citizen against citizen. Carl Spangler wants us to stop the bashing of extractive industries. I wish OMYA would stop bashing Vermont.
Letters to Editor
Wednesday, July 31, 2002
OMYA: Leave Danby alone
Last week my husband and I spent our week of vacation from the city at our second home in Danby Four Corners. While shopping in Rutland I came across a postcard at one of the local stores. The postcard was a picture of the beautiful scenic landscape of Danby Four Corners. I found it so ironic that this particular postcard is being used to lure tourists into the area. Any unknowing tourist would be so intrigued and impressed by the beautiful landscape and the serenity that this postcard conveys. What the postcard should show is the devastating proposal by the Swiss-owned company called OMYA. It should show in the postcard how OMYA plans to destroy the whole mountain and leave a huge gaping hole right in the same place where the present post card shows a beautiful farm.
I am so sure tourists would love to ride around and view the area as they try to avoid OMYAs huge trucks on the small rural roads. The entire landscape and the autumn foliage will be covered by white powder from the mine; certainly this will be a great tourist attraction in the fall. Not to mention the noise pollution and the pollution of the air and water. Almost everyone I have spoken to about the OMYA project is against it, and the only people that are for it are the people that are already employed by OMYA. Most of the positive articles that are written to the editor of the Rutland Herald and other area newspapers are from OMYA employees.
If OMYA wants to destroy the environment why dont they go to Switzerland and destroy the environment over there? Leave the United States soil in the beautiful state of Vermont alone and untouched.
Letter to editor
Monday, July 29, 2002
OMYAs dubious legacy
In regard to Carl Spanglers recent remarks about Vermont marble:
While OMYAs calcium carbonate ore mining operation is the extraction industry successor to the quarrying of Vermont marbles, elevating OMYA into the role of rightful heir to that industry is ludicrous. The many Dorset, Danby, and West Rutland quarries were operated by locally owned companies employing thousands of skilled stone cutters in the careful extraction of the very best of building stone for the construction of exceptional buildings and monuments, the very legacy Mr. Spangler remarks upon. What will be OMYAs legacy in this new and expanded era for that marble? Good paper filler is no doubt important, but the Jefferson Memorial it is not.
It should also be noted that the vast majority of Vermont marble was not trucked over Vermont roads as he states, but transported by railroad.
ERIC ROSENCRANTZ, Dorset
High praise for OMYA
It concerns me when I read letters attacking OMYA. OMYA supports this community in countless ways, including providing good paying jobs, employing local venders and through charitable donations of time and money. It is time for us to return that support and appreciate their contributions.
I enjoy the quality of life in this community. This quality of life begins with a healthy economy. Without OMYA and a precious few other companies there would not be enough jobs to sustain our workforce. I personally would have to leave my home town, as many of the people I have grown up with have, to find employment.
I am proud to live here and proud to have OMYA as a part of our community.
AMANDA BERALDI, Rutland
Letter to editor
July 23, 2002
OMYAs damage in Danby
As I sit on my deck overlooking Dutch Hill in Danby, I am looking at a scarred landscape. If OMYA is such a thoughtful neighbor, why did they make an enormous clear-cut on Dutch Hill. The answer is, I am sure, that it was less expensive for them to cut everything rather than just those areas that they were testing. For me, this is all I need to know about this company. There is already physical evidence that OMYA will disregard ecological concerns if it is in their economic interest. Anyone who doubts this should drive to the corner of Hoisington Crossroad and Tinmouth Road and look across at the mess OMYA has already visited on Danbys backyard.
Letters for Saturday, July 20, 2002
OMYA plays positive role
It was good news to see that OMYA had been nominated for the prestigious Deane C. Davis award, which is awarded every year by the Vermont Chamber of Commerce. A well-deserved honor. We are fortunate to have a company of the magnitude of OMYA in Vermont. In spite of the fact that the company did not receive the honor, it is good to see they are finally getting positive recognition. There has been so much negative press about the company, and it is unjustified. OMYA and its 300 employees contribute substantially to the economy of Vermont and Rutland County.
OMYA runs a very efficient operation and annually pays large taxes to the state. During a time when Vermont has lost one-third of its manufacturing capacity, the presence of OMYA takes on even more importance. The governor suggested recently that we look at the positives in Vermont. OMYA is one of those economic positives. We should be pleased to have them here in Rutland County.
Letters to the Editor
July 19, 2002
Pro-corporate rhetoric disregards the environment
To the Editor:
A general commentary in answer to the plethora of letters propagandizing the benefits of conscienceless dissembling corporations, such as OMYA, which wreak havoc on the environment in the name of "jobs" and "progress."
Narrow, winding roads punctuating treasure valleys harboring endangered species of plants and animals are hardly analogous to highways already and acceptably filled with too much traffic! The gradual chipping away of this rainforest and the shores of that body of water - increasingly rife with pollution that comes from "nowhere" - imperceptibly wends its insidious corporate way into the environment until we find that the primordial life-nurturer verges on extinction. Jobs are important and companies that provide them equally so . . . but to accept the rhetoric of callous, abject greed is to support the eternal fox in the eternal henhouse ... both entitled to survive but not to irresponsibly destroy the world!
Letters for Friday, July 19, 2002
Getting the facts on OMYA
This morning (June 29) reading Greg Thayers letter to the editor reminded me of a story I would like to share with you.
Eight to 10 years ago, we had a tree on our property that was failing and threatening to fall on our neighbors property. Being somewhat handy, I set out to cut the tree down before someone was injured. I got out the chain-saw and started to work. After a short time my daughter, who at that time was 6 or 7, came out and was visibly concerned. I asked Katie what was the matter. She told me that her teacher had told her that we cannot cut trees down, for if we did, we will all die. The Earth will run out of oxygen. I sat Katie down and started to explain that the issue that her teacher was talking about was in the rain forests, where the people are cutting down hundreds of acres of trees just to put food on their table. That their economic situation was so bad that they really had no other choice but to cut trees down to provide food and shelter for their families. I really didnt expect Katie to fully understand economics at that age; however, she was and is a very bright young lady. My intent was to inform her that she was correct in a sense; she just didnt have all the information. Cutting a tree that was a hazard in the back yard was not going to be the death of us all.
My point in bringing this story to you is that so many times, we do not get all the information. People push for change. In this instance, my daughters teacher didnt have all the information, didnt have time to discuss all the information, or chose not to inform my daughter of all the information.
This is not so unlike the situation we have today with OMYA in southern Vermont.
The opponents of the project will stop at nothing to prevent OMYA from opening a quarry in Danby. They will say anything to discredit the company in their effort to derail this project. Now just as young Katie didnt have all facts, I am sure that the general population is not getting the complete story either, which is understandable. All we hear is the negative hype whipped up by the OMYA opponents.
Few others get involved and tell their side of the story; after all, it is more difficult to get involved with things that you agree with.
STEVEN C. THOMPSON
Letters to Editor
July 18, 2002
Jobs went up anyway
OMYAs impact on Vermont jobs doesnt seem to stand up to comparison to the facts. During the period from 1999 to 2001 when OMYA decreased its spending from $85 million to $66 million, private non-farm seasonally adjusted employment in Vermont went up (yes, up) from 240,000 in January 1999 to 247,000 in December 2001.
Perhaps the subtractor effect rather than the multiplier effect is more powerful. Business usually thrives when good clean businesses come to town.
Maybe OMYA should publish a white paper and list the sources, definitions, and backup information for all the numbers it throws out so we taxpayers can make a choice. My source is the Vermont Department of Employment and Training.
Letters to Editor
July 17, 2002
OMYA meets important need
The bashing of extractive industries has to stop. Quarrying is a rich part of Vermont history and a longtime contributor to Vermonts economy and communities. Look around at the granite and marble in many important buildings around the world. Fly to Hong Kong and walk on Vermont granite in the airport. On the next high school class trip you chaperone to Washington, D.C., rub your hand over the marble on the U.S. Supreme Court Building, the Jefferson Memorial, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, to name a few. Visit Canary Wharf in London, or the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial in Taipei, Taiwan. That marble came from Vermont, and yes, it was trucked over Vermont roads.
There is a new and expanded era for that marble. Study OMYAs agreements to supply calcium carbonate processed from marble quarried here in Vermont to major multinational corporations for paper products, toothpaste, glue, paint, cereal, crackers, chewing gum, calcium supplements, antacids, and be proud.
You can find OMYAs calcium carbonate almost everywhere you look. Calcium carbonate is in paint, paper, and plastics such as diaper linings, and school lunch trays. Plastic car parts featuring calcium carbonate make the car lighter and more fuel-efficient, and calcium carbonate in plastics reduces the nations dependence on petroleum imports. Calcium carbonate replaces lead in paint, making paint safer and of higher quality. Calcium carbonate substitutes for asbestos in ceiling tile, and many U.S. states use calcium carbonate to counteract the effects of acid rain and neutralize acidic waters. Fewer trees are harvested because calcium carbonate is used as a filler in paper.
If only Vermont had 10 companies like OMYA. OMYAs success is our success. Our focus needs to be directed on how the company continues to be successful and grow, selfishly, for our benefit and in keeping with our community values and desired lifestyles. This is feasible if thoughtful people coalesce around the issue.
(Chairman of the board,
Vermont Chamber of Commerce)
Letters for Saturday, July 13, 2002
How OMYA contributes
One of the ways that OMYA participates in area schools is by paying environmental fines. An air pollution violation in 1998 resulted in payment to the American Lung Association to put on a program in a Rutland area school. In 2001, OMYA settled an enforcement action that resulted from numerous spills into area waters by having a portion of its fine converted to a civil penalty that was used to purchase equipment at the Rutland High School. By the time the check for $6,500 was sent to the Science Department, OMYA was calling it a "contribution" in its correspondence.
I wonder if part of the education process involved informing the students of the nature of OMYAs environmental violations that resulted in the penalty.
When OMYA violates its permits, which it has done more than 20 times, it costs the state of Vermont time and money to bring enforcement actions. Presumably the fines are sufficient to repay the taxpayer money that has been spent on bringing OMYA into compliance with the law. When fines are diverted to school programs, no matter how worthwhile, and when fines are "washed" through the school system, it is Vermont taxpayers who pay in the end. And does OMYA take a tax deduction for its "contribution"?
Vermonters for a Clean Environment)
Letters for Friday, July 12, 2002
This letter is in response to the extremely misinformed editorial by Randy Koch a couple of weeks ago, as well as all of the negative OMYA editorials I have read recently:
1) OMYA does not "open up strip mines." I happen to live near two OMYA quarries, and unless you are aware of their location, one would never know they exist. Strip mines continue to grow for miles, while OMYA quarries go straight down. Calcium carbonate is not plentiful ?all over the planet.?
2) If OMYA’s processing plants are so "mechanized that they require virtually no human labor," then why does my husband along with most of his co-workers work six-day weeks most of the time?
As far as your multiplier effect statement, you could not be more wrong. OMYA spends $66 million to $85 million annually in the state of Vermont. Of that, $2.5 million goes to property taxes in 25 towns. Exactly what public services do they require that exceed those figures? I can think of none. OMYA also supports local communities financially through sponsorship of athletic teams and many other various events. OMYA is the largest single user of railroads in Vermont.
In addition, you mention that they do create a few quarry and trucking jobs relating to the multiplier effect. (Oh, you forgot construction, electrical, railroad.) What about the paycheck each of the approximately 300 OMYA employees brings home? In addition, OMYA provides excellent health benefits to their employees.
3) Vermont will not look like a "Third World country" because OMYA is here. If OMYA leaves Vermont, along with IBM layoffs and all of the other companies that have moved on, then Vermont will look like a Third World country because there will not be enough jobs to support our population.
4) Calcium carbonate has replaced the lead in paint; replaced the asbestos in ceiling tiles; is used as filler in car parts, resulting in lighter, more fuel-efficient cars; and in the paper industry, roughly 15 percent less trees are harvested worldwide as a result of using calcium carbonate as a filler, not to mention the process is more neutral than the old acid-based technology.
5) There are many other beneficial facts about OMYA that you and most people don’t know. So please don’t get on your "environmental high horse" about how OMYA supposedly damages the environment until you have all the facts.
Letters for Thursday, July 11, 2002
OMYA a friend of education
Thanks to the generosity of OMYA, 28 students received excellent quality T-shirts for their involvement, effort and cooperation in two extracurricular writing workshops. The Writers Block and Writers Partnership engaged seventh- and eighth-grade students of the Castleton Village School in projects that encouraged research and writing.
The Writers Block sought to reach students with issues that prevent them from attempting or finishing writing assignments. These students met during recess and on weekends to immerse themselves in Native American and Norse cultures to produce poems, stories and plays. In this environment of learning, students helped students to engage themselves with learning above and beyond the required curriculum.
Writers Partnership worked with students who are good writers. They met at their lunch times and worked independently to plan, write and implement plays, which they performed for the elementary grade students of the Castleton Elementary School.
OMYA has consistently proved to be a friend of local education by rewarding students who take the initiative to learn and share their knowledge.
Vermont Business Magazine
Without a strong economy our environment will suffer
by Jim Reddy
Vermont unemployment is on the rise. High paying manufacturing jobs are on the decline. In such times of economic difficulty, editorial writers express concern about a shift of public priorities from environmental protection to economic development. What Vermonters need to understand clearly is that a productive economy, regionally and statewide, lies at the very heart of our quality of life.
Before any country or region can afford the environmental and aesthetic enhancements we are blessed with today, its inhabitants have to have good job opportunities and a high standard of living. If you doubt this, visit any third world country where people put jobs, food and shelter far ahead of environmental protection. The balance those societies strike would horrify most Vermonters.
My own company, OMYA, is, like virtually all Vermont employers, concerned about the environment and quality of life. But our first and foremost concern is staying prosperous and brining revenue into our Vermont headquarters from products we make and sell in a North American market.
Today OMYA employs over 300 people. Those people and their families depend on the growth and profitability of our company. Beyond the walls of OMYA's Florence facility and our Proctor headquarters, 177 Vermont businesses rely on OMYA to grow and prosper. In 1999 there were 250 Vermont businesses from which OMYA purchased goods and services. Why the decrease in vendors? the state-imposed limitation of truck trips on a US highway restricted our growth. That has directly impacted 73 Vermont businesses and their employees.
Bill Hahn recently wrote an article for the Rutland Herald discussing the "multiplier effect," using OMYA as an example. The multiplier effect results from spending by OMYA employees and the employees of its 177 vendors on groceries, gas mortgages, car payments, clothing and entertainment. That money continues to circulate over and over in our local communities.
In 1999 OMYA spent roughly $85 million in the state, including payroll, goods, services, and taxes. In 2001 that number decreased to $66 million. That's a difference of $19 million. Applying a multiplier of five, as Mr. Hahn suggests, OMYA's reduced activity alone caused a $95 million decline in revenue to the state and the region.
That reduced activity flowed directly from an Environmental Board decision restricting the number of round trips from our Middlebury quarry to 115 per day.
The Board relied on what it found to be the negative aesthetic impact of trucking through the town of Brandon. At the time the permit was issued, OMYA trucks made up approximately 3% of the total traffic flowing through Brandon on any given weekday. That percentage is declining every year as other traffic, which is not limited, continues to grow.
Sure, traffic causes noise, vibration, and exhaust. Some people are apparently offended by the very sight of a tractor-trailer on the highway. But it is unfair and indeed preposterous for a state board to restrict one highway user, especially when that user is such a major job and revenue generator for the region and the state. After all, the men and women hauling marble ore live here, pay taxes here, and purchase goods here. The majority of "through" trucks using US Route 7 do not. Yet those through trucks have no restrictions on when or how often they can drive through Brandon or any other Vermont community.
OMYA uses rail to ship its finished product out of state to be value added by other manufacturers and distributed throughout the nation as consumer products. Almost four years ago, OMYA entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Conservation Law Foundation, the Vermont Agency of Transportation, the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, the Agency of Natural Resources, and Vermont Railway, Inc. The MOU encourages a public and private partnership to study, and hopefully implement, an alternative to trucking ore from Middlebury. The partners are committed to finding solutions that are good for the state, local communities, OMYA, and other private businesses as well.
This conversation isn't about bringing to justice some heartless giant pillaging the land. It is about the people who live and (hopefully) work here. People who attend church on Sunday. people who you see in the shops and stores or at the diner counter. people who read the local paper. People whose kids go to school with your kids. When there is little or no growth of businesses in the region, these people's lives are affected.
Balancing economic growth, environmental concerns, and quality of life certainly is possible. But we must always remember that it is job and value producing businesses that are the indispensable engine of our society. Those in public office in this or any state need to focus on keeping those businesses alive and prospering. If they do, business, government and others can and will work together to resolve environmental disagreements. Without those businesses bringing in money, it's lights out.
Jim Reddy is President of OMYA Industries in Proctor.
Letter to Editor
July 6, 2002
Tired rhetoric about economy
After reading the comments of Rutland Alderman Gregory Thayer concerning OMYA in the Herald on June 28, I have to wonder about the ability of local civic leaders to guide Rutland into a prosperous future. Mr. Thayer's letter, which begins with the charge that "enough is enough" and goes on to whine that he is "so sick and tired...[when] someone is banging on OMYA," takes a paternalistic and scolding tone towards people who hold views different from his own. He writes as if his position as alderman gave his opinion some extra validity. His utter dismissal of the concerns of a sizable, if not a majority, portion of the population regarding OMYA's growth suggests that he has not done his homework on this issue. And his suggestion that people who "bang on OMYA" are somehow opposed to economic growth indicates that he is still operating in the same old, out-moded paradigm that has kept this region in the economic doldrums for the last 20 years.
OMYA is an important component of the Vermont economy, and we can expect that they will remain so for years to come. But the money recirculated by OMYA employees spending their salaries is a drop in the bucket compared to something like the tourism revenue stream. Permitting OMYA to expand may well have a negative impact on that revenue stream locally, by making the landscape less attractive and the roads more crowded and less safe. Vermont's economy will be stronger in the long run if we protect the environment, rather than trash it. OMYA is big enough, given the current condition of the local roads (which, incidentally, they pay nothing extra to drive 80-ton trucks over all day long, rapidly breaking them down. We pay for that).
To borrow Mr. Thayer's rhetoric, I'm sick and tired of local politicians offering the same solutions to our economic problems. Do you really think that we are going to improve the local economy by creating a few more truck-driving jobs? We need a more utopian vision. We need clean high-tech companies, and more exploitation of the tourists who prefer the beauty of Vermont to Disneyland. If Rutland is serious about attracting some top-notch companies, it needs to begin developing the amenities and quality of life features that such businesses look for on top of economic incentives to locate in a town.
Dr. JAMES C. TASSE
Letter to Editor
July 6, 2002
Rutland working on job growth
Rutland, we're working on economic development and Rutland's future.
As a member of the Rutland City Board of Aldermen, I introduced a "market Rutland" initiative as the board's representative to the Rutland Redevelopment Authority (RRA). Today, coupled with members of the economic development community, business leaders, some nonprofit organizations and governmental officials, we are working together to bring a job creation and a retention plan to fruition. The state of Vermont isn't serious about marketing for economic development, but this community is. In fact, the state doesn't spend one dime on industrial economic development.
This past legislative session, Rep. Robert Helm, R-Castleton, introduced a "market Vermont" bill in the House (H.410). Very simply, the law would have put forth money to go out and market Vermont for new jobs for you and your children's future. The Senate did like the bill. It sat in Senate Appropriations and then the Senate Rules Committees for a while. Then, after some pushing from myself and folks in the Chamber of Commerce, the RRA, REDC and others, it was attached to the Senate appropriations bill, and subsequently passed the Senate. However, it passed with zero money. The language is in the bill, it's law, that's a great start.
There is more to do then just marketing. We are an overtaxed state with a very negative business climate. We have a lot of assets and positive things in the region. First, our people. That's why OMYA and other businesses invest in Rutland. We have an excellent medical community and hospitals, our schools, including our colleges and the Stafford Technical Center--we're working to train our work force. And we have a good quality if life, but we need the good-paying jobs to have that quality of life for our future.
When recruiting businesses to an area, incentives like tax credits/breaks and government-subsidized loans aren't what attract the decision-makers to locate or expand in an area. It's the things I cited above: low taxes, business-friendly climate, a well-trained work force, achieving schools, good hospitals, transportation infrastructure, and the people. That's what make up quality of life.
The bottom line is that we can have a clean safe environment and economic development at the same time. It's being responsive and working together for the same goal. OMYA is a good neighbor, doing the right things a neighbor ought to be doing; giving back to the community in different ways. So, please stop the lies and the scare tactics and let's work to create more OMYA-type, paying, safe and stable jobs in our region.
I encourage the opponents of job growth to come to the table with an open mind and ideas for creating solid job growth for our families, friends, and neighbors, and for the future of all of Rutland. Ane remember: Rutland is open for business.
Letter to Editor
July 4, 2002
Balance is the answer
If community leaders like Carl Spangler, chairman of the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, and Gregory Thayer, alderman of Rutland, (Letters, June 28 and June 29) would spend less time lobbying the people to love OMYA and more time lobbying OMYA to respect the people, we would all be better off.
I'm delighted that Messrs. Spangler and Thayer are such strong defenders of companies and their growth. I'm a businessman myself. We all know that business growth means growth in jobs and personal income. We're all for it. But not at any price. Not at the cost of devastating small Vermont communities. Mr. Spangler calls for balance. Balance is indeed the American way. But Swiss-owned OMYA doesn't seem interested.
Letters for Friday, June 28, 2002
OMYA refuses to cooperate
Vermonters for a Clean Environment has consistently stated in newspaper articles and to Florence residents that we cannot say that the water in Florence is unsafe, nor can we say it is safe. That is why, after we were contacted by residents of Florence with their concerns about the safety of the Florence water supply, we took those concerns to Jim Reddy, North American president of OMYA Inc.
One year ago, I told Mr. Reddy in person that residents of Florence were worried about the water supply and suggested that he could allay those concerns by reaching out to Florence residents and hiring out independent water testing for all the chemicals and their by-products used at OMYA Inc., many of which may not show up in standard water tests. Has the town of Florence tested for all the chemicals used by OMYA and all their breakdown products?
Rather than work with the community, OMYA chose to fight the residents of Florence who are members of VCE, which brought their concerns to Vermonts Water Resources Board. When a citizen tells the Water Resources Board, Im afraid to drink my water, we expect them to listen. Instead, they found that because those Vermonters do not vote for VCEs board of directors, there was no right to bring the appeal.
Canadas Environmental Tribunal recently ruled that OMYA must hire an independent environmental advocate to work with the citizens and organizations in the Perth community because of concerns about water. Instead of agreeing to the reasonable condition to cooperate with the community, OMYA has appealed the decision.
The amount of money VCE spent appealing OMYAs discharge permit that allows them to use new biocides without prior state review and approval could have paid for water testing. Because the Water Resources Board invented a new rule to keep citizens from participating in the environmental impacts of a corporation with a record of spills, that money was wasted. The amount of money OMYA spent fighting Florence citizens could easily have paid for all the water testing necessary to allay the residents concerns. Why does OMYA choose to litigate rather than work with the community they are impacting?
Vermonters for a
Congratulations to businesses
I am proud of all three finalists for the 2002 Deane C. Davis Outstanding Business of the Year Award, presented by the Vermont Chamber of Commerce and Vermont Business Magazine. Wild Apple Graphics of Woodstock, this years award winner, is a homespun, successful and growing local small business. My congratulations to Laurie and Mark Chester for achieving a tremendous level of business success.
Central Vermont Public Service Corp., Vermonts largest investor-owned electric utility and one of the most civic-minded and community-oriented utilities I have encountered in my professional career, was a runner-up for the Dean C. Davis award. Last, but certainly not least, I am particularly proud that OMYA was selected as a finalist.
For the past 12 years, the Vermont Chamber of Commerce has teamed up with Vermont Business Magazine to honor the best and the brightest of Vermont business. The prestigious award reflects a simple, meaningful tenet that Davis brought to the governors office: Recognize the businesses that enhance the economy and champion the environment.
I live and work in Rutland County, and I am certain that OMYA deserves to be honored for its contribution to Vermont communities and the Vermont economy and its concern for the Vermont environment. Last year, OMYA injected approximately $65 million of new money into the Vermont economy, contributed over $2 million in property taxes to 25 Vermont towns and donated to 71 local and regional charitable organizations. On the environmental side, the company owns approximately 8,000 acres in Vermont, the lions share of which is open for public recreation and managed in its natural state.
The theme of the Vermont Chamber of Commerce Business EXPO, at which the Davis award is presented, was A Balance for the Future.
Balance is the key word. Euripides (485 B.C. to 406 B.C.) wrote: Fortunate indeed is the man who takes exactly the right measure of himself and holds a just balance between what he can acquire and what he can use.
More residents of the state of Vermont must master the idea of using balance to its advantage before our economic engine sputters and dies and with it any quality of life. We do not live in a museum or a terrarium. We do not live in Disneyland, nor do we want to. Lets congratulate companies like OMYA and others that use our natural resources for the greater public good by creating jobs and contributing important raw materials for essential products worldwide.
Chamber of Commerce)
Letter to the Editor
June 27, 2002
Personal attack on OMYA foe
The power of big multinational corporations to roll over small local communities is a bit scary. They have full-time well-paid executives and public relations staff to puff up their positive impact and hide their negative impact, lobbyists to work the legislature and regulatory agencies, and lawyers to work the courts.
What do the people have? Well, in our neck of the woods, we have Annette Smith who heads up Vermonters for a Clean Environment. Annette is one of those rare people we all need someone who will step up, in the best of American traditions, spend the time and take some risks to educate and rally people against a serious local threat.
Annette has really irritated OMYA since they proposed building a quarry in a beautiful valley in Danby, which also threatens to devastate small communities like Tinmouth, and perhaps Middletown Springs or Wallingford with convoys of giant ore trucks. What seems to have really stung them is the Global Summit on OMYA that Annette organized on June 6 in Tinmouth, where people from small communities in France and Canada came, at their own expense, to tell us about the nasty tactics OMYA has used to get its way over the widespread objections of their local communities.
So now we see letters attacking Annette personally. The Rutland Herald published one from Scott McCalla on June 12. I understand Mr. McCalla is an OMYA employee. He took a few cheap shots in his letter and tried to trivialize Annettes support. OMYA may wish she had little support, but VCE has over 400 members. The towns of Danby, Tinmouth, Middletown Springs and Wallingford must have over a thousand people actively opposed to OMYAs planned quarry in Danby.
I hope this is not the beginning of a series of personal attacks on Annette or on anyone else opposing OMYA. Vermonters have a right to oppose something they see as destructive of their property, their families and their way of life. A powerful corporation like OMYA should respect that right.
Letters for Thursday, June 20, 2002
Florence water is still safe
In response to Annette Smith and the article stating that Florence water is unsafe, I would like to assure the users of Florence municipal water that our water meets and exceeds all state and federal requirements. If Ms. Smith would like to do some research first, instead of spreading untruths and using scare tactics, she would learn that OMYA was instrumental in the development of the Florence water system. The old Fox Rock Springs were not capable of providing a safe and reliable water supply. OMYAs financial support made the new safe water system a reality. OMYA has consistently financially aided the water system whenever major problems were encountered. During the OMYA spill, communications with the town were constant, and we all worked together to make sure the system was not compromised. As a water system operator in the towns of Florence and Pittsford, I have had 26-plus years of experience. I am also the town health officer. I am quite capable of running a safe water system without your help.
I do work part time for two OMYA subcontractors, L.F. Carter and L&L Carter, two Vermont companies that truly care for the health and welfare of their employees and the ecology of our state.
BRUCE A. BABCOCK
If OMYA moves from Lanark, it's fine with me
The Ottawa Citizen
Thursday, June 13, 2002
Re: 'We are not at war with Ontario,' OMYA boss insists, June 5.
Olivier Chatillon, president of OMYA Canada Inc., says he disagrees with a "small number of anti-development people who say it would be wrong to give the company rights to 4.5 million litres a day from the Tay River."
Since I disagree with OMYA's way of doing things here in Lanark County, I deduce that I am part of that group. However, the number of people who oppose OMYA's plan is not small. And whether or not they are anti-development is another matter.
OMYA is always quick to point out the amount of money they allegedly put into this community. What they fail to mention is the dollars they take out of this community. They continue to overlook and downplay the ongoing damage to the land, including the water and air quality, due to their accelerating activities. The pit at Tatlock looks like a battleground and the trail of white dust from the pit to the processing plant is easy to follow. Many people are concerned about lower water levels. Why does this crisis have to play out before the madness stops?
Mr. Chatillon's puerile gestures of pure bullyism toward Ontario mean little to people like myself. It remains to be seen how our pro-business government will finally deal with this matter.
I agree with Mr. Chatillion that this has gone on for too long. It's overdue for corporate developers to consider more things in life than just money, simple things like clean water and fresh air. Besides rocks and a few trees, that's about all we've got here. And to me, that means a lot.
It's OK with me if OMYA takes its business elsewhere.
Letter to Editor
June 18, 2002
Incompatible with tourism
Scott McCallas recent letter about OMYA overlooks an important facet of the business equation. Businesses do not exist in a vacuum. A major portion of the economy of Vermont is tourist-based, as noted in Sundays Herald, which stated that tourism provides 25 percent of all jobs, and provides $3 billion annually for Vermont businesses.
The tourists are coming to enjoy the pastoral beauty and tranquility of this state, not view environmental eyesores on the side of a mountain, or listen to the rumble of giant trucks on our highways. OMYA is incompatible with tourism.
Letters to Editor
June 16, 2002
An OMYA critique
Not so fast with your facts about OMYA, Mr. McCalla, and not so loose. Lets revise your Q&A a little bit:
Q. What does OMYA do?
A. OMYA opens up strip mines in some of the most scenic parts of the world and turns them into lunar wastelands. Calcium carbonate is plentiful all over the planet, but OMYA goes after only the easiest pickings, even if it means crushing those who try to defend their communities and their environment.
Q. Anything else?
A. They recklessly exaggerate their economic numbers. They do create a few quarry and trucking jobs. But their processing plants are so mechanized that they require virtually no human labor. And they are world-class fibbers when it comes to multiplier effects. The small amounts they pay in taxes are overwhelmed by the cost of public services they require. Plus, the damage they do to the environment through disfiguring the landscape, polluting air and water, is never even counted in all this wonderful bookkeeping.
Q. Whats this about pesticide?
A. OMYA is so afraid of the scandal their pesticide use would produce that they keep it a deep dark secret. What kinds and amounts of pesticides do they use? Why does the Dean administration allow them to call this important public health information a trade secret?
OMYAs Mr McCalla doesnt care for the word pesticide? Well, lets call them antibiotics then. Lets ask OMYA and the Dean administration this question: If you secretly use lavish amounts of antibiotics, arent you worried about creating super molds, resistant forms of bacteria that could breed untreatable diseases?
Q. Why should anyone care about OMYA?
A. Because OMYA represents the worst form of economic development we could possibly have in Vermont. When Vermont turns itself over to an OMYA, it becomes more and more like a Third World country. OMYA rips off our minerals, uglifies our landscape, wrecks our roads, pollutes our waters, crushes democratic dissent. We heavily subsidize their large profits with our taxes and get a few low-skill jobs in exchange. Companies like OMYA are the kiss of death for everything thats great about Vermont its rural nature, small scale, great environment, locally-owned enterprises, democratic decision-making.
Letters to Editor
June 12, 2002
Too eager to bash business
Is the Herald showing an anti-business bias? Most letters to the editor take anywhere from two weeks to a month before they are published. On June 5 a letter to the editor stated that OMYA was selected as one of the finalists for the Deane C. Davis Outstanding Business of the Year Award.
This was too much for the anti-business basher Annette Smith, executive director, Vermonters for a Clean Environment. The very next day the Herald published her anti-OMYA letter, which was twice as long as the awards letter. Its amazing how fast the Herald finds the space to publish this persons diatribe toward OMYA, one of the regions respected businesses that employs many local residents.
Keep up the good work, Herald, and more businesses may pick up and say its not worth the hassle here in Vermont.
A primer about OMYA
OK, its time for a quick OMYA question-and-answer session:
Q) What does OMYA do?
A) They quarry limestone, grind it up very small, and sell it as a raw material that goes into many products we use every day paper, plastic, paint, pharmaceuticals, and food.
Q) Anything else?
A) Yes. They provide jobs directly for about 300 people and indirectly to many hundreds more through engineering, transportation, and through all of the money that employees/company spends in taxes. And dont forget the multiplier effect, from the fact that the employees are paid well at OMYA.
Q) Whats all this about pesticide?
A) OMYA uses a couple of different types of materials to kill naturally occurring bacteria in the limestone, during the grinding process in the plant. These materials are similar to what is found in hand soap to kill bacteria on your hands or in your house, or is found in food products. The word pesticide is a very poor descriptor. A more appropriate descriptor is preservative, because that is what this material does. And it is not polluting the environment that is one of many myths being pushed by Annette Smith.
Q) Why does Annette Smith hate OMYA?
A) Best I can tell because she and the VCE do not support economic growth and are against anything that resembles business in Vermont. Annette herself is satisfied with her own economics, which amounts to getting paid by the VCE, which has no official members (under Vermont corporate law) and does not represent Vermonters or their interests whatsoever. Some people need a cause, something to complain about, and something to form an organization around.
Q) Why should anyone care about OMYA?
A) Because OMYA is part of this community economically, socially, and in every other facet imaginable. Do your research. Draw your own conclusions. Armed with the facts, I think you will understand OMYAs place in the community, and how lucky Vermont is to have OMYA making a positive difference in this state.
Letters to Editor
June 8, 2002
OMYAs impact is considerable
I am writing in response to Vermonts economy with and without OMYA written by Jim Reddy, president of OMYA Industries Inc., published in your May 22 edition.
In this piece, Mr. Reddy wraps himself in the flag of Vermont, writing about all the benefits OMYA brings to Vermont. Sure, OMYA benefits Vermont. It also costs Vermont. Mr. Reddy chooses not to acknowledge those costs, which fall heavily on a number of Vermonters. But Mr. Reddys main point seems to be that since OMYA is big in Vermont, it should be allowed to get bigger and bigger, without restraint. There may even be a bit of a threat, that Vermont could be without OMYA if we dont do what he wants.
I dont believe most of the people protesting against OMYA in various parts of the state are anti-business or anti-growth. They are certainly not anti-jobs. Most of them probably never protested against anything in their lives before. They are simply hurt by OMYAs operations or threatened by its planned operations.
It is one thing when the state subsidizes companies for example, when all taxpayers subsidize road or rail expansion. Presumably, our legislators balance the costs and benefits of that type of expenditure and make a good judgment in the public interest.
My problem is when the cost is borne in much more concentrated ways, when individual families or small communities are expected to pay a disproportionately high cost to subsidize a companys growth. Consider the losses in property values right now in Danby. Imagine 80 big ore trucks a day rolling through Tinmouth one every seven or eight minutes, every single work day, for the next 30 years, on those little roads thats devastating.
Mr. Reddy calls for public discourse to find a balance among these many public concerns. Lets do it. Lets see some audited data on what OMYA contributes to Vermont, not just Mr. Reddys private numbers. Lets itemize what OMYA costs Vermont and individual Vermonters. Lets put on the table some solutions to the worst effects of OMYAs operations. Then lets have a discourse. But lets make it a real discourse, not the fancy speeches and the brushoff OMYA gave to the people of Danby in their discourse last year.
Fri 07-JUN-2002 6 P.M. News Script
More than 200 people gathered in Tinmouth last night to gather support in
their efforts against OMYA. That's the large European company that wants
to build a new marble quarry in Danby. The idea of the gathering was to
share information about the company's tactics. ((A LARGE INDUSTRY LIKE
omya LEAVES A VERY BIG FOOTPRINT-IN A SMALL TOWN, IT'S VERY NOTICEABLE)) The deputy mayor of a small French community says OMYA won a 10 year fight to put a quarry in his village. He also noted that he's been fined for defaming OMYA. The deputy mayor said OMYA never gives up. OMYA was not at the meeting -- but a spokesman says the company IS trying to work with people in the community. The company has been doing environmental
studies--but has not yet filed an Act 250 permit for the Danby quarry.
Letter to Editor
June 7, 2002
OMYA expansion not acceptable
Theres no other business quite like OMYA in Vermont. I wish that they could fit in here like most other businesses do with no negative impact, but the fact is that when they expand, it comes at a cost. For instance, after over two years of study and debate it is an indisputable fact that if they come to the Tinmouth area, it will be at our expense.
OMYA doesnt argue otherwise. It knows very well what its local impact amounts to. It has happened all over the world. Thats OMYAs problem, and it is fundamental to their operations. They cant help the disturbance their strip mines have on the local area. They have studied alternatives for years and have no solutions. Their collateral damage cannot be mitigated even financially when they disturb the very fabric of the social structure that surrounds them.
Here in our region, life will never be the same should they come here. Some issues are intractable and cannot be solved. Here there is no compromise. No amount of civil discourse is going to do it. No amount of PR is going to reverse the reality of the situation. OMYA knows better than to argue that there will be any benefit to us. Instead it promotes the debatable notion that what is good for OMYA is good for the general economy, regardless of the harm done to a few.
What is implied here is that it is acceptable that some Vermonters way of life and some portion of our landscape can be sacrificed for the larger benefit. The upstart of this is that it tends to set Vermonter against Vermonter and social stress begins at the very onset of debate.
Letters to Editor
June 6, 2002
OMYA record not so great
The committee that chose OMYA as a finalist for the Deane C. Davis award must not have taken into consideration the companys full record, but just the record put forward by the companys public relations firm. The image of OMYA they put forward misrepresents its record and fails to acknowledge the numerous problems the company has being a good corporate citizen in Vermont. Here are the specific criteria for the award, with facts which the company may not have disclosed to the nominating committee:
Demonstrated success by continued growth in number of employees and/or sales:
OMYAs North American vice president recently wrote that the company employs more than 300 people. Vermont Business Magazines annual issue on businesses reported in 2000 that OMYA employed 200 people. It appears that OMYA increased employment by 100 workers during 2001 and 2002. However, OMYAs VP also reported that between 1999 and 2001, OMYAs spending in Vermont declined from $85 million to $66 million. The numbers dont add up.
A commitment of company resources for participation in community projects. Encourages employees to be involved in community events:
Since June 2001, OMYAs VP has been made aware that neighbors of the plant in Florence have real concerns for their health because of OMYAs spills of process water and chemicals. As the largest user of pesticides in Vermont, with their plant located next to the Florence water supply, some residents of the community of Florence have stopped drinking their water and have gotten together to identify a high rate of diabetes in their town. OMYA could do some community outreach to address these, and other, concerns that the community has.
Recognition of the importance of the environment to the state as a natural and economic resource:
OMYA has a poor record of compliance with environmental regulations in Vermont. They have violated just about every permit they have. Their record-keeping and reporting have been poor, and they have a history of installing new equipment without first getting the required permits from the state.
The Deane C. Davis award was never intended to be available for purchase. Perhaps next year the nominating committee will do their own research instead of relying on company propaganda.
(Executive director, Vermonters for a Clean Environment)
Letter to Editor
June 5, 2002
OMYA was recently selected as one of three finalists, along with CVPS and Wild Apple Graphics, for the Deane C. Davis Outstanding Business of the Year award. The award, sponsored by the Vermont Chamber of Commerce and Vermont Business Magazine, is given to the Vermont business whose accomplishments meet four principles of excellence. These principles are:
Continued growth in number of employees and/or sales.
Commitment of company resources, including employees, to community projects.
Recognition of Vermonts environment as a natural and economic resource.
Creation of a positive work environment for all employees.
On May 22, Wild Apple Graphics, a Woodstock fine art publisher and licensing company, was awarded the traditional granite plaque by Lt. Gov. Douglas Racine. This was its third year having been selected as a finalist. OMYA wishes to publicly congratulate the Wild Apple Graphics family.
Laurie and John Chester, owners of Wild Apple, displayed true grace with more than a touch of class when they presented OMYA and CVPS with framed prints from Belgium. In their words, We definitely know what its like to be the bridesmaid.
We think being a bridesmaid is pretty good.
(OMYA Industries Inc.)
Letters for Thursday
May 16, 2002
OMYA causing continuing harm
Dear old OMYA is still at it destroying the environment and saying how wonderful they are. However, does the billionaire owner live in a similar construction area? I doubt it.
I also thank God I dont live in Pittsford or Brandon, towns who must suffer because of the greedy people who operate OMYA.
Does OMYA stand for Our Money Yields Atrocities (to the environment)?
HELEN B. MICHALOWITZ
OMYAs negative multiplier effect
Re Talking Business: Multiplier Effect Revisited, April 29:
It is always useful to acknowledge the importance of businesses to Vermont, in this case through Bill Hahns explanation of the multiplier effect of business activity benefiting the community. It is particularly useful to see the multiplier concept explained in a specific local example, in this case, OMYA, Vermonts largest mining company. But I wonder if Mr. Hahn could take his example a bit further, because his conclusion just doesnt seem to ring true.
Mr. Hahn seems to be concluding (albeit with some qualifiers) that OMYA is at the upper end of the mining industry multiplier range (five times sales). I wonder though if that takes into consideration that OMYA is Swiss-based and privately owned, and profits go out of Vermont. Also, subsidiaries like OMYA almost always make hefty transfer payments to their parent companies, for technology or for management and other services.
More importantly, I would bet that OMYAs presumed high multiplier effect does not take into consideration what OMYA costs Vermont and Vermonters. For example, does it include the losses in property values near OMYAs mines and along the routes its trucks dominate? Does it include the losses in community tax bases when property values fall? Does it include the cost to the state and to local communities of road repairs when OMYAs convoys of giant trucks tear up the roads? Does it include the cost of cleaning up or living with the air and water and noise pollution OMYA creates at every stage of its operation
If a smart economist toted up all these costs, I wonder if we would see that OMYA has a negative multiplier, that OMYA takes more than it gives to Vermont. Sure, some Vermonters benefit directly or indirectly from OMYAs business activity, but a lot of other Vermonters pay the cost, directly or indirectly. Indeed, some are devastated by the impact of OMYA.
Some companies contribute little
I have read your editorial of April 27 re: Lowes and OMYA. As the spokesperson for Mount Holly Mountain Watch dealing mostly with Okemo some clarification is in order. First, the cases you referred to with your comments have been in the system for a long time and have taken on a life of their own. Conclusions cant be reached at decision time.
Some general points, however: There are companies in Vermont that contribute like General Electric, IBM, C&S and the like. They employ many Vermonters and recognize that the value of being in Vermont is the quality of the work force. We need more of them. The others, without judging whether they are good or bad for the state are companies like OMYA, Okemo, American Skiing, who need the state more than the state needs them. What are the ski areas without the mountains they lease at low cost from the public? The free water they pumps for snowmaking? What is OMYA without the pure white calcium carbonate that lies beneath the surface in Vermont? They buy the surface land cheap. Are the minerals in the ground at least as far as impacts the responsibility of the state? If we found gold in Vermont, every few hundred square feet of land would sell for big money, but who wants to mine calcium carbonate except a big company that can process and sell it. Its value is to them.
Vermonters should understand that this is a complex subject for which the state should take much more responsibility than it does.
PETER H. BERG
The Sunday Rutland Herald/Times Argus
Sunday letters / May 12, 2002
They fiddle while we burn
During the past year Vermont has lost 4,000 good paying manufacturing jobs, according to news reports. This while our inattentive, mostly absent governor jaunts around the country to boost his presidential aspirations. No help here Meanwhile we see the May 5 Sunday Rutland Herald/Times Argus publish a 900-plus word letter to the letter from an extremist environmental type, representing Vermonters for a Clean Environment. The week before, another extremist from Mt. Holly mounts one appeal after another to environmental boards without the facts to back up his claim.
Until the permit rules and regulations are changed in Vermont the naysayers will continue their assault to drive out industry for one reason or another no matter how clean. No growth, no jobs. Turn the state into a museum. How many of these extremists are native Vermonters? They got their piece of Vermont. Now their business is no business.
L.A. LEONARD Rutland
Letter to the Editor
May 5, 2002
OMYA is too big already
Your editorial about yet another court decision on OMYAs trucking correctly identifies the need for leadership to plan ahead in order to balance environmental and economic interests. But it misses the mark because it falsely assumes that OMYAs growth is good for the Vermont economy.
No other company in this region makes the kinds of demands on the citizens and communities in which it operates. OMYA likes to boast about the multiplier effect of their economic activity but there is also a multiplier effect of their negative impacts.
The impacts of OMYAs trucking on the town of Brandon are already enormous at 117 round trips per day. Brandon has one of the densest collections of historic buildings in the state, a major National Historic Register district spanning both sides of Rt. 7 for more than a mile. OMYAs trucks shake the foundations, the diesel pollution dirties the houses, and the noise degrades the quality of life. Still, OMYA wants more.
In Florence, citizens living [near] the Hogback quarry are subjected to the noise of blasting that they say cracks their foundations, rattles their windows, and devalues their homes. They worry about their water supply and the health of Smith Pond and the Otter Creek due to OMYAs unauthorized discharges of process water and chemical spills. They wonder how all the dust and diesel emissions are affecting their health.
OMYAs plant emits 100 tons of hazardous air pollutants annually, most of it falling locally on the town of Pittsford, due to the large quantities of oil OMYA burns. Thousands of tractor-trailer trucks rumble through Pittsford each month, day and night, hauling finished product from the OMYA plant. OMYAs expansion would mean many more trucks through Pittsford.
South of Rutland, neighbors of OMYAs South Wallingford mine report that dust fills their homes so that they have to keep windows closed. Lawsuits about impacts on water supplies have been settled out of court.
In Danby, OMYA has spent more than two years staking out its turf, reducing property values and disrupting the residents who live in one of the most beautiful places in the U.S. and home to the largest class one wetland in Vermont, with huge pure springs and a wide range of biological diversity, all of which are threatened by OMYAs desire to blast away a scenic landscape that has special values to the public, just to extract a product that is plentiful throughout the world. OMYA is proposing to take $60 million worth of rock out of the Danby mountain each year and is offering nothing in return except the predictable damages.
There is no way of knowing the economic impact, positive and negative, OMYA has on Vermont. The global giant that operates in more than 30 countries is privately owned by a Swiss billionaire. Information about OMYAs economic benefits come solely from OMYA, and its claims are inconsistent. For example, a recent Rutland Business Journal article quotes John Mitchell of OMYA as saying, "We also infused over $85 million into the local economy on payroll, taxes, goods and services. In a March article in the Canadian Ottawa Citizen, OMYA says it injects about $20 million a year into the Perth economy. However, the Perth plant is built to process four times the capacity of the Vermont plant, so these claims by OMYA about their positive impacts on these local economies dont add up.
News stories vary on the num[b]er of people OMYA employs in Vermont. Vermont Business Magazine says 200, 300 says Rutland Business Journal, 400 as per Vermont Public Radio and 800 according to the Christian Science Monitor. OMYAs claims cannot be verified. Neither the state of Vermont nor the Rutland Economic Development Corp. have any information available about OMYAs impact on Vermonts economy.
OMYA has been in litigation with the state of Vermont for four years at the expense of Vermont taxpayers. OMYA has been called a professional litigator in a book about a French village's 10-year struggle against the company. OMYA just appealed a water-taking decision in Canada that allowed it to take twice as much water as their previous permit and that still is not enough. OMYA wants more.
It wants more trucks, more mountainsides to blast into, more areas to dewater, more water to put into their finished product to ship out of state and more taxpayer dollars to pay for its infrastructure. The Middlebury rail spur, to serve only OMYA, is estimated to cost $24 million dollars. Relocation of the Rutland railyard,sized to meet OMYAs growth desires, is estimated at $100 million dollars. OMYA has offered to contribute $8 million towards these enormous infrastructure development projects. While there are benefits to the improvement of the rail infrastructure, is it folly to spend $116 million for this kind of corporate welfare without first doing an economic analysis of the costs and benefits of this huge companys growth desires.
OMYAs expansion does not mean more jobs for Vermonters. OMYA prides itself on its high level of automation. It does not mean more investment in Vermonts economy. The expansion is more degradation of our communities, spread further throughout the state, whose costs far outweigh any temporary construction jobs that would be generated by a plant expansion. Expansion would mean continuing insensitivity to what Vermont is all about.
Now is the time to stop and evaluate exactly what this company is costing us to deal with in Vermont and what the true benefits are. Lets find out what OMYA is planning for the future and make sure it fits with the plans of the Vermont communities OMYA is impacting.
Maybe OMYA is the right size for Vermont just the way it is.
The writer is president of Vermonters for a Clean Environment.
Letters to Editor
February 1, 2002
Tired of OMYA propaganda
Like many people here in central Vermont, I am constantly hearing OMYA propaganda. OMYA says that it will bring in many more jobs to the region, if only it was allowed to blast open a few more mines. According to the company, much more money would pour into our small towns, if only OMYA could drive its fleet of trucks through our village squares. Our lives would be much better, if only OMYA could do whatever it wanted, because, of course, the company is acting in the best interest of Vermonters.
Personally, I have had enough of having our lives disrupted by a large, profit-driven multi-national corporation. Here in Middletown Springs, our town plan and much town business is held up because of what OMYA might do. The stalling is due to several people saying that OMYA might be able to drive its trucks through the town, and these trucks then might bring more money into Middletown Springs, and therefore we might ought to wait to see what happens before we as a town do anything.
The facts are that: 1) OMYA is an internationally headquartered, multi-national corporation; its profits go overseas, not to Vermont. 2) OMYA has not, and probably will not file an Act 250 permit application for the proposed mine. 3) Such an application, if ever filed, would not be approved. 4) OMYA does not want to truck the material (please see their initiative to ship it by rail for proof). 5) The neighboring towns, rightfully, would not allow the trucks to get to Middletown Springs. 6) The state will not pay to upgrade the existing roadways just so that OMYA could drive the trucks through. Finally, 7) even if OMYA trucked the material through our small towns, the trucks would do little more than to destroy the serenity and environment many of us enjoy.
A great place to do business
Companies love to gripe about how difficult it is to do business in Vermont. That is certainly not the experience we had recently in working with local and state agencies.
Wild Apple Graphics is a fine art print publisher located in Woodstock. Wild Apple currently utilizes the services of commercial printers in the Northeast to produce our prints. Recently, the company requested an amendment to our existing Act 250 permit so that a portion of our prints could be produced onsite.
The permitting process was smooth and efficient. Folks from the town of Woodstock planning and zoning boards, state of Vermont agencies, and in particular, the District Environmental Commission, were pleasant and professional. Our request, which was submitted to the commission on Dec. 18, 2001, was approved on Jan. 22, 2002. When businesses provide the necessary facts and agencies respond so quickly, it is clear that Vermont can be a great place to do business and still have controls in place to ensure safety, a healthy environment, and our quality of life.
JAMES M. GILLER
Letter to Editor
January 29, 2002
Proud to be green
A popular sport in Vermont now is bashing environmental groups: meddling obstructionists, against progress, the enemies of economic development and jobs. Government leaders who capitalize on Vermont's reputation as an environmental state to attract new business and promote tourism are vilifying people who work to protect clean water, clean air and sensible land use.
It doesn't make sense, it's counter-productive, and it should to stop.
A healthy economy in Vermont is inextricably tied to a clean environment. Tourism brochures tout pristine lakes and streams, fishing and swimming, hiking, fresh air. Economic development brochures designed to attract high tech businesses promote our clean air and water. IBM is here because of quality of life. Vermont is a great place to live and work. We should be shouting that to the rooftops instead of grumbling about how hard it is to do business here.
Conservation Law Foundation is at the top of the hit list statewide, with Vermont Natural Resources Council a close second. The reason is because they are successfully promoting clean water, clean air, and sensible land use. We should all be thanking them instead of yelling at them. Just imagine what can happen when business and government join in collaborative efforts with effective organizations like CLF and VNRC, instead of wasting time and money fighting them.
Vermont has some of the cleanest air in the nation, pure spring water, forests rich in diversity of species. Our environmental groups are fierce protectors of the foundation of our economy. We should wear their presence as a badge of honor.
Vermont cannot afford to coast on its environmental reputation.
The reality is acid rain, limits on fish consumption due to mercury, summer air filled with a haze of sulfates and nitrogen oxides, impaired waters, open space gobbled up by development, and a warming climate. Look at Florida to see what will happen here if we don't work to keep development in balance.
Imagine what could happen if we stop fighting and start working together.
Vermonters for a Clean Environment, Inc.
The Rutland Herald
November 9, 2001
Growth problems glossed over
I too attended the public forum held by the Rutland Economic Development Corp., which was intended to be a discussion of improving our economic success while also preserving our heritage, our quality of life, our environment (Having It Both Ways, as they called it). I applaud REDC for taking this initiative, but last night didnt move the ball forward very much. It was a feel-good session, carefully controlled to prevent controversy, and as such didnt get to any hard issues.
Perhaps there was a little progress. Some panel members called for early public dialogue on new projects. Great idea. But will developers want to tip their hands before they have their parcels assembled, their backroom deals made? Will they be ready to compromise in any fundamental ways on a business plan that has its economic model carefully honed to produce the desired return on investment? If so, great, but that calls for a huge culture change among developers and other corporations. Im at the high end of the scale of optimism (drives my wife crazy), but I dont hold out much hope for that change. Much better if we could somehow agree on what development projects make sense for the community, then find ways to make them happen.
Where there was zero progress was on dealing with the tradeoffs between development proposals in the works now and their impact on people negatively affected by them now. The best case is the proposed OMYA quarry in Danby. It is hurting Vermonters now, lots of them, and in a major way, and REDC supports it. If REDC is serious about considering quality of life, it will have to rethink its support of OMYA, or rationalize to the public specifically how it has balanced the costs and benefits of this proposal and come out on the side of OMYA. Otherwise it will have no credibility on this issue.
DON CARLSON Wallingford
The Rutland Herald
October 30, 2001
OMYA hurting property values
Im compelled to write this letter regarding OMYA and its proposed Danby quarry. My wife and I have had the pleasure of owning a second home on Colvin Hill Road in Danby since 1987. Its a very beautiful area, and weve enjoyed our time there, as well as the many fine people weve had the pleasure to meet. At the risk this letter may not get read a line farther, Ill add our primary residence is in Southington, Conn.
Ive heard and read a lot about OMYA. I used to think zoning laws in Connecticut were a nuisance, but when youve had the pleasure of being an onlooker to this whole OMYA affair, it clarifies exactly why they came into being and the very important purpose they serve in any community to protect the rights of all its residents.
We recently were prompted to place our house in Danby on the market. The two reasons we decided to do so were, first, an injury I sustained to my back last year, and the second, I wont deny, OMYA coming to Danby.
It took two months to realize that prospective buyers who seemed genuinely interested in our home seemed to cool off to our house at the disclosure of OMYAs proposed quarry on Dutch Hill. I soon figured out the fact that our home overlooks Dutch Hill from Colvin Hill wasnt going to be a selling point. Potential buyers fears werent calmed by the reassurance of a berm to be built in the sight line to the quarry.
We were approached by two Realtors to list the house, and at this point decided to do so more as a matter of convenience, but I also didnt like dealing with the responses I was experiencing. Our Realtor immediately did a very nice photo layout on our home and advertised it in Vermont Homes. The first issue it appeared in generated a lot of interest; in fact, within two days we had a signed contract, with a deposit check, for the purchase of our home and furnishings with a closing by the end of October.
The one very important thing at this point: We hadnt disclosed OMYA. Upon finding out about OMYA, the buyers immediately withdrew the offer. The reason given: concern for potential depreciation of property value. A very valid concern. This convinced me our house isnt the problem; disclosing OMYA is.
I firmly believe our house would have sold already, and I believe if the process was done the same again, the end result would be as well. OMYAs disclosure has to be the first step in any potential sale. Unfortunately, after disclosure theres never a step two. Withdrawn contracts and returned deposit checks arent a very positive sign of whats to come. Im writing to dispel the public relations myth being perpetuated by OMYA and the Danby Select Board, who are on the record claiming property values and sales wont be affected by the quarry. The real facts in the real world wont support its claim.
A lot of fine, hard-working people, residents and non-resident alike, have very substantial investments in this community and will suffer financial losses, make no mistake about it. Its already started. OMYA is the reason.
REDC would also have you believe theyre looking for common ground on this issue. If thats the case, it appears its at the expense of property owners, the environment, and serious traffic concerns, all of which place a very high price tag on OMYAs quarry, and solely at the expense of others, and not OMYAs bottom line.
GARY CHASE Danby
October 20, 2001
OMYA is test of REDC's words
L. Dale Rector of the Rutland Economic Development Corp., in his Oct. 11 commentary, "Measuring quality of life," tries to convince us that REDC is really concerned about the quality of life, not just pursuing development at all costs. He writes, "Any public dialogue of any proposed economic activity must carefully weigh the balance of information to determine the impacts on as many of the aspects of quality of life as possible." A wise comment. I wish it were the policy of REDC. I'm a businessman. We all want jobs, we all want businesses to thrive in Vermont, but we do have to tote up the cost to Vermonters of providing those jobs, of providing those profit opportunities. Where the cost is just too high, we have to step back.
Mr. Rector has a chance right now to prove that his commentary is not just a bunch of baloney. Show us REDC's inventory, analysis and measurement of the impact on quality of life of the proposed OMYA quarry in Danby that they support. Show us the "cost" of the reduced property values in the area near the proposed quarry and along the trucking routes, of the air and water pollution the quarry will produce, of the damage to the nearby wetlands, of the damage to road surfaces that taxpayers will have to pay for, of the impact on the peace and quiet and safety of residents along the roads that would carry 80 immense truckloads of material six days a week, of the reduced tax base of several affected communities. Show us, Mr. Rector. Show us you're an honest man, not just a propagandist for the REDC.
September 29, 2001
Citizens supporting areas protection
Bruce Edwards' article (OMYA now facing wetlands issue, Sept. 3) missed an important point. The wetlands complex and rare species were discovered by an expert hired by Vermonters for a Clean Environment (VCE), paid for by the citizens of the region. The state has the wetland mapped incorrectly. It is not insignificant that the people of this area are the ones spending the money to evaluate and identify all the issues surrounding OMYA's proposal, and this effort should be acknowledged.
Thanks to everyone who is contributing to the protection of what we are learning is a very special and rare natural community the Danby Four Corners Valley.
Vermonters for a Clean Environment Inc.)
August 21, 2001
OMYA holding region hostage
Eight hours. Thats how much time I have spent in the company of Jim Reddy, executive vice president of OMYA, North America. We met for more than four hours at the end of June, just the two of us. In early August, I went on a tour of the plant in Florence along with the head of Vermonts Wastewater Management Division, the plant manager, and OMYAs environmental person.
Often, it is what is not said that matters. In all those eight hours, never once did anyone at OMYA express any concern for the intolerable situation they have created for the people of this region because of the companys mishandling of their desire to open a new mine in Danby. They admit it was a bad plan, they admit it was a mistake to ask for meetings with Tinmouth and Wallingford. But they are moving forward with their hydrogeology studies, which will take at least a year. It will be another year before they can even file anything with Act 250.
Almost two years. Thats how long it has been since I first heard about OMYAs plan to open a new mine in Danby. In all that time, the company has shown no consideration whatsoever for the people they are damaging by their predatory oppression and utter disregard for the damages they cause. Meanwhile, the state of Vermont and Senators Leahy and Jeffords are working hard to get federal funding for OMYAs infrastructure needs. What is not talked about in any of these happy meetings is the hostage situation OMYA has created in Danby and surrounding towns.
Does the leadership of Vermont really find it acceptable to allow a private foreign company to damage the properties, lives, plans, farms, and freedoms of Vermont citizens, without compensation, for years? Remember, this is the company that told us in 1992-93 you wont see this mine open in your lifetime.
Vermonters for a Clean Environment, Danby
August 18, 2001
OMYA's mismanagement remains unacceptable to residents who deserve an apology
Eight hours. That's how much time I have spent in the company of Jim Reddy, head of OMYA, North America. A four-hour private meeting, and a tour of their plant with the head of Vermont's Wastewater Management Division, the plant manager, and OMYA's environmental person.
Often, it is what is not said that matters. Never once did anyone at OMYA express any concern for the intolerable situation they have created for the people of southwestern Vermont because of the company's mishandling of their desire to open a new mine in Danby. They admit their initial proposal of January, 2000 was a bad plan that would not pass Act 250, and they have no plan that will meet Act 250's criteria. But they are moving forward with their hydrogeology studies, which will take a year - another year before they file anything with Act 250.
Meanwhile, the state of Vermont and Sens. Pat Leahy and Jim Jeffords are working to get federal funding for OMYA's rail infrastructure. What is not talked about is the hostage situation OMYA has created in Danby and surrounding towns.
Does the leadership of Vermont really find it acceptable for a private foreign corporation to damage the properties, lives, plans, and freedoms of Vermont citizens, without compensation, for years?
Vermonters for a Clean Environment, Inc.
August 9, 2001
Quarry is only attack object
I am writing to comment on a series of self-serving letters to the editor that appear sporadically in the Herald and go on and on in support of OMYA, and the wonderful company that they are.
This may be news to those who write those letters, but OMYA is really not under general attack. And they enjoy a lot more public support and appreciation than you folks might ever think.
OMYA in Vermont is perceived as an important employer and taxpayer. They are also seen as a needed contributor to many of our smaller town and village projects. As a resident of Vermont, I appreciate this, and am sure that most others do as well. Corporate contributions to state and local tax coffers, employee benefit accounts, and social projects are obligations of economic success, and were sure that OMYA as a successful company does its share. No problem here.
Lets make it clear that the non-support that OMYA receives in this area arises from its well-publicized plan to open a calcium carbonate ore extraction operation on Dutch Hill in Danby Four Corners; regardless of the plans huge negative consequences to this region or to its many people.
This initiative is perceived as so destructive and out of place in this delicately balanced part of the state that many reasonable and vocal people are unable to support anything that has to do with the project.
The promotion of a one-sided plan that will go nowhere makes OMYA appear as an ugly predator, despite the many other good works of the company and despite the fine people who are either OMYA employees or suppliers.
Danby Four Corners
July 12, 2001
OMYA is good, gridlock no
Three cheers for OMYA, which has been the subject of three letters to the Herald on the Fourth of July, and three cheers to the Herald for mixing up the pros and the cons. And speaking of pros and cons; am I for or against OMYA?
No. Im neither. I also agree that OMYA may be a great employer, and I agree they may be generous to education as stated in letters to the editor of July 4. I also agree that it would be terribly short-sighted of Vermonters to eliminate all possibilities of good-paying jobs, to quote Selectperson Lynn Saunders of Brandon.
But are those who are against yet more of OMYAs truck traffic on Route 7 trying to eliminate all possibilities of good-paying jobs, when they ask that the state limit further increase of truck traffic , or are they simply asking that we not be further infringed upon by the ever-present presence of those elongated, slow-moving tractor-trailer loads of crushed marble?
Too bad that I dont have the statistics at hand, but I trust we all agree that in the normal course of events we will be facing near gridlock in the towns on Route 7 in just a few years down the line. And frankly, I have got to believe that some of my friends and neighbors are now noticing that the waiting time required to get onto said highway from their own driveways is increasing at an increasing rate when just one of those trucks drones into town, with about a dozen or so cars which it accumulates on the open road, file through close behind and in lock step.
No, dear friends, the jobs are in tact, though I doubt there are more than a dozen OMYA employees on the payroll in Florence. But again, I lack statistics or specific knowledge or information. And by the looks of all those trucks I see coming to and fro Pittsford and parts north, Ill wager that there are a good number of truckers who have gainful employment, though not as employees of OMYA.
So, as they say, three Cheers for OMYA, but dont tread on me, at least not too much.
FRANK L. BUNTING Brandon
July 4, 2001
Limiting trucks is not anti-growth
I have to object to Lynn Saunders letter of June 10, which declares that a recent court decision upholding the Vermont Environmental Boards recommendation to limit OMYAs truck traffic on Route 7 eliminated the potential for many good-paying job opportunities and will adversely impact the livelihoods of low-income Vermonters. Ms. Saunders is suspicious of efforts to control or limit growth, and she charges that if we eliminate all possibilities of good-paying jobs we end up with a Vermont wonderland that appeals to the wealthy tourists and retirees. ...
What this thinly veiled disdain for Vermonts tourist economy fails to recognize is that the courts ruling helps to protect hundreds of jobs. Limiting truck traffic is not anti-growth. Rather, it is a policy that reflects a reasonable choice about which industries Vermonters want to grow, and about seeking balance between competing interests. As someone who works in the tourist industry, I for one applaud the decision. In my view, more heavy trucks on Vermonts roads would be hard on our already overburdened roads and bad for the tourist trade.
JAMES C. TASSE Rutland
OMYA generous to education
I would like to take the opportunity to publicly thank OMYA of Florence for the considerate services they have provided me in recent years. Three years ago, I contacted the office of OMYAs plant manager to request a monetary donation to benefit the Lothrop School sixth grade Odyssey of the Mind team, who had won the statewide competition and needed to raise funds in order to compete at the national level. OMYA donated generously, and their gift was used to help defray the cost of plane tickets for the children who went to the national competition in Orlando, Fla.
Recently, I again contacted the office of OMYAs plant manager to request the use of a bore scope. This highly specialized diagnostic equipment was used by Goddard Colleges archaeology student, John Hurdle, at the Springfield Historical Society. Using this expensive equipment allowed Mr. Hurdle to determine, by a non-destructive method, the characteristics of a subterranean stone chamber commonly referred to as a root cellar. OMYA has often come under criticism for one reason or another in recent years, but I wish to inform your readers of OMYAs generosity to the local educational communities and research associations of Vermont.
(New England Antiquities
Research Association) Brandon
June 3, 2001
Ruling on trucks is a threat to jobs
Recently there was a letter to the editor commending the courts ruling to control growth. I find it interesting that many of those that are publicly speaking about controlling growth (i.e. limiting job potential) are those that already have good jobs or are comfortably retired. It appears that their major concern for preserving this controlled Vermont is to keep a state that will suit them in their retirement. Somehow in this scenario, those individuals that need jobs or need better jobs have been forgotten and are under represented.
I agree that we need to be careful about growth. But preservation at all costs, especially the cost to low-income Vermonters, is not fair, right or economically sound. The courts ruling to uphold the Environmental Boards decision to limit OMYAs trucks on Route 7 will not, in fact, lessen the truck traffic going through downtown Brandon. Most of the truck traffic is through traffic and much of it is actually passing through the state and this traffic continues to increase. The community has no control over these increases and these trucks do little or nothing to enhance the local economy.
However the courts ruling has eliminated the potential for many good paying job opportunities that would have come from an OMYA expansion. Unfortunately, the people that these types of decisions affect are under represented on local and state boards and committees. Individuals who have to work hard, often times at two or more jobs, to put bread on the table, have little time or energy to commit to community involvement. As a community leader, I regularly see this portion of our constituents ignored and I often remind the people on these boards that this constituency exists, that they are taxpayers and voters and must be considered in the decision making process.
As with many issues, there is a compromise position. Instead of this limited growth approach, lets take a look at our community and region to find places where commercial/industrial growth would be most appropriate. Instead of limiting the transportation options of those businesses that provide employment, lets get involved in trying to solve our transportation issues.
I love Vermont and feel very fortunate to be able to live here. However one of the reasons I love living here is the diversity of the people. If we eliminate all possibilities of good paying jobs and we end up with a Vermont wonderland that appeals to the wealthy tourists and retirees, Im not so sure I would like it any more. There is more to Vermont than physical beauty and historic heritage.
I hope all Brandonites will become aware of the issues involved in limiting the economic growth potentials in our town and our region.
LYNN SAUNDERS Brandon
Rutland Herald, Wednesday letters
May 23, 2001
Act 250 preserve what's good
A recent federal court has ruled in Brandon's favor by upholding the act 250 limitation on OMYA trucks through downtown Brandon. The Rutland Herald editorial stated, "The federal courts have upheld Vermont's right to protect its communities through Act 250...and it has encouraged Vermonters to believe that Act 250 remains an essential bulwark for the state's environmental values."
At the same time, a recent article quoted Rep. Bob Wood as saying that if the pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock today, they would turn back, given the restrictions of Act 250. I believe just the opposite. They probably would turn back, but not because of restrictive regulation, but rather because they would find from Boston through Plymouth to the tip of the Cape, unrestricted strip development, sprawl, rampant housing development, and unbearable traffic jams.
Preservation of the Vermont way of life is not just the dream of "out-of-state environmentalists," some of us "native" Vermonters' consider ourselves supportive of controlled growth and protection of our community, the region, and the state as a whole.
Rutland Herald, Tuesday letters
May 22, 2001
Act 250 reform is 'OMYA bill'
The first joint meeting of the Municipal Transportation Compact was held at the new Tinmouth Community Center on March 24. Citizens of the five member towns met with nine members of the state House and Senate, most of whom represent our districts, for an afternoon of spirited conversation about the potential impact on our transportation systems by truck traffic that would serve OMYA's proposed strip mine in Danby Four Corners.
The bulk of the discussion centered around the recent changes passed by the House on Act 250. Many of the state representatives in attendance voted to accept these amendments, which in the name of "streamlining" the Act 250 process, begin to limit our ability to have fair recourse in that process.
Making the process more formal, limiting new testimony we might add during appeal, and eliminating what are called "materially assisting parties" basically pulls the rug out from under us, along with the dust beneath it. This "streamlining" is code wording for "Give big business what they have been crying for for years." Some up in Montpelier call it "the OMYA bill."
Walter Freed, our speaker of the House, and a stand-up sort of guy, rose in the bill's defense and did his best to assure us that despite the changes we still had a strong case with what remained of Act 250. One way of putting it would be, OK, we cut off one of your arms but you should still be able to win the fight with your remaining appendages. That's cold comfort. Walt never did get the applause meter working for him, having not convinced the audience that the amendments would in any way improve our situation.
A surprising number of people from Danby were in attendance, even though Danby isn't a member of the compact. The people from the Four Corners know what would be in store for them, should OMYA come to town. In fact, they were the most vigorous debaters of the day. Compact members or not, they are in our hearts and prayers and we hope that some day they will convince their town leaders to join us for our mutual protection.
On a lower note, an often-asked question at the meeting was, "Where is Bob Weeks?" Bob, who represents, so they say, Tinmouth and Wallingford, compact members, chose to ignore several invitations and press releases, and not attend. I can understand his reluctance. Having been warned on Town Meeting Day just how unhappy we would be should he vote in favor of the proposed changes to Act 250, he returned to Montpelier and within six working days, voted to approve every single one of them. Thanks, Bob. You're really "taking Vermont back" to the people. I'm sure that we can find some way to repay you in the next election.
Weeks absent from big meeting
Dear Representative Weeks,
We were greatly disappointed that you, our representative, did not attend the informational meeting on the Transportation Compact held in Tinmouth. The meeting was attended by over 100 concerned citizens, as well as every Rutland County legislator. Even Speaker Freed attended the meeting.
Your absence was especially disheartening for several reasons. During the campaign you stopped by our house and asked for our vote. I said we had only once concern, OMYA's proposed strip mine in Danby. I asked you how you stood on the issue, and your reply was that you "didn't mean to sound like a politician and avoid the issue, but you had not studied it, but intended to." Have you come to a decision on where you stand? If you are still studying the issue, why didn't you join your constituents and colleagues at the meeting to educate yourself on how this proposed mine threatens our rural lifestyle, our property values, our roads, our budget, the environment, and our safety?
It also angers us that perhaps you are really a politician talking out of both sides of your mouth. At town meeting you stated that you were satisfied that Act 250 was working and wouldn't support the pending proposed amendments. Six days later you voted for every amendment weakening the law and, in turn, weakening Tinmouth's ability to fight OMYA's unending, unquenchable thirst for profits at the expense of your constituents.
We would certainly welcome any comment and would be interested if you intend to represent your constituents on this issue. As we recall, you made a big deal about listening to the people on the civil union issue, something of far less importance to the people who will be affected by this issue.
JOHN and JOANNE HOLLER
Environmentalist not so pure
Annette Smith, with the help of the Rutland Herald, is trying to make herself out to be some sort of heroine. Supposedly looking out for the best interest of all Vermonters by fighting this behemoth, OMYA Inc., Ms. Smith is setting a good example for a clean environment by not being connected to the power grid; however, she burns propane to heat her greenhouse all winter long. Not being connected to the power grid, she must burn either wood or fossil fuels to keep her house warm, and gas or candles for light. Where do the products of combustion from burning these fuels go? I cant imagine Ms. Smith lets them escape into the air we breathe, being so concerned with a clean environment and all.
Ms. Smith did a tremendous job of fighting the proposed gas pipeline that was supposed to go through her property. With all the propane she burns, wouldnt she have benefited from a gas pipeline?
With the likes of Ms. Smith and other individuals fighting to keep businesses out of Rutland County, in their efforts to keep Vermont beautiful and clean, they must appreciate the sight of poverty much more than a buried pipeline or a quarry. Maybe Ms. Smiths lemon-and-lime farm can support hundreds of families.
May 9, 2001
[note: the author of the following letter notified us that the Rutland Herald made significant changes in the text. The original letter is printed, below the Rutland Herald's published version]
Roads in Danby are OMYA issue
The latest OMYA rumor in Danby, planted by OMYA to be sure it gets around, is that it will build its own road for the trucks to take crushed marble out. Questions about a route for this road are not answered.
What is a road without a route? Its a pipeline dream. OMYA apparently wants to piggyback on the now defunct gas pipeline in order to make use of somebody elses eminent domain land grab.
The only thing consistent about OMYAs plans-fantasies is that it wants somebody else to pay for it. Last fall it was pursuing Senator Jeffords begging for federal money to build its fantasy road. Despite repeated requests from the people to be impacted by this project, Senator Jeffords has not responded. Its not the money OMYA really wants. It wants some government collaboration to get power to use eminent domain for its road.
OMYA has not filed for an Act 250 permit and is not likely to file any time soon, according to its attorney. If it gets a permit, you can expect private driveways and ski trails to be the next beneficiaries of public good power and money.
The latest OMYA rumor in Danby, planted by OMYA to be sure it gets around, is that they will build their own road for the trucks to take crushed marble out. Questions about route for this road are not answered.
What's a road without a route? It's a pipeline dream. OMYA apparently wanted to piggy-back on the now-defunct gas pipeline in order to make use of somebody else's eminent domain land grab.
The only thing consistent about OMYA plans/fantasies is that they want somebody else to pay for it. Last fall they were pursuing Senator Jeffords begging for Federal Money to build their fantasy road. Despite repeated requests from the people to be impacted by this project, Senator Jeffords has not responded. It is not the money OMYA really wants; they want some government collaboration to get them the power to use eminent domain for "their" road. How to get from "Public Good" to "Profit for a private corporation from Oftringen, Switzerland" is the game.
OMYA has not filed for their Act 250 permit and is not likely to file any time soon, according to their attorney. This eminent domain game takes time. If they get it, you can expect private driveways and ski trails to be the next beneficiaries of "public good" power and money.
Friday, April 20, 2001
Together, towns have clout
Regarding the Municipal Transportation Compact forum held on March 24, I would like to thank Senators Crowley and Bloomer, and the seven state representatives for attending, especially Speaker of the House Walter Freed. Their participation demonstrates the power that small towns can wield when they stand together behind a common issue, in this case proposed OMYA truck traffic. Two of the five municipalities that make up the compact, Tinmouth and Wallingford, are represented by Bob Weeks, who, unbelievably, chose not to attend. Apparently Mr. Weeks doesnt want to represent us. If so, hes doing a fine job.
During a discussion of the proposed Act 250 amendments passed by the House, I took offense at the referral by Mr. Freed that we shouldnt, in effect, worry our little bumpkin heads over changes to the appeal process. Why assume you will lose? We dont. I agree with the speakers own assessment that it is unlikely that OMYA would win Act 250 approval at the district commission level for the Danby Four Corners site. At the meeting he stated, I think that, the preponderance of evidence, if it were held today it would certainly go in your favor. There are a lot of significant hurdles that I dont see any easy way of overcoming.
When they lose, OMYA has proven that they will appeal to the highest court in the land. This is where we all will be at a disadvantage if we do not have the opportunity to submit new information as it is uncovered, from companies like the new-improved open OMYA Inc.
WENDY HYBL FANNIN
April 14, 2001
Rutland County's economic development leaders recently consulted with a private think tank, the Ethan Allen Institute, whose president offered a prescription for Rutland's future [Rutland Herald, April 5, 2001]. Reasons for Rutland County's alleged failure to grow like Chittenden County are cited as 1) lack of access to interstate highways, 2) "permit hell" and 3) lack of a powerful, aggressive economic booster organization.
This region's economic development leaders might want to do some more traveling, this time to Springfield, and visit with Gerard Conklin, CEO of Dufresne-Henry, an engineering firm. Mr. Conklin is the subject of an interview in the April issue of Vermont Business Magazine. In response to a question about the future of Springfield, Mr. Conklin answers that it would be unrealistic to think in terms of attracting a major new employer, but that small, home-grown industries employing 20 to 50 people are most likely to happen. Mr. Conklin laments that Springfield just hasn't seen the prosperity the rest of the country has enjoyed in the last 20 years. And he points out it isn't just Springfield; it's Claremont, NH, Windsor, Bellows Falls, "it seems to be all up and down the Connecticut River valley." Apparently, access to an interstate highway does not bring economic prosperity.
Restrictions on Omya's trucking plans are used as the example of "permit hell." In fact, Omya was permitted to expand their trucking from 80 round-trips per day to 115 round-trips -- hardly a resounding loss. The company's desired 160 round-trips was viewed as an impediment to the economy of other types of businesses in the region, a decision upheld by the Vermont Supreme Court and Federal Court. If Omya were to achieve what they "want" in the Rutland region, they would overwhelm many other types of businesses. Vermont's land-use regulation, Act 250, allows for the review of projects so that economic and environmental interests can be balanced.
The suggestion to form a more broad-based coalition of Rutland County interests is a good one. Missing from State of Vermont and regional economic development efforts is the element that promotes rural agriculture. While most of Rutland County's town plans contain as a goal "to preserve rural character", we have virtually no tools to support local agriculture. It is common these days to hear the opinion that "in 10 years there won't be any more dairy farms in Rutland County." But that is a choice, and we can choose to try and make sure this doesn't happen. Vermonters are importing more than 90% of our food, while our farms are dying. We can make choices on the local level to change the equation from one of dependence, towards independence. Working together is the only way to make it happen.
February 28, 2001
Facing the issues in Danby
Open letter to the citizens of Danby, the Danby Select Board and Danby Planning Commission:
In anticipation of town meeting and on the heels of the recently mailed town survey, I would like to say a few things. All of my comments are meant to be positive and respectful in order to promote some open mindedness and free discussion. They are not meant to be degrading or attacking.
First off, I would like to comment on the selectmen's letter in the Town Report regarding concern over salaries. Yes, I do think there are concerns among the townspeople regarding salaries, but I think this issue goes far, far beyond just salaries. I think we would all agree that everyone is entitled to a fair wage. No one can deny that. I think the problem arises when there is a complete lack of management. Again, I want to say that I mean no disrespect whatsoever, but who is managing whom in Danby?
A few questions that have popped into my head are: Are there any job descriptions? (And there may be and I am just unaware.) Are job performance reviews given? If so, who carries them out and how often? Are raises based on job performance reviews? Are goals and objectives set every year? These are just a few of the many steps that help promote good management. Poor management practices result in poor budgeting and, bottom line, higher taxes. End result: poor planning of our tax money and mismanagement of the town are making it unaffordable to live here, not newcomers moving in.
Secondly, I would like to say a word or two about planning. If my husband and I were to consider a project such as opening up a strip club on our property, there is nothing in place to prevent us from doing so. We might call it something else like a live lingerie shop to camouflage what it really is: a strip club. Sex, like mining, has been around for generations and generations. At least in my family. And my husband's, too. If I'm not mistaken, I think it's been a longtime tradition in Vermont as well. We could provide lots of jobs with excellent pay, probably some of the highest wages in the state. My point being that while good-paying jobs and long-standing tradition are positive attributes in a project, the project itself may not be well-suited to fit in with the future vision for Danby.
Assume for the moment that we do pursue our live lingerie shop. Two out of three of my abutting neighbors are seasonal residents, so if we come to a town vote on any project, they will have no say. They pay taxes here, yet they have no voice. Property values in the surrounding area will be affected because who in their right mind would invest their hard-earned money in property near a strip mine - oh, I mean a strip club. Your property values will decrease dramatically, as well as your quality of life due to the negative effects that come along with industry in residential areas. What will be next; maybe a nuclear power plant?
Lastly, I would like to add that this town is headed for ruination if we don't start communicating civilly. Everyone in this town has a right to express themselves without fear of ridicule or retaliation. I would urge you, the people of Danby, to voice your opinions and concerns to our town leaders. They need to know where you stand. Your thoughts and views are important. I strongly urge our town leaders to listen and act responsibly to carry out the will of the people.
DINEEN SQUILLANTE Danby
February 6, 2001
OMYA is a real threat
Destruction is a very big thing. People should try to
understand. You'll never know what's about to happen
until it's too late to say no.
OMYA is a multi-million-dollar corporation. When its
big heavy trucks come wheeling through, you might
regret it. Our roads are not strong or wide enough to
support big trucks like that. The traffic will be so busy
that more accidents will occur and people who own
farms will be affected because the animals tend to
wander and might get hit. If OMYA blasters come to
Danby, it may lead to cellar foundations cracking, and it
will shake up people's wells. The views will pretty much
go to hell, and the property value of houses there will
definitely go down.
I am not trying to tell anyone what to vote for, but I
hope people make the right choice. Just take a look
around, and I bet you'll make the right decision.
GEORGE KEELER III Danby
January 17, 2001
OMYA pipeline is a pipe dream
A little "OMYA arithmetic" - "start small" (the new
Danby strip mine) meant 40 trucks a day. Their true
desire is 200 trucks a day, or something over a million
tons of material a year to feed their plant expansion.
They thought that, if they got a foot in the door, they
could just expand in their usual town bully manner.
They pretend that the trucking problem is their only
obstacle to this huge mine that will destroy the lives and
property values and water supplies of most everybody in
the valley, even without transport trucks. This very
visible and audible mine would be filled with trucks the
size of houses, crushers, diesel generators, excavators
and three-times-a-week blasting. These would not be
"quarry blasts," they would be "gravel blasts" designed
to shatter, at least 60 times more powerful than "quarry
OMYA's latest rumor scheme (circulated as part of their
game) is a pneumatic tube, to get away from the truck
problem. If somehow they could move product from
mine to railroad, then all their problems will be solved.
After the gondolas, the tramways, the conveyors, the
cable cars (all part of OMYA's rumor mill) now comes
the pneumatic capsule pipeline (PCP, for short). To
move a million tons a year this pipeline would have to
operate 24 hours a day. Each one of those capsules only
holds 11/2 tons. You do the arithmetic. Add on the
compressor stations, the loading/unloading facilities, and
OMYA will have to invest about $25 million just to
avoid the trucking problem.
They would still have the cost of rail transport from
Danby to Florence on top of the pipeline transport
costs, thereby raising the price of their product and
denying them the quick payback on investment that their
greed requires. If this was just about moving material,
they would have spent the money to build the rail spur in
Yes, this pair of pipelines has everything going for it.
Except a route. It would have to go through a lot of
back yards, and I am not aware that OMYA owns all
those back yards. A pipeline without a route is called a
pipe dream, or the next move in the OMYA extraction
game. Expect OMYA will want to use trucks "until the
hot air pipeline is built "
WILLIAM ROSS Danby
January 16, 2001
Recollections of our Danby
It was 1947 when I first came to Danby. I was one of
five brothers in World War II. One was killed, one
wounded badly, and three of us were OK.
I started out as a barber in Danby. I had a sports and
candy shop and also a dairy bar.
Being young and ambitious I wanted to start a new life,
with nothing but courage. Danby at that time had more
than 100 men working at the marble quarry. They were
very devoted to the company.
There were a lot of very honest Polish workers who
lived on Quarry Hill. I knew pretty near all the people
who lived there.
Now we have the South Wallingford quarry that has the
greatest assets in the state of Vermont. I marvel at the
good work they do, and the neatness of the whole
Going a short distance from there is Fuller's Sand and
Gravel. A very neat operation and an ambitious young
man. Travel a little ways further is Abbot's Sand and
Gravel also. When you hit Scottsville there's another
very neat sand and gravel belonging to Whitcomb.
The next operation is Lawrence White's. He has sand
and gravel, a logging operation and he does construction
work as well. He's a wonder boy and a hard worker. I'll
take my hat off to him.
These people are the salt of the earth and Danby should
be proud of them.
The selectmen in Danby are the guardians of the whole
town and they have been ever since I've been in town.
They are next to God in their devotion. The purse strings
of Danby couldn't be loosened by any one, because of
The quarry which wants to come on Dutch Hill will be
another great asset to Danby in the future, in spite of the
few rejecting it.
So be very proud of your town. I am.
TED LEWIS Danby Friday letters
January 12, 2001
OMYA is steward of the land
I'd like to refute some misinformation about OMYA and
the environment. I have been managing 6,000 acres of
OMYA forestland for 12 years. This land has been
maintained for long-term lumber production, wildlife
habitat, and conservation land. Some of it is buffer land
to the active or old quarries, which make up less than 5
percent of their land. It is rich in history, as most of it has
been owned by the Vermont Marble Co. for over a
century. Most of it (with a few exceptions) has been
open for recreation or hunting and is used by OMYA's
neighbors as if it were public.
OMYA has been one of my best clients. They pay
promptly. They allow me great latitude in applying my
professional judgment, within their broad parameters of
long-term management goals. They enjoy being a
showcase for active, intensive forest and wildlife
management. I have the inside look at how they care for
the land and are truly long-term thinkers. When I suggest
an investment in improving the forest that will not "pay
back" for 30 years, it is usually approved. Who else
does this? If anyone is interested in a tour of forest
practices, please give me a call at 875-3021. Our work
has been highly rated by wildlife biologists and state
OMYA quarries have little effect on wildlife. All of the
quarries meet or exceed the requirements for
environmental protection, as set by the stringent
requirements of Act 250. One is adjacent to a deer
wintering area. Our research shows that deer and other
animals come right to the edge of the quarry to feed on
plants and berries and drink the clean water. It is likely
that they benefit from the "edge effect" of the clearings.
We are managing to improve this deeryard and others.
We maintain other wildlife habitat and also see "deep
woods" species like bear, fisher and bobcat, close to
villages like Proctor. This forestland also provides clean
water, recreation, and the scenic backdrop we enjoy.
Erosion is minimal from any of these activities and is
controlled by various means. The water leaving the
quarries is clean. If anything, a little calcium is beneficial.
(Ever been to a copper mine?) Calcium carbonate
buffers the natural acidity which benefits trout and other
species. It is used to clean up acid pollution, both in
"smokestack scrubbers" and in application to acidified
lakes to benefit fish.
You and I buy hundreds of pounds of calcium carbonate
every year. It is used in foods and medicine, paper and
plastics, paint and toothpaste. It is spread on farmland
for our food and milk. It is safe, clean, and
environmentally better than most of the things it is mixed
with, and benefits all of us. Should we use more oil and
less calcium in our plastic? Do you know anyone with
osteoporosis? Vermont is blessed with very few
valuable natural resources, marble is one of them. We
aren't buying the big blocks like we used to, but we all
use calcium carbonate. Isn't it selfish to say "not in my
Companies like OMYA are critical to the health of
Vermont's economy. They provide good-paying jobs in
a broad range of skills and professions. These are
stable, family-wage jobs that ripple through all of
Vermont's economy, and cannot be replaced by
tourism, high-tech or Internet.
ROBBO HOLLERAN Chester
Trucking jobs are essential
In response to Mr. Michael Fannin's editorial, "Truckers
using bully tactics," your accusation of L.F. Carter using
"bully tactics" is a very biased opinion. It's restraints on
trucking in general that have created your so-called
"overwhelming impact on the region." You go on to tell
about L.F. Carter trying to throw in with the combined
weight of other companies. What about the combined
weight of innkeepers, bed and breakfast, and all other
businesses that are totally dependent on tourism to
survive in this state on a yearly basis? When inns and
bed and breakfasts started using "bully tactics" to
regulate the use of a federal highway, Route 7, it was
handwriting on the wall that Vermont is not looking out
for its permanent native residents.
We need big business and commerce in this state to
flourish. What kind of businesses does the town of
Tinmouth have to offer? How many of its residents have
to travel to other towns for work. Would it be possible
that you, Mr. Fannin, are too selfish to sacrifice your
one-sided beliefs to benefit people who need jobs, local
jobs at that.
I believe the stand that L.F. Carter and OMYA have
taken is very necessary to protect the growth of business
in this state, and trucking is a very important part of any
I am an employee of L.F. Carter and very proud to be a
part of a company that has genuine concern for the
well-being of their employees and the safety of every
citizen on the road. I am very thankful to have a local
job that supports my family. In opposition to your quote,
I'm going to say that the only truckers that will lose are
those who do not take a stand to protect their future and
the future of business growth. L.F. Carter is taking the
brunt for all the other trucking companies, because
sooner or later they will all become subject to
prejudiced opinions like yours.
This is my paycheck you're talking about, Mr. Fannin,
and neither my family or I are taking this very lightly. It is
a fact that L.F. Carter and OMYA have always tried to
work graciously with towns they affect and associate
with. It is also a fact that selectmen are supposed to act
in the best interest of their town. Are you sure that's
what you are doing?
MATTHEW C. McDONOUGH Pittsford
January 5, 2001
Aesthetics of valley in jeopardy
One day, and soon, OMYA will submit an Act 250 application for a permit to proceed with its proposed opening of a new 23-acre calcium carbonate mine in Danby Four Corners. In their own words, this is an "initial phase." Their ownership of another thousand and more adjoining acres gives some clue as to their future intentions to exploit more of the underlying ore deposits in the beautiful, unspoiled Danby Four Corners-Tinmouth valley.
One of the important criteria that the Act 250 review board will consider in the permitting process is aesthetics. It cannot be imagined how the Act 250 permit application will pass muster if the review board diligently examines all of the ramifications of OMYA's quarrying proposal.
Opening and operating a new strip mine or quarry at the site up the side of Dutch Hill will be accompanied by blasting, excavation noise and a huge crushing mill structure with stockpiles of sorted ore. There will be dumping of over-burden and disposal of unacceptable rubble, with all of this visible through the length of the valley.
On-site trucking and the growling of heavy equipment will add to the din and exhaust pollution. There will be 40 round-trip truck loads per day, for starters, hauled to Florence. Loaded to 76,000 pounds gross vehicle weight and with the attendant dust and racket, these behemoths will degrade our light-weight local roads in short order. All of this cumulative noise and destruction will replace what, until now, was peace, quiet and beauty.
Just picture this scenario: sitting in your front porch enjoying the thrill of watching a rumbling juggernaut of an ore truck go past every seven or eight minutes, six days a week. This will do wonders for your property values.
How will the impact on our environment be reconciled with the concept of acceptable, decent quality-of-life aesthetics? Another piece of Vermont will be destroyed. What an inviting prospect for tourism, eh, Governor? What a travesty if this is allowed to be.
KARL M. DROGE Danby
December 31, 2000
Why isn't OMYA considering pipeline?
I have been following with great interest the trials and tribulations of Vermonters at the hands of OMYA. In Lanark, Ontario, we too are facing similar problems as OMYA prepares to expand its mine and processing operations.
Without regulatory intervention in the past few years, OMYA now runs its trucks through Lanark Village, 24 hours a day.
This is why I read with interest the comments of Mr. James Reddy, president of OMYA Inc. in his interview with the Rutland Herald on Oct 16. In it he said he has told his transportation consultants to "open your minds up and see if there's a way that you can get from the quarry to the plant&Mac183;. Don't assume you have to start with trucks."
Here in Lanark, as part of their proposed expansion, OMYA has recently tabled a transportation study based solely on the use of trucks. No alternatives were considered.
However, alternatives do exist that have not been explored in public, either in Vermont or Ontario. The alternative is a slurry pipeline. The pipelining of crushed aggregates is common world wide, and indeed within the United States there are existing pipelines up to 400 miles long. (Just type in Aggregate Pipeline or Slurry Pipeline on an Internet search engine and note how many sites are devoted to the subject.) The technology is in widespread use and has been used to carry calcium carbonate. Why hasn't OMYA considered using pipelines as an alternative to trucks in Vermont and Ontario?
It may be that a pipeline is a long-term capital investment, and OMYA is just not in it for the "long-term."
KEN POTTER, Lanark, Ontario
December 30, 2000
Elect board to oppose OMYA
This letter is in regards to the proposed Jobe Phillips Quarry that is about to destroy Danby Four Corners. The destruction by this corporate monster called OMYA to this quaint rural town will definitely turn into an environmental nightmare. Over 25 years ago, my husband and I purchased property in Danby Four Corners with the intention of some day retiring there permanently. Vermont gave us a chance to escape the busy city life we lead in Connecticut to a place where God's environment has reminded virtually unchanged.
How the state of Vermont and its present politicians and Select Board members can let such an environmental tragedy happen is beyond comprehension. Over the years my family has enjoyed seeing a multitude of wildlife inhabit Dutch Hill and the surrounding area. Bear, deer, wild turkey, bald eagles, and many other creatures find Danby Four Corners a safe haven to exist in, and to have habitat destroyed would be devastating.
How can the town's Select Board approve this proposal and let a company which is located in Switzerland come and destroy property in the precious state of Vermont? Having lived in a large city all my life, I have seen big businesses come and go, and the remnants they leave behind are not a pretty sight. There are no benefits for this small town, and OMYA has come right out and said that there will be no benefits. The promise of a few jobs is just a decoy so the townspeople will have some hope. If the Wallingford plant is almost depleted, wouldn't it make sense for OMYA to use the people that work at that plant rather than to hire people that are inexperienced who live in Danby?
Also it seems to me there is an extreme conflict of interest that lies within the Select Board of Danby. One of the board members owns a trucking outfit, which means he would benefit from the mine. The towns assessor is married to an OMYA employee, so there lies another example of conflict of interest. Since I am not considered a resident and just a taxpayer, I don't have the right to vote against this proposal, but I can offer a suggestion. It is time for Danby residents to vote in new board members and to change the zoning laws. Danby should be zoned strictly residential, and big business should not be allowed. It has been a farming community, and that is how it should remain.
PAULA DIPPOLD Danby
December 15, 2000
OMYA article informative
First, I would like to compliment Steve Baumann and Bill Hahn on the very informative article on OMYA. I think OMYA has created a very hostile environment for itself by being so reticent about its activities and foundations, which is not unusual at all for a privately owned, old company, especially from Switzerland. It would seem that Mr. Reddy has adopted a little more open attitude (American PR?) realizing the need to communicate a little more openly to accomplish its plans for the area. Enjoyed the article very much, and thanks to the two gentlemen and the Herald for broadening my education. Only one question unanswered: What does OMYA stand for? Now, for a complaint.
Re: the new TV guide: It is a disaster. It falls apart. The pages get separated and lost in the other newspapers. I don't see any improvement as you promised. As far as I can see, what covers the situation nicely, is an old saying "If it ain't broke don't fix it." But of course, you did end up with a lot more advertising space. Please go back to the old format. Please.
HELEN G. HOLDEN North Clarendon
December 14, 2000
OMYA quarry like a melanoma
This year's Vermont Life Explorer magazine is replete with especially beautiful photos aimed at luring visitors and tourist dollars to our state. The introductory page features a handsome, smiling portrait of our governor and his cordial greetings and invitation to come enjoy the peaceful, unspoiled rural environment that makes our Vermont so special.
In contrast to the picture he paints, there are plans afoot by the huge company known as OMYA to take hold of the Danby-Tinmouth valley, arguably one of the prettiest areas in the state, blast the mountainside open and exploit its deposits of calcium carbonate.
When asked for his reaction to these prospects, the governor declines to become involved. A local issue, he says, and anyway, Vermont has a long history of quarrying. This may be true. Stone quarries, sand pits and gravel banks are found all over. Many of them have been part of the landscape since the early settlements - but you don't see people deliberately building new homes next to these old, scarred sites, much less likely if they are still in operation.
OMYA has it in mind to open a new, 23-acre quarry on a 33-acre site about a third of the way up the side of 2,500-foot Dutch Hill. This is not in an old traditionally quarry-intensive valley. It is in the midst of and in plain view of a pristine, long-settled community of farms and residences, smack-dab between the small towns of Tinmouth and Danby Four Corners.
The bucolic, quiet, peaceful surroundings are what many retired folks dreamed of when they bought property, invested savings and built homes to escape earlier, noisier, more hectic locations.
The 23-acre site may not sound like a terrible threat in itself, but in its fact-sheet releases, OMYA innocently refers to it as an "initial phase." They also just happen to have acquired upwards of a thousand additional adjoining acres labeled variously as "screening" and "buffer zones." Not surprisingly, the acquisitions come with mineral rights to the underlying calcium carbonate ore. These deposits run the length of the valley and far beyond. A reasonable inference can be drawn that OMYA has plans to eventually expand the mining much further than the initial 23 acres. This may take many years, but the 23-acre operation will spread like a melanoma to devour the Danby-Tinmouth countryside.
One of the criteria that the Act 250 review board will consider in the permit process is aesthetics. It cannot be imagined how the Act 250 permit application will pass muster if the review board diligently examines all the ramifications of OMYA's quarrying proposal.
KARL M. DROGE Danby
December 8, 2000
OMYA hurting property values
My husband and I eagerly purchased a log home on Dutch Hill in Danby one year ago. We had no idea at the time that OMYA would explore a Danby facility. We thought Danby was an excellent place to raise our newborn baby girl. My husband is a third generation Vermonter from Arlington, and I have been here for about 10 years. Although both of us have traveled and lived all over the country, we chose Danby as the perfect spot to raise our little family.
We are attempting to get a home equity line of credit to remodel our kitchen since we do not currently have an oven. Our house was a seasonal home until we bought it one year ago, and since we purchased it, we have put $7,000-$10,000 into it, including an excellent heating system, stripping the logs, weatherproofing the logs and staining them, building a stone wall in our driveway and selective logging to open up our beautiful views, all in an effort to increase the value of our home.
The appraiser that the bank sent to appraise the value of our home last week turned in an appraised value that was $1,000 less than what it was appraised for one year ago prior to us investing money and hard work into our home on Dutch Hill. Because of this, we will be unable to remodel our kitchen at this time. This appraiser did mention that this OMYA struggle has really slowed down the sale of properties all over Danby, particularly around the Four Corners.
I can't till you how many local businesses such as Rotella's and Brook Valley Appliance, or how many transportation people to deliver our cabinetry and appliances, or how many subcontractors won't have an extra job to do. But I do know that I still do not have an oven, and if enough hard-working, young professional family people such as ourselves find themselves in this predicament due to a proposed quarry, think about what the real thing coming into Danby is going to do to us. We fear that we will owe more on our home than it is worth. Then what?
As much as we love Danby and our beautiful little log cabin, we now contemplate selling our home. If we stay, my husband and I plan on making a solid contribution to the town, the school, and the community. I would hope that the town officials in Danby would not want to lose sight of the potential gains that we believe can be expected if OMYA is not allowed here. We believe Danby is one of Vermont's best-kept secrets, and we hope that it continues on that path and encourages young family people to buy homes in this community.
HEATHER WHITLEY-WHITE Danby
Industry could ruin Vermont
I am a flatlander. I grew up in a small town outside of New York City on the border of New Jersey. When I was a young child we used to cut our Christmas trees from the woods in back of our house, watch deer graze in our yard, and fish in the stream that ran nearby. By the time I was 7, hundreds of acres had been clear-cut and thousands of houses had been built on tiny plots. Strip malls lined the two-lane roads, and the surrounding towns began to experience their first taste of crime, pollution, and overcrowding. That once peaceful town is only a four-hour drive from my home in Wallingford. It can happen here, too.
I went to high school and college in Vermont. I fell in love with the beauty and serenity of this state and dreamed that I would return here some day. My dream came true in 1994. I now fear that with the opening of OMYA's strip mine in Danby, and their proposed truck route through Wallingford, my dream and that of many others will be shattered.
I know that there are many people in Wallingford and the surrounding communities who rely on trucks to do business and heavy industry. What OMYA is proposing is the first step toward industrializing Vermont. You need only to travel a few hours south to see what industry has done to the quality of life there. If we allow heavy industry into small towns of Vermont, it is only a matter of time before the landscape starts to resemble the futuristic nightmare of the New Jersey flats.
Zoning is not a dirty word. Zoning is a way of protecting people who want to live without the intrusion if industry, while at the same time allowing business to operate safely in areas where it won't disturb their quality of life. If OMYA tries to expand heavy industry in Vermont, all Vermonters, natives, transplants, and second home owners, should concern themselves with preserving the very thing that makes Vermont unique- - its beauty, its tranquility, and its independence from the pressures of global corporations. If you think Vermont can't be destroyed by industrialization, take the word of a flatlander, or drive to the "Garden State" and see for yourself.
Thursday Letters, December 7, 2000
Give OMYA a chance
Have you ever heard the old saying, "Be careful what you ask for, you may get it"?
Back in the early 1980s I ran for selectman in the town of Danby, unsuccessfully I would add. I attribute this to the fact that when interviewed by the Manchester Journal, I said that one of the most important issues facing the town was that there needed to be some zoning enacted. You would have thought that I had just moved in from the "flatlands" by the response I got from the "real Vermonters."
Being a Vermonter, as well as a lifelong resident of Danby, I too enjoyed the option to do what I wanted with my land, but also recognized that Danby would not remain the quiet, quaint little town it once was without some guidelines for growth. Here we are 20-odd years later, with the Vermonters (native and imported) wondering why OMYA would have the audacity to try to do the same thing that landowners in Danby have been doing for years, what we want, when we want.
When Mr. Reddy made the statement at the town of Danby informational meeting that, if they were successful in obtaining an Act 250 permit, they would proceed to open their quarry, I for one was not surprised. In fact, I say that is their right. Danby used to have a fair amount of farms, but due to a plethora of reasons, all but a few are gone, replaced by new homes, posted land, and driveways that are more often than not covered with white stone. Where do these people think this pretty white stone comes from? How do they think the contractor got the stone from the quarry to their home? I would be willing to bet that it was not hauled to the site by horse and wagon, but more likely by a truck.
Like it or not, Vermont is dependent on trucks to move products from place to place, a necessary evil, if you will. As to the town of Tinmouth raising concerns about truck traffic, maybe they should think about restricting their use of the Scottsville Brook Road to haul their sand and road maintenance products from Danby or other nearby towns, and instructing paving contractors to seek alternate routes when doing pavement resurfacing contracts. Just as it may be too late to "Take Back Vermont," it may also be too late to "Take Back Danby."
Before someone writes back saying my view is biased, let me state that I do, in fact, work for a large Vermont quarry and sympathize with the long, arduous, and expensive process that OMYA faces in opening their quarry. Maybe we as townspeople should try to work with OMYA rather than against it. Human nature proves that when someone is told that they can't do something, they become more determined to do it anyway. Go ahead tell OMYA no, in a loud resounding voice. It will probably work as well as the no-zoning-allowed attitude has worked in controlling the destiny of the town.
My hat is off to the Select Board in their efforts to deal with this explosive issue. They have followed the wishes of the townspeople in allowing no zoning, but now are faced with the insults and ire of persons wanting selective zoning on a one-by-one basis to fit their ideas of what Vermont should be. I guess these people think that God made a mistake when he placed the minerals here, certainly he meant to place bed and breakfast establishments here so the "real Vermonters" could serve the important people who would come to improve our lives.
BOB GREENE Danby
December 6, 2000
OMYA always wants more
Corporate personality is almost impossible to change. It persists in corporate habits independent of any replaceable person. OMYA has a reputation as a "bully." OMYA is in the extraction business. In the last decade, a most commonly used word in their executive and managerial meetings is "more." More product, more plant feed, more profit, more market share, more trucking, more mines, more factories. The off-again-on-again plant expansion in Florence is but one expression of OMYA's idea of "more." It isn't just a goal, it is a game.
OMYA increases its profits by creating more victims, the people who actually pay for the damages OMYA causes its neighbors. OMYA's refusal to pay for any of this is an item of corporate pride. This extraction game is predatory and rapacious - look up these words in the dictionary. OMYA's reputation rests on low prices they charge for their product, paid for in part by the victims they create.
In a business where 10- and 20-year contracts are written to OMYA's customers, their subcontractors enjoy no such long-term guarantee of tenure. Subcontractor contracts are always up for renewal or adjustment. The subcontractors do most all of the work at OMYA, including the front-line work of attacking the opposition to any of OMYA's expansion plans. "Those people want to take away our jobs." This is the OMYA party line circulated to and through the subcontractors.
The purpose of this letter is to look at OMYA's game, the extraction game. OMYA always has options and alternatives, and their power is in their secrecy; the last thing they want known is anything about their alternatives. Compare this to the game of poker.
OMYA has been selling this "more" expansion to its customers for the last several years and now is under a little pressure to deliver. Their truck expansion in Brandon was unexpectedly denied (they think "delayed") and so they come to Danby looking to "start small" - 40 trucks a day to replace that shortfall. They have options for more plant feed; they have options in transportation. Their game is not letting the public know anything about these. When they give up on the Danby strip mine, what will they extract in return for this "favor"?
WILLIAM ROSS Danby
November 29, 2000
Trucker using bully tactics
"Truckers Beware! ... If you own and operate trucks in Vermont, be aware of what is being proposed in the towns of Tinmouth and Wallingford. If the anti-trucking forces have their way, you could be out of business, and your employees could be looking for work.
"If they come after me they will come after you."
These are the words of L.F. Carter trucking in a letter to the membership of the Vermont Truck and Bus Association. Carter goes on to encourage members to throw their combined weight behind a mail-in campaign to the town select boards.
What Mr. Carter fails to mention is that it is his potential overwhelming impact on our region that is the cause of the current crisis that could necessitate restraints on trucking. With his contracts with OMYA to the north, there is little chance of his going out of business, but he may be right about the smaller carriers.
In the past we have maintained our roads to accommodate the truck usage necessary to our region. There was no problem until we woke up one morning and found OMYA and L.F. Carter on our doorstep. If say, Vermont Transit suddenly decided to run 80 buses a day through our town, we'd have a problem with them as well.
If any one carrier overwhelms a given system, it causes serious problems for everyone involved, including other carriers who may be displaced by the larger concern.
How ironic that OMYA and Carter would use the truckers of this state to fight their fight for them, and when they win, the other truckers lose. What was Carter thinking? How do these playground bully tactics benefit them?
OMYA and Carter come to meetings in our towns and carry on about how interested they are in our concerns and how we can work together to work things out, while behind the scenes their inflammatory rhetoric encourages others to attack us. If they are trying to intimidate us, it's not working. In fact it has had the opposite effect. They are only revealing their contempt for us. They are hurting their own cause. L.F. Carter trucking and OMYA seem to have forgotten, or perhaps never considered that should they prevail in the permitting process they will be spending a lot of time in our neighborhood over the next several decades. Do they want to spend this time among friends, or do they care?
November 28, 2000
Rail crossing needs attention
Now that road construction and street paving in Rutland City has ended for another year, I would like to tell our citizens and travelers to this city of a real dangerous set of railway tracks within the city limits.
We have lived in the southwest neighborhood for more than 50 years and Park Street has been paved each of the last three years. It certainly needed to be improved, but the railway tracks have not been touched in the updating of Park Street for many years.
If you travel on Park Street, be prepared to damage your car, lose a muffler or tailpipe when you arrive at the Park Street tracks if you don't slow down to about 10 or 15 miles per hour. Certainly the track situation should have been improved when the street was paved this last summer, or before it got this bad.
It seems that with OMYA being one of Vermont Railway's biggest customers, the railway would want to make this crossing safe for vehicular traffic and can well afford to do something real soon about this deplorable track, but yet another summer has come and gone and the tracks are a menace and not repaired.
I hope this letter will help to get some Vermont Railway officials to investigate and repair this situation as soon as possible.
With talk in the Herald about relocating the railway yard and switching operations south into Rutland Town, why not do something now for the residents who travel on Park Street every day to and from work or to go to South Main Street the quickest way from the southwest neighborhood.
My advice to my neighbors and Rutland citizens is to stay off Park Street if you can avoid it, or otherwise a repair bill will be the consequence.
Truckers deserve praise, not blame
As true Vermonters, we'd better take a stand. Where would Vermont be without truckers? There is no other way of bringing our goods to us.
Even if we brought goods by plane or train, the handling of the goods would make the prices higher. Also they would have to be trucked to the store.
So it is about time us true Vermonters take a stand for the trucks.
The biggest complainers are people from other states. They only come here to make money.
Also OMYA is trying to bring more work here in our state, and those same big complainers are trying to stop them. There are only two major companies in Rutland County, GE and OMYA. Let's stop and think a little.
Get behind these truckers and companies before we lose all our young people we educate to out-of-state companies and go where they can make a decent living.
ROBERT LaFRANCOIS Wallingford
November 23, 2000
Dismay at plan of Danby quarry
As a small family-held corporation, we write to voice our dismay at the proposal, from large family-held OMYA, for a 50-year calcium carbonate operation near Danby Four Corners. If the company receives the Act 250 permits it is applying for, we expect the consequences for the neighboring towns to be overwhelmingly bad. In particular, the impact on our summer camp on Elfin Lake in Wallingford would be disastrous.
Although we're following the debate from away, we see these essential facts as beyond debate.
Though OMYA calls it a marble quarry, the Danby operation they plan is mining what they call "feed" (crushed rock), for their processing plant in Florence. There will be regular blasting and crushing throughout working hours at the mine, with heavy impact on life in the surrounding farms and homes.
The crux of OMYA's project is moving the mill feed from Danby Four Corners to Florence. The distance and the lay of the land make a conveyor or a pipeline impractical, and the nearest rail access is down in the valley, beside Route 7 in Danby. So the only solution being proposed is road transport. OMYA anticipates 40 loads (plus 40 empty returns) every working day, year round, in trucks grossing 38 tons when loaded. Now this is real physical impact, one that will soon destroy whichever route the haulers might wind up using. Roads and bridges will have to be upgraded before trucking begins, and repairs will be needed much more frequently than they are now. Traffic on the chosen country roads will suddenly become much heavier, slower and noisier. What's more, the tremendous cost of upgrading the routes for heavy trucking is a burden the taxpayers will have to shoulder. The company has already said so, on the record.
OMYA argues the tremendous and growing demand for their product, and the modern, efficient operations they run. According to OMYA, opposing their project is like standing in the way of progress and prosperity - it's almost un-American. Besides, they have just adopted a new policy, one of dealing openly with the community and making their case in public. We note that holding public meetings is part of the process for Act 250 applications.
So far, however, it looks as though their arguments in public meetings have failed to convince the undecided and the skeptics, not to mention the opponents. Employment is not one of their big arguments, and compared to the huge taxpayer costs of their proposed Danby operation, we think a few new jobs at the mine and behind the wheel hardly count. We urge anyone who favors OMYA's application for Act 250 permits to think some more about the costs and the benefits.
We've been told that OMYA has never failed to get a permit they applied for. We're sure that means that OMYA also knows when to let go. We hope they will recognize that even if the taxpayers were to rebuild their hauling route for them, opening a mill-feed mine near Danby Four Corners would blight the surroundings and the trucking corridor without relief. OMYA must be made to realize that a half-century of blight and the tensions it would bring are not worth the good will and respect it would cost them. Though family-owned, the OMYA giant must be made to recognize that if they use their corporate wealth and influence to swamp resistance from small towns and a small state - even as they proclaim openness and flexibility - they will discredit themselves once and for all. The means they propose are wildly out of proportion to the end they aim for.
CHARLES FERGUSON East Vassalboro, Maine
November 22, 2000
Responsibility sadly lacking
We live in an age of lack of supervision by those in executive authority. The skipper of the U.S.S.-Cole assumes that terrorists won't try to sink his ship. So he fails to keep local craft away from it. President Clinton outsources security at Los Alamos to the company in charge of running the lab. So everyone helps him/herself to our country's defense secrets. President Clinton's reaction: "Who, me?"
The governor of Florida assumes that all is well with preparation to receive voters at the voting places on Election Day. In fact, in many counties it's a mess.
In Vermont the governor is so busy with photo-ops and other public relations stuff that in recent years we have seen the extraordinary phenomenon of the emergence of the state auditor - first, Ed Flanagan and now Elizabeth Ready - as an administrative and political power of the first rank.
OK, so now Governor Dean has another chance. I would like to see him put the tree planting and cookie-sale circuit aside for a while, find out who is supposed to be protecting the people of Danby, Tinmouth, etc., from the ravages of strip-mining, roll up his sleeves and go to work protecting Vermont from the depravation of corporate invaders with giant technology.
MORRIS EARLE SR. New Haven
November 21, 2000
Trucks can have great beauty
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. When a truck delivers food to the hungry, medicine to the sick, fuel to the cold, and books to students, trucks are a beautiful sight.
I am proud to say for the past 18 years I have been employed by LF Carter Inc., a third-generation, Vermont family-owned and operated trucking company. "Monster trucks" - not where I work. We have properly registered, permitted and inspected tractor-trailers with trained, safe, qualified drivers. I value being a working Vermonter and my job contributing to our household expenses, as well as providing the health insurance for my family.
I appreciate the goods trucks deliver. To me trucks are a beautiful sight. As you eat your dinner, give your child medicine, or read a book in the comfort of your home, have you ever considered how beholden you are to trucks?
LISA S. SHADDOCK Mendon
We are a place of natural beauty
Vermont is an irreplaceable plant in the garden of natural beauty that still remains in the United States of America. To allow the decimation of this beauty in the name of anything would be an egregious act of irresponsibility. To heed the propaganda of OMYA, whose sole interest is not predicated upon any beneficence to Vermont whatsoever - but only to its pocketbook - would be to join the ranks of those who insensitively destroy our delicate planet in multifarious ways every day. Danby is a jewel in the living kaleidoscope of Vermont's breathtaking beauty. I beg you to help keep it that way.
RONNIE NEWMAN Danby
November 19, 2000
OMYA's proposal too big for Vermont
Without presuming to speak for others who are opposed to OMYA's reopening of the Jobe Phillips quarry in Danby, I would like to respond to a possible misunderstanding on the part of those who are supportive of the OMYA project.
I have read arguments that OMYA's product, calcium carbonate, is mostly benign and beneficial and that it is the best alternative to bleaching wood-based paper to achieve a more permanent white for books and documents.
I have no problem with that. I have also read about how the proposed pit is technically not a strip mine and that OMYA is anxious to minimize its impact on the neighborhoods of Danby. I am familiar with their position.
What I am strongly opposed to, not being a Danby resident, is the sheer scale of the development and the impact that the trucking will have on any towns that happen to be on the way to the processing plant in Florence.
It is precisely because of the economic potential of OMYA's product, its marketability, that I am concerned for the future well-being of Wallingford and other threatened communities, should they lose this battle.
This is not an argument or contest between pro and anti-business (or anti-trucking) parties.
It is, more accurately, a struggle between those of us who want to keep Vermont open for small and medium-size business, that fit into the landscape, and those who have blindly embraced the philosophy that bigger is better. There are a few towns in Vermont, like Essex or Burlington, that are capable of accommodating the requirements of a large-scale enterprise.
And there are cases where a large company has been willing to make tremendous concessions out of respect for the town and region it is courting, such as Husky in Milton.
What is better than bigger is diversity of business and welcoming businesses that respect people and neighborhoods. Vermont may be blessed with more than its share of calcium carbonate but its real wealth is its people who have built their lives along its scenic roads and rivers and deserve to enjoy them.
When my son was growing up, he loved trucks so much that we got him a big book about trucks that illustrated all the different kinds, which he quickly memorized to point out enthusiastically when we drove anywhere.
There was the milk-tanker and the oil truck, the dump truck and the flatbed. He didn't really care that all those trucks keep the economy running, What captured his young imagination was the variety and the power and the noise.
The point I want to make is too many of any kind of truck is not part of a healthy picture of our world that we were anxious to instill in our child. I am not against trucks carrying anything past my house.
I am dead set against having 80 18-wheelers from one giant company pass through my town six days a week.
To me such a sight contributes nothing to the image of a diverse and resilient economy that is contagious to even our youngest learners.
I never taught my son that bigger is better or that whiter paper and toothpaste are more important than a healthy environment, safe roads and quality of life in our beloved Vermont.
Was I remiss? I don't think so.
GARY LINDORFF, Wallingford
November 18, 2000
Vermont needs OMYA jobs
I am writing in response to the Oct. 7 letter written by Michael Fannin, selectman of Tinmouth. As a resident of Tinmouth and an employee of OMYA, I cannot understand why the people of this area are so up in arms about the Jobes Phillips Quarry in Danby. Granted, there will be increased truck traffic and activity in the area, but there will also be a substantial increase in local revenue and jobs as a result.
A blatant testament to the fact that Vermont desperately needs more jobs is the very embarrassing and widely seen bumper sticker that reads "Endangered Species - A Working Vermonter." I know that Mr. Fannin has most likely seen this on many cars and realizes that it speaks volumes. It is beyond comprehension why every time a large company tries to improve Vermont's economic and employment base that they are treated as if they are trying to unleash the plague upon our "pristine" environment. Husky fought long and hard to get into Milton. Home Depot, with all their job opportunities, likewise is having to fight to get into Rutland.
Every time you pick up the paper the closing of another local or state business jumps from the pages. Next time Mr. Fannin has a few extra hours, I urge him to take a drive throughout the Rutland region and keep an accounting of every empty store front, office building, or run-down business area he comes across. Next, he needs to go to the local DET office and look through the job openings, and then he will see, like so many others do, that this region needs all the business revenue and new jobs that it can get. When G.E. recently began hiring again, it was a blessing for many that had lost jobs due to plant closings in the area. The job prospects in this state are pathetic, no matter what your education or skill level.
It is interesting to note that Mr. Fannin's letter keeps constantly referring to "they" when speaking about OMYA. Granted, OMYA is a company with international sites, but the "they" he keeps referencing are his neighbors and fellow Vermonter. Yes, there are a few people who work at the Proctor and Florence plants who are not from this country, but overall, OMYA (Vermont) is composed of hard-working local people who live their lives, raise their children, own homes, and pay taxes in Vermont.
I live near Routes 133 and 140 and constantly see and hear semi-tractor-trailers and dump trucks hauling logs, gravel, milk, fuel, drilling/construction equipment and everything in between at all hours of the day and night on both roads. When I do, I don't say to myself, "Oh well, there goes the neighborhood, the road, and the property values." Instead, I think that it is great that most likely it is a Vermonters who is working and making a living. It seems that those people who are constantly and consistently resisting new business or industry of any kind in Vermont are doing so at the cost of their neighbors who may not have the financial or employment advantages that they do.
LISA AUDETTE Tinmouth
November 16, 2000
Trucks bring what you need
In response to all the negativity about trucks - all I have been hearing about lately is how dangerous and terrible all the big truck are. Well, I hope all you people who have a problem with trucks driving on our roads and traveling through our towns are not talking with your mouths full of food that a truck has brought to the store for you to buy, or while you are turning up the heat in your home with fuel that a truck hauled so you could stay warm, or while you are gassing up your cars and wearing new clothes, all of which a truck brought so you could have it, not to mention all the other things they bring to your towns so that you can have them.
Obviously, the problem should be with the road conditions and not the trucks. Where is all the money that truck owners pay in to the state for road taxes every year? Isn't that money supposed to be used to fix the roads? That is what we are told. I think that most of the roads in Vermont are dangerous for normal traffic, let alone the trucks, and when you get inconsiderate people driving these roads that don't seem to care about how they drive, that is dangerous. I have seen with my own eyes how they brake in front of them, and try passing them on the right side. Well, in all of these instances, if it wasn't for the truck driver putting safety first, these people wouldn't be around to laugh about it. No, they don't stop on a dime, and yes, they do take up space on the road, but if you were a real driver you would know how to share the roads safely with these big trucks.
The majority of these drivers will go out of their way to help someone. All they want is to do their job safely and deliver their products. But they have more emotional and mental stress than most people ever had because they know what they will have to put up with on the roads when they go out to do their jobs.
DIXIE SHELOSKI West Rutland
November 15, 2000
OMYA quarry wrong for Danby
I read Mr. Blair's letter with great interest since he is my "next door neighbor" in Vermont and he has been a good and valued neighbor. However, I must disagree with several points.
I live most of the time in northern New Jersey, a place where zoning exists almost in every town. Mr. Blair is correct that some zoning does "keep out less well-to-do people in various high-income areas. What zoning also does is protect the rights and privileges of your neighborhood.
As a positive example, an auto body shop cannot open a business next door to me because I live in a residential neighborhood. They can open a business in the area where factories or businesses are located. That is so I can continue to have the "quiet enjoyment" that I deserve in a residential area.
Parts of Vermont are different than New Jersey in this regard. There is one issue that is the same. My family has always loved Vermont. I went on vacations there, went to camp there for eight years and went to college there. My parents bought their house at an auction in 1966. They didn't have a lot of money, and they felt very fortunate to be able to buy this property on Old Otis Road. Over the years they drove up every weekend to fix the house up so that they would be able to retire there.
Finally, after 10 years of working on the place, they retired to their house in Vermont. After they died within three years of each other (1989 and 1991), I was surprised and delighted to learn that they left the house to me. Since their death I have been coming up as often as I can to improve the house and property even more and keep it going so that I will be able to retire to the Vermont that I love more than I can relay in words.
Just this summer I learned about the reality of OMYA's "strip mine" opening up just down the road and across from our property. I had inquired about this "rumor" I heard three years ago when I called OMYA and spoke to John Mitchell. He told me not to worry that OMYA did own some property near me and wouldn't be mining there for "50 to 100 years." I didn't think I needed to worry. I was very wrong.
Mr. Blair also stated that this mine would bring in a "bunch of jobs." I have researched this a lot and read every letter Annette Smith has e-mailed me, and from what everyone understands everything OMYA does in Danby will be quite automated. Yes, there will be a lot of trucks, but they will require that a trained and qualified truck driver drives them. It does not sound like my neighbors with a driver's license are going to be able to apply for those jobs. I'll eat my barn if OMYA brings in a "bunch of jobs."
I think OMYA should open a mine. They should open a mine in an area where people's dreams won't be destroyed by that mine. They should open it in an area where people's health won't be put in jeopardy by either constant truck traffic or calcium carbonate. Perhaps they should open it in my town in New Jersey where we are used to the noise, the congestion, the small pieces of property, and the pollution in the air. I hope we can "take back Vermont."
LYDIA BANES KIEVIT Danby
No asbestos at Danby quarry
In a recent letter published in the Rutland Herald, a citizen of Danby, in discussing the proposed OMYA quarry, made the following statement: "Ask them about tremolite."
As a mineralogist it is very disturbing to see a clearly defined scientific term, tremolite, being turned into an emotional push-button word for asbestos, not only by this gentleman but by many in the press. Tremolite, a calcium magnesium silicate, is common enough to be considered a metamorphic-rock forming mineral. It is frequently found in soils and sediments in temperate climates where metamorphic rocks occur, such as ours. Although I have not done a great deal of investigation, my analyses have found it in the soils and sediments of this area of Vermont.
The word tremolite does not equate with asbestos. Asbestos is a commercial term applied to six different minerals, but only in those rare instances when they occur as very long flexible fibers or fiber bundles. The most commonly used asbestos is not tremolite, but a different mineral completely.
As one of them, an OMYA employee, I can assure the people of Danby and of the state that extremely detailed analyses are performed to screen for asbestos using the method recommended by federal regulatory agencies. The analytical technique is a phase-polar microscopy method, which involves analysis of the minute amounts of acid-resistant minerals remaining when calcium carbonate is dissolved in acid. It entails microscopic examination, using special optical techniques at 500X magnification, of thousands of millions of mineral particles per sample. The identification of asbestos is not arbitrary but follows criteria clearly defined by the method.
Furthermore, this analysis is done on a routine basis on feed stone and plant products and, in addition, during evaluation of prospective feed stone. Among the many millions of particles examined from the Jobe Phillips core samples, I have found less than a dozen tremolite particles, all similar to those found in area soils. Moreover, as stated at the Danby town meeting of Sept. 26: No tremolite asbestos, or other types of asbestos, has been found in our Vermont deposits of calcium carbonate despite years of systematic, careful analysis. There is no risk of fibers being released into the air from rock that does not contain asbestos.
ALICE BLOUNT Rutland Town
Quarry could ruin valley
This year's Vermont Life "Explorer" magazine is replete with especially beautiful photos aimed at luring visitors and tourist dollars to our state. The introductory page features a handsome, smiling portrait of our governor and his cordial greetings and invitation to come enjoy the peaceful, unspoiled rural environment that makes our Vermont so special.
In contrast to the picture he paints, there are plans afoot by the huge company known as OMYA to take hold of the Danby-Tinmouth valley, arguably one of the prettiest areas in the state, blast the mountainside open and exploit its deposits of calcium carbonate.
When asked for his reaction to these prospects, the governor declines to become involved. A local issue, he says, and anyway, Vermont has a long history of quarrying. This may be true. Stone quarries, sand pits and gravel banks are found all over. Many of them have been part of the landscape since the early settlements, but you don't see people deliberately building new homes next to these old, scarred sites, much less likely if they are still operating.
OMYA has it in mind to open a new, 23-acre quarry on a 33-acre site about a third of the way up the side of 2,500-foot Dutch Hill. This is not in an old traditionally quarry-intensive valley. It is in the midst of and in plain view of a pristine, long-settled community of farms and residential homes, smack dab between the small towns of Tinmouth and Danby Four Corners.
The bucolic, quiet, peaceful surroundings are what many retired folks dreamed of when they bought property, invested savings and built homes to escape earlier, noisier, more hectic locations.
The 23-acre site may not sound like a terrible threat in itself, but in its fact-sheet releases, OMYA innocently refers to it as an "initial phase." They also just happen to have acquired upwards of 1,000 additional adjourning areas labeled variously as "screening" and "buffer zones." Not surprisingly, the acquisitions come with mineral rights to the underlying calcium carbonate ore. These deposits run the length of the valley and far beyond. A reasonable inference can be drawn that OMYA has plans to eventually expand the mining much further than the initial 23 acres. This may take many years, but the 23-acre operation will spread like a melanoma to devour the Danby-Tinmouth countryside.
KARL M. DROGE Danby
November 13, 2000
Don't revere the company
The two-page spread on OMYA, the giant international calcium company that is getting ready to devastate my part of Vermont, had my husband wondering what you had in mind. The tone was reverential.
In fact, a lot of the spread sounded like the work of some company public relations hack. I was interested to see that the head of the company is "one of the world's wealthiest individuals," but it didn't make me feel any better about the company's plan to strip that beautiful mountain I used to see driving to and from dances years ago.
The company plans to go on getting rich taking away a lovely mountain in giant trucks roaring along from Danby to Florence every seven and a half minutes for the next 50 years. Why give them all this favorable publicity besides.
LISA R. PEATTIE Wallingford
End the constant vilification
When are we going to stop vilifying trucks, truck drivers and truck owners? A letter to the editor by Jane Rinck undertook an examination of how many people's lives would be affected if OMYA were to use the Danby-Pawlet road to Route 133 to Business Route 4-A to Route 3 to Route 7 north to Florence.
I applaud her efforts, but I think she missed one of the most important points.
Trucks deliver most of the goods and services we use every day, such as the materials that built my home, the fuel we use to heat it, the furniture, appliances, food and clothing.
Electricity, phone and plowed roads are all serviced by trucks. Fuel for my car, garbage that's taken away and many, many other services are provided by trucks. Our lives would be far worse without trucks, than with them.
My front porch is 20 feet from Business Route 4-A. When a "monster truck" goes by, I think of the economic value that is produced by its use. They don't only deliver goods and services, but also produce revenue for its owner, the operator, and even the state Department of Taxes.
In the case of OMYA, it sells modified rocks. Not gold, not silver, not trees, not water, but rocks, to the world's manufacturers. The world wants our rocks! It would be interesting for the state of Vermont to study the economic impact to the state by the loss of trucking. I believe we cannot always say: "Trucks and truck routes great, but not in my front yard."
Henry Carter, president of L. F. Carter, Pittsford, is the third generation to operate a Vermont trucking business with the hope of seeing his two sons some day taking over the operation. Will this same situation apply to other well-known trucking families in Rutland County such as Quirk Brothers, Ed Fabian, Casella, Elnicki, Markowski, J&J, and Dumas, to name just a few?
These companies pay taxes and buy services, and they have employees. Those employees pay taxes and buy services. The process goes on and on. So let's not continue to vilify them. They provide the products and services we demand. They are good providers to the communities we live in.
Note: I am self-employed, not in the trucking industry.
MICHAEL MOSER West Rutland
November 11, 2000
OMYA plans to ruin Danby
First of all, I wish to express my condolences to the townspeople of Danby Four Corners. The amount of devastating destruction that is about to fall upon this beautiful mountainside by a company called OMYA is indeed an environmental nightmare. For the past 25 years I have traveled northward with my family to enjoy this town's foliage splendor. It has become a tradition that we all look forward to and enjoy.
However, as I arrived this October as we have so often done in the past, the newspapers have been filled with disturbing news. A Swiss-owned company called OMYA is about to destroy the beautiful landscape in Danby Four Corners. OMYA's path of destruction throughout the United States is widespread. It is a company that fills people's minds with false illusions and false promises. As I see it, the only benefits Danby will receive from OMYA will be air and noise pollution. Also, destruction of the roads and landscape are on their agenda.
It is with much sorrow that my family and I have decided to break tradition. Next year we will travel east to New Hampshire and enjoy the foliage there. Our annual trip has always been to visit Vermont and now because of a company called OMYA we have to travel to another state. Our enjoyment of viewing the foliage does not include looking at white calcium carbonated dust-covered trees.
STEVE JULIUS New Haven, Conn.
November 9, 2000
Finding solution for OMYA trucks
Over the last 20 years we have worked very closely with OMYA on a myriad of transportation issues. The Route 7 corridor has become a major issue of traffic concerns. OMYA has suffered, and so will others who attempt to use this route. For years the state has promised to alleviate the traffic problems and has studied some parts of the route to death. But studies do not eliminate bottlenecks. Our state and federal governments by working with Vermont Railway and major users, such as OMYA, could design a plan that would significantly reduce truck traffic throughout southwestern Vermont. How can we force traffic off of the road without an alternative? OMYA has been a leader in promoting and supporting rail as a solution to traffic concerns, but all of our efforts so far have come to nil.
OMYA maximizes its use of the railway so that it can reduce the number of trucks on the highway at any given time. OMYA has more than 1,600 rail cars in their fleet right now and is the single largest user of the Vermont rail system. There is only so much one company can do. State and federal governments and the business community and towns in the region must work together to find solutions to our transportation problems. If we do not find a solution, businesses like OMYA will go away. Vermont Railway handles the equivalent of 26,000 full tractor-trailer loads per year, that is over 70 full-size trucks per day. Vermont Railway has the capacity for growth in the business we do with OMYA, now and in the future.
We are committed to finding solutions to the transportation problems on the Route 7 corridor and to keep OMYA in the state and on the rails of Vermont. They are far too valuable to lose.
DAVID W. WULFSON
(President, Vermont Railway) Burlington
Thirty jobs not worth it
This is in response to a letter by Earl Rand in Wallingford. He says we should let OMYA open this mine in Danby. It would bring jobs and other economic growth.
Maybe 30 jobs would come to the area. Let's look at this. Thirty jobs compared to 40 trucks making a round trip down a road not built for that traffic, all the noise to disturb the peaceful countryside, the trees torn from the mountain to make way for this mine, the wildlife chased off the mountain because of the activity, the possible erosion from the lack of vegetation that would be cleared, the destruction of the water table (which is where almost everyone gets their water from in that area), lowered property value, and the basic destruction of a peaceful beautiful valley.
This is all worth 30 jobs? Yeah, right.
KEN TURNER Danby
We all depend on trucks
This letter pertains to all of you who have done nothing but complain about OMYA's proposal to expand their business, especially Jane Rink. I just got through reading your nonsense, and it sickened me. I deliver milk for a local milk company and have driven trucks for a few years now and have always admired the people who drove them. It is a very large responsibility being behind the wheel of one of these rigs. That's why they call us professional drivers. I cannot believe some of the "garbage" I've read about this issue of the big trucks - the fuss in Woodstock about 53-foot trailers. Do you people realize that everything is transported by trucks in one way or another? Without them, this country would be in an awful fix. Grocery prices would skyrocket, gas prices would go even higher than they are, and everything else would go downhill from there.
In OMYA's case, there is no reason that they can't use the main roads. I suppose some people have nothing else to do but complain about something they know nothing about.
ANDY NOTTE Pittsford
Rutland Herald Letters to editor
October 23, 2000
Business having hard time here
More and more the environment for conducting business in our state is becoming unsustainable. The recent OMYA situation is a vivid case in point. OMYA, the Vermont-based marble company, has expansion plans that have drawn opposition from some of its neighbors, opposition that is born, for the most part, out of ignorance and misinformation. The details of the project are available from the company as are impact statements, but at root the debate is more about the direction Vermont continues to travel with respect to its economic/environmental balance. OMYA is the latest potential victim of an imbalance in supposedly well-crafted environmental laws.
I cannot imagine anyone disagreeing with the notion that Vermont is exceptionally beautiful and blessed with an abundance of natural resources that make the state quite attractive to both advocates of the environment and those advocating the planned utilization of natural resources. The two views are not mutually exclusive and in most cases, particularly with companies like OMYA, enhance one another and benefit our state enormously.
OMYA is a very good company and neighbor. The 8,000 acres owned by OMYA are examples of some of the finest environmental stewardship in our state. The forestlands, those that I am particularly familiar with, are well managed and provide many benefits to citizens interested in hunting, recreation and hiking.
In addition to the considerable benefit to Vermont's ecology, OMYA's contribution to the Vermont economy is in excess of $85 million annually with an additional $1 million estimate for the new project.
At a time when economic considerations play second fiddle to environmental concerns, Vermont should be looking to companies such as OMYA as examples of the proper balance between a vibrant economy and a healthy ecology. It is one thing to have an ideology that seeks to render everything pristine for some unattainable ecological utopia. It is, however, an entirely different matter to face the reality that only those states and countries with healthy economies can afford to prioritize environmental policy. Chasing OMYA from Vermont is in no one's interest.
SEAN McKEON (Executive Director, Northeast Regional Forest Foundation) Brattleboro
Much hostility about business
Last week I had the opportunity to visit the OMYA calcium carbonate plant in Florence. Even though the Russell Corp. built the plant in 1976, I continue to be amazed at the advanced technology and the efficiency of the plant. I continue to learn more about the products and people of OMYA. As an example, calcium additives in both food and calcium supplements have grown. This important natural resource from Vermont not only helps people all over America; it also helps preserve our forests by reducing the amount of trees harvested for paper.
I am also amazed at the hostile business environment in which we live. I wish there were a magic pill we could take to treat the problem. Some are attempting to restrict OMYA trucks from passing through their villages. If the calcium carbonate trucks are the first to be singled out, who is next? When a community quits trying to resolve the difference between business and environment, the working people of Vermont are bound to lose. Do we want to see the environment lose? I don't. Do we want to see business lose? No. By finding ways to work together, we can sustain growth in both good and bad times, retain jobs and eliminate one valuable export: our children.
JOHN A. RUSSELL Jr. (President, John A. Russell Corp.) Rutland
Rutland Herald Letter to editor
October 12, 2000
OMYA's claim wasn't false
I read D. Herrick's Sept. 13 letter with disbelief and amusement. I need to respond. She referred to "OMYA's false claim to history." I have been employed by OMYA for 28 years, and I began at the White Pigment Corp. in 1972 when it was part of Vermont Marble Co.
Ms. Herrick's assertion that OMYA cannot latch onto Vermont Marble's history is ludicrous. OMYA bought Vermont Marble and through its efforts, was able to continue to operate a failing Vermont Marble Co. until the dimension stone portion of the marble industry, which built buildings, collapsed due to foreign competition. It did this while expanding its ground products business that began in 1940. If OMYA had not purchased Vermont Marble, the entire company would have folded and it would not be in existence today. Compare no company to a company that pays a $13 million Vermont payroll every year, and pays $2 million in property taxes to 24 Vermont towns, as well. Vermont Marble changed its name to OMYA in 1993. Who else has the right to claim Vermont Marble's history?
The art of fine-grinding calcium carbonate has been part of the history of Vermont Marble Co. since at least 1940. This processing, once a sideline business, has become the dominant function of every calcium carbonate company operating today. Today's OMYA was incorporated in 1894, in Vermont, as Vermont Marble Co. and has continued the history of Vermont Marble, keeping it a vital, growing, and responsible company that wants to keep jobs in Vermont.
JAMES B. STEWART Middlebury
Rutland Herald, Letter to editor
October 10, 2000
Which routes for the trucks?
We don't know what route the OMYA trucks may take. One of the possibilities is to go west on the Danby-Pawlet road to Route 133, north to West Rutland, then on through Proctor, Pittsford to Route 7, then to Florence.
To find out how many people would be directly affected by the route through Pawlet, I counted up from the town map a total of 26 houses and saw three more under construction. Estimating three people per house, comes to 87 people of all ages. From Route 133 north, I counted houses on the entire route and came up with a figure of 405 houses and an estimate of 1,128 people; adding in the Pawlet people, a total of 1,215. On Route 133, trees hid some of the houses, and I didn't go up driveways, nor did I go up side roads that dead end. The total of 1,215 people is an under-count, but at least indicates a potential major disaster. What are some of the dangers that may lead to disasters?
All up and down our roads, parents of little tots stand on the edge of roads with their children to see them safely to their school bus in the morning and wait for them in the late afternoon to see them safely home after school. Breathing the fumes from the trucks plus would be seriously unwholesome.
Sooner or later, most of us go to Allen Street in Rutland to the hospital or to the many specialists in its shadow, sometimes for ourselves, sometimes for beloved others. Stroke and heart attack victims need fast help. OMYA trucks as long as a mobile home would be practically impossible to pass on our narrow winding roads. Some people live on roads so remotely located that our rescue squads would be forced to take a long way around to avoid the truck chain.
How long does it take to stop an 18-wheeler loaded with marble? In ice, snow, rain? I suppose the answer is, "Well, it depends." The life of a beloved but incorrigible beagle, the life of a beautiful buck with a great rack, the life of a six-year-old boy who wasn't looking - all could come to a horrible end leaving nothing behind but memories and endless lawsuits. International oil barges take 10 miles to stop with the engines in reverse; a truck isn't as bad, but can they stop in time, especially on ice?
Monster trucks are not scheduled for my road, maybe not yours either, but we have a duty to protect one another, our community, our beautiful state and our nation. Our peace must not be destroyed by raw greed.
JANE RINCK Wells
Rutland Herald Letter to editor
October 7, 2000
OMYA meetings display arrogance
I've been to three of OMYA's informational meetings in Tinmouth, Wallingford and Danby. While I've been given precious little information about what would be the impact of their proposed mine in Danby, OMYA's pattern of obstructing information reveals much about their strategy and intentions. What they have been forced to admit is frightening in its arrogance.
Typically, OMYA will start with an infomercial about the various uses of their product and how the world would hardly get along without it, when actually there are alternatives in the market. Then they set about to rewrite the history of the marble industry in Vermont to include themselves and claim the mantle of historical precedent.
When the people get a moment, they voice their specific concerns about impact on their property values, their safety, environment, infrastructure and the quality of life they now cherish, they get one of four responses from OMYA. "We are here to listen to your concerns", "we can't answer these questions until our studies are done", "we are still considering all options", or "we don't know."
What is actually happening here is that they are developing a record of intercourse with the effected towns that they can hold up to an Act 250 board and say that they did their best to address our concerns when the fact is they will have done an end run around us.
They do take a beating. When the obfuscation level becomes too ludicrous to bear, laughter breaks out among the audience. It is the heartbreaking laughter of the soon to be dispossessed. These meetings have been wasted time for us but provide the leverage OMYA needs in the Act 250 hearing. Otherwise, why would they put up with such venom and ridicule?
While they had originally hoped to have the pit open by now, their new CEO, James Reddy, has taken a different tack by suggesting that there is no hurry to come to any firm decisions. This is a turnabout but makes sense from their current perspective. While pretending to be waiting for more input, they are actually stalling in the reasonable hope of finding a more favorable political atmosphere after the November elections.
Should the state Legislature and administration shift to the right, their allies in the State House can make better progress in the emasculation of Act 250 and so weaken any local ability to resist them. So much for local control.
There has been the occasional lucid moment at the meetings when OMYA has been backed into a corner and made to respond. In Wallingford, when asked about potential jobs going to locals, John Mitchell replied that there was no company policy regarding a quid pro quo toward any community.
In Danby, James Reddy was asked if the company was willing to share some of its enormous profits from this project with the town, in other words, mitigation. The answer was no. When asked if they would abandon their plan if the people of Danby voted to oppose it, Reddy's answer was, "We are proceeding to get an Act 250 permit. If we don't get the permit, it's a moot point. If we do get the permit, we open the quarry." In other words no.
That's the kind of straight talk we were looking for, but it does make your blood run cold.
MICHAEL FANNIN (Selectman) Tinmouth
Rutland Herald Letters to editor
October 5, 2000
Give Danby chance for jobs
As former selectman of Danby, I am very much aware of the opinions of most of my fellow residents.
One thing most of them do not want is zoning. They believe in live and let live and that your property is yours to use. They want affordable housing on lots they can pay for. They want a place for their children to live.
The well-meaning folks from places where zoning is used to keep out the less well-to-do are trying to keep a bunch of jobs and a shot at prosperity out of Danby by zoning away the chance for a longtime employer in Vermont (and Danby, too) to open a quarry.
I used to work for OMYA, and they are good people. When the building portion of the marble business died out in America, they searched the world to find a company that would keep the Danby quarry open and save my job and the job of a couple of dozen Danby and surrounding area residents. They could have just shut it down and walked away. Unlike the newcomers, they cared about us. Well, we don't want zoning, we don't want barriers to growth, and we do want work.
Forget about zoning. Let's "Take back Danby."
MIKE BLAIR Danby
OMYA is good neighbor
Loyalty. It is a word that we hear too infrequently in today's world, but many of us who are familiar with OMYA are lucky enough to see it in operation every day. As an employee with a subcontractor at the Florence plant and lifelong Vermont resident, I can honestly say that OMYA is a company you can count on to be a solid neighbor. My family has benefited greatly for three generations, working for the Vermont Marble Co. and now OMYA.
Although it is now called OMYA, it maintains many of the positive traditions of a smaller company. For example, it is loyal to the many communities it impacts, contributing buildings, land and dollars to improve the quality of life of its residents. It pays millions of dollars in property taxes to more than a dozens towns on land that it leaves open for Vermonters to use for recreational purposes like hunting, fishing, and snowmobiling. And finally, it has been a responsible and loyal employer.
Although it is a large company, it cares about each and every one of its employees. It employees hundreds of people directly and indirectly in jobs that pay a livable wage with excellent benefits. But we must remember that loyalty works both ways. Those of us who have benefited from OMYA's silent loyalty over these many years must take the lead in voicing our support of its efforts to expand production of calcium carbonate at its Florence plant. Allowing OMYA to utilize an existing quarry in Danby that has been a part of the Vermont landscape for a hundred years will generate more work for Vermonters, more taxes for our towns, and more product for consumers who are hungry for one of Vermont's greatest exportable products - marble.
TERRANCE J. KEITH Pittsford
Trucking industry essential to state
When asked recently "what do you want to do when you grow up," my sons, ages 7 and 9, both had the same answer. "I want to work with my dad and drive a truck." To some this may not sound as prestigious as being an engineer, doctor, innkeeper, or artist, but my boys are speaking from their hearts. They have the privilege of being the fourth generation of a Vermont trucking company who has provided quality and safe service for 71 years.
They think trucks are "awesome." I think trucks are a necessity. Virtually everything manufactured, bought, sold or used in Vermont on a daily basis is transported by a truck. The trucking industry provides a substantial amount of revenue for the state of Vermont, through registration fees, permits, Vermont diesel taxes, and unemployment taxes.
It is time to look to the future. The restrictions being placed on trucks throughout our region today will affect everyone's future. Restricting truck traffic will produce a chain reaction damaging all industries.
I hope in years to come when my boys are old enough there will still be a trucking industry to support my dreams, their dreams, and a fifth generation. As you tuck your children into bed tonight look around the room, most of what you see probably has been on an "awesome truck."
HARRY A. CARTER (President, L. F. Carter Inc.)
Rutland Herald Letter to editor
September 22, 2000
Wallingford plan has protections
When it comes to dealing with OMYA's projected routing of its fleet of 18-wheelers through the center of Wallingford, Wallingford is lucky to have a town plan that watches over its architectural heritage, natural resources and extraordinarily beautiful (even by Vermont standards) environment. It is also reassuring to know that Act 250 is not insensitive to the position of towns, such as Wallingford, that have evolved an interest in protecting what they've got from over-development or the encroachment of businesses that are not necessarily good for the town or, arguably, the region in which the town dwells.
I would like to quote a couple of excerpts from Wallingford town plan:
"Heavy truck traffic, and high traffic volumes generally, have had a negative impact on the quality of life of residents, and, reportedly, on the structural integrity of some of Wallingford's most important historical homes." (Page 42)
"Encourage and create incentives for the protection and enhancement of the natural beauty and scenic characteristics of local landscapes, including … traditional villages and streetscapes, historic buildings and cultural features and significant scenic roads and pathways." (Page 79)
"Encourage and provide incentives for residential, industrial and commercial development to avoid undue or adverse impact on significant natural areas to the greatest extent possible." (Page 79)
OMYA is not some locally or regionally oriented company with a vested interest in improving the standard of living in Vermont or fitting in like a good neighbor. It is a multinational corporation with a dubious history of moving in to monopolize on a tremendous non-renewable resource in a very cavalier fashion.
All pro-business and pro-development passages in Wallingford's town plan are conditioned or qualified by provisos to protect the integrity of the historic village atmosphere and natural surroundings. Embedded within the language of this 99-page document (chock full of maps and tables) is a wise voice calling for moderation and circumspection. It is a voice that recognizes Wallingford's historic and natural integrity as one of its greatest assets - a legacy that must be preserved for future generations just as it was preserved for us to enjoy by those who are buried on the hill.
GARY LINDORFF Wallingford
Rutland Herald Letter to editor
September 19, 2000
Quarrying is not strip mining
I have to disagree with Michael Fannin's views on OMYA, Aug. 16. Mr. Fannin is from West Virginia, and I'm afraid he has confused strip-mining with quarrying. In strip-mining a vast quantity of soil and rock are removed to get a coal seam a few feet thick. It's not a mine process.
Here in Vermont, we quarry rock. Whether it is slate or granite, soapstone, marble, or limestone, we have solid hills that are made of rock. We have always quarried rock. There is Vermont marble in the Washington Monument. Many generations have made their living off Vermont rock, and Vermont is none the worse for it. The abandoned quarries along Route 7 are not a blight on the landscape and if you want a real tourist attraction, go to the Rock of Ages quarry in Barre.
As Mr. Fannin points out, we have a great appetite for calcium carbonate. The newspaper you're holding contains calcium carbonate. Have you seen the huge plastic pipes that have been going in the ground in our towns these back two years? They're 30 percent calcium carbonate. It's in your tooth paste, your pills, and it's the dusting on your chewing gum.
Vermont supplies the country with calcium carbonate. These giant quarries, the big trucks that take the rock to market, they are part of the Vermont landscape. Relax, Mr. Fannin, these things are part of Vermont. You are welcome here, but please don't confuse Vermont with West Virginia. Vermont is different.
Rutland Herald Letter to editor
Sept. 15, 2000
Filling town with noxious fumes
The Rutland Herald of July 24 featured an article entitled "Destination: Middletown Springs." The article began, "The tree-lined street leading into this quiet community features a diverse mixture of old and new landscapes."
The tree-lined street referred to is State Highway 133, and it is the highway which OMYA proposes to use to send its calcium carbonate from its planned "quarry" in Danby to its plant in Florence.
In OMYA's own words, it plans to start off small, sending 40 round trips a day right through the center of this "quiet community." It will certainly add to the "diverse mixture" in this community, namely a mixture of diesel fumes. Middletown Springs sits in a natural bowl surrounded by hills and ridges. The elementary school sits just a couple hundred feet off the highway. OMYA trucks will pass by at a rate of one every seven and one half minutes; that's on a small scale. Eventually this rate could be more than doubled, meaning a truck every three minutes or so. Anyone doubting OMYA's intentions needs to look no further than Brandon, where OMYA had proposed running 185 round trips a day through the center of Brandon, before the Vermont Supreme Court set the limit at 115.
OMYA is a subsidiary of Pluess-Staufer, a Swiss multinational corporation. The topography in some areas of Switzerland is similar to Vermont. Small towns lie nestled in valleys; air circulation patterns allow exhaust fumes to become "trapped" in these natural bowls. Studies in Switzerland found high incidences of childhood cancers linked to heavy diesel truck traffic in small valley towns there. Consequently, Pluess-Staufer was required to use train transportation as an alternative.
There have also been numerous studies here in the United States as to the carcinogenic effects of diesel exhaust. Governor Dean has stated that the granting of an Act 250 permit to OMYA for its proposed "quarry" operation, and the subsequent transportation of the calcium carbonate, is a local issue. This "local issue" will directly affect the health, safety and quality of life in at least a dozen southern and central Vermont communities, hardly a local issue, unless you consider the state of Vermont to consist of the Burlington-Montpelier power corridor. As a doctor and a governor, who has made children's health a priority of his administration, it is time for the governor to step forward on this issue. Should a multinational corporation be allowed to come to our state and do what they have been restricted from doing in their own backyard?
ROB OGUS Middletown Springs
Rutland Herald Letter to editor
September 14, 2000
OMYA's false claim to history
At a recent meeting I met Lee Kahn, a senior Vice President of Cohn & Wolfe, a Washington, D.C.,-based public relations firm hired by OMYA. She said she was happy to meet me; that they had been very impressed by the recent commentaries in the newspaper regarding OMYA's proposed calcium carbonate mine in Danby.
She added they were pleased to see that I had done my homework and used the facts. I thanked her, and I would now like to thank all those who helped do the research for those letters. OMYA's distortion of facts and minimization of impacts needed to be addressed and corrected, and that was the reason for those commentaries.
One continual distortion is that of history. It is ridiculous for them to claim that "OMYA has a history of being in Vermont since the 1800s." OMYA is from Switzerland; they came to Vermont and bought Vermont Marble in 1976.
John Mitchell, vice president of OMYA, says, "OMYA is Vermont Marble." OMYA cannot latch onto Vermont Marble's history and claim it for their own. OMYA's history in Vermont began in 1976.
The old adage, "let the buyer beware," plays well here. When OMYA bought the Dutch Hill property from Georgia Marble in 1988, they knew the Danby-Tinmouth valley was a quiet, rural, residential and agricultural area.
OMYA continued to speculate and buy property on Dutch Hill, knowing there was no existing or grandfathered mine and that they would need to pass Act 250 permitting. They should not be surprised that many valley residents are increasingly concerned as they begin to understand that the proposed strip mining operation would seriously degrade the quality of life in this valley forever.
DONNA HERRICK Danby
Rutland Herald Letter to editor
September 11, 2000
Danby proposal will be terrible
There is a refrain from a Neil Young song that has been going through my head lately: "A natural beauty should be preserved like a monument to nature. Don't sell yourself short, my love, or someday you will find your soul endangered."
I am an artist and musician living in Danby with a business in Pawlet. Vermont has always seemed to me an extraordinarily beautiful place. I have lived in many places in the United States. Somehow, when you are in Vermont, you know there is no place like it anywhere. Even when you are cross the border in New York, a matter of miles from where I live and work, you know you are not in Vermont.
The Danby Four Corners valley, a place I frequent most when I am riding my bike or painting a landscape, is a special place within a special place. It is quite simply breathtaking, especially looking south toward Danby Mountain. It is a slice of heaven between the relative bustle of Routes 7 and 30.
It is here that OMYA proposes to put a strip mine.
The song continues: "A greedy man never knows what he's done."
OMYA will not know or indeed care what it has done. It is a large, multinational corporation, and the bottom line is money and profit. Regardless of any so-called economic benefit to the area, and this in itself is dubious, the results of a strip mine in this area, as evidenced by photographs of the other mines, will be devastating.
The traffic, all the ancillary activity of this operation, and the visual impact, will bring nothing but ruination to this area. We will have lost our souls. It would be nothing short of total desecration.
I frankly wouldn't care if the mountain they propose to destroy was made of solid gold and they promised all the local inhabitants and equal share.
The opposition to this mine is not a flatlander, second-home, yuppie conspiracy. This concerns all of us. I have lived here for 17 years and this incursion on our beautiful land should be of the utmost concern to all of us, no matter where you come from, no matter what your economic status, no matter where you were born. OMYA, to put it politely, is coming here to defecate on all of us. Will we let them?
"Amazon - you had so much and now so much is gone."
MATT SOLON Pawlet
Rutland Herald Letter to editor
September 6, 2000
VCE plans to fight OMYA
Vermonters for a Clean Environment (VCE) recognizes that the beautiful Danby Four Corners valley is agricultural and residential, with abundant wildlife, all kinds of natural resources and diversity of species, and a quality of life that is increasingly rare, even in Vermont. VCE is making a commitment to keep this valley the beautiful treasure that it is.
Vermonters for a Clean Environment announces its opposition to OMYA's proposal to open a calcium carbonate strip mine on Dutch Hill in Danby Four Corners.
In partnership with the towns of Tinmouth and Middletown Springs, VCE will represent the interests of the people of the region who stand together in strong opposition to OMYA's proposal.
OMYA proposes to strip away the overburden, blast and dig, truck and crush and stockpile enough marble to fill 40 trucks every day, six days a week throughout the year, and drive tractor-trailer-sized dump trucks the 60 mile round trip over narrow, winding roads to OMYA's factory in Florence. It is the opinion of VCE and the majority of citizens in this area that OMYA's proposal is totally out of character with the current use of the valley, the proposed use of the roads is completely unrealistic, and the project would have negative economic and quality-of-life impacts that cannot be mitigated.
To prepare for OMYA's Act 250 permit application, VCE, Tinmouth and Middletown Springs have engaged legal counsel and will have experts prepared to testify on the issues.
VCE has researched and evaluated OMYA's proposal that was sent to Danby's Select Board and Planning Commission in January of this year. We have determined that OMYA has no plan to transport the crushed marble "plant feed" to their factory. Additionally, we believe that OMYA will not be able to satisfy many of Act 250's critieria, especially aesthetics. As proposed, their plan does not clearly demonstrate that they will not have an unduly harmful impact upon the environment or surrounding land uses and development.
OMYA's proposal represents a negative economic impact for those who live and work in Danby and surrounding towns. Property values are already being impacted by the proposal, some sales have fallen through, and the time, money and energy of the people of the region are being drained by OMYA's poorly planned proposal.
The people know the facts, they know what OMYA intends to do, and VCE, a people's organization, is committed to doing whatever it takes to ensure that one of the most beautiful valleys in Vermont is not lost forever.
ANNETTE SMITH (Executive Director,
Vermonters for a Clean Environment)
Rutland Herald, Letter to editor
August 29, 2000
Danby board derelict in duty
Why is the Danby Select Board seemingly aiding and abetting the opening of the OMYA mine in the Danby Four Corners region? What will happen to the way of life to the residents? What will happen to the lives and health of their children and grandchildren? A beautiful little town will become a center of blasting, air and noise pollution, possible health hazards, to say nothing of the possible damage to the water table, wells, and, of course, absolute diminution of real estate values.
The fact that OMYA has said they have dust control means nothing. If one looks at other areas in the United States where mines are in operation and where dust control is in effect, I do not believe you will find one where the air has not suffered and pollutants have not increased.
What will happen to the surrounding residents if and when the water table is affected? Certainly their homes will not be habitable and their lifetime investments will diminish to nil.
Whatever the town selectmen choose to label this mine, it will be a disaster to this town. Who in their right mind would opt to live in an area where they will be subjected to blasting in a mine/quarry three days a week and noise from the grinders and truck traffic six days a week and no guarantees as to safe water availability?
Bradley Bender has disputed the fact that property values will be affected.
If one simply picks up a phone and questions any real estate professional, they will find that the values certainly will drop. To think otherwise is absurd. Why would anyone make what is probably the largest investment of their life in an area where they will be subjected to blasting on an ongoing basis, air pollution, noise pollution, possible water table problems and further loss of their investment as time goes on? Simply not logical. And as to the 38 parcels sold between August 1999 and May 2000, one has to ask:
1) Were the purchasers aware of OMYA's intentions to open the mine?
2) What was the spread between the asking price and selling price?
3) Would those parcels (other than the inn and the commercial interests) have sold at all if the mine was a part of the equation at the time of sale. What will happen to the values if a portion of the town becomes a place no one wants to live, and no one can sell to get out of? Not only the immediate area, but the entire town will suffer if that occurs.
The question of jobs has arisen. Does the establishment of 15-20 jobs, none of which are guaranteed to go to Danby residents, outweigh the dangers, the ruination of so many residents' way of life and the changing of the face of a good part of the town itself?
And how about the most important aspect here, pollution of this area? Our children will be subjected to God knows what, on top of not being able to live in the wonderful quiet area that now exists. What are the long-term effects of living in the immediate area of this mine? And please let's not be deluded by the slick public relations propaganda OMYA is handing out and the Select Board is polishing. It will ruin the way of life in Danby, plain and simple, and the Select Board, notwithstanding, their statement that "the Select Board has always done what the people have asked us to do" seems to have been aligning itself with OMYA for many months now, rather than protecting the people of Danby to whom they owe their allegiance. The title "Select Board" does not mean that they have the right to select who they represent. To align themselves with a foreign firm and against the residents of Danby is an abomination and appears to be a dereliction of duty owed.
MAUREEN A. RICHMAN Danby
Rutland Herald Letters to editor
August 24, 2000
Selling illusions about Danby mine
There are three categories of people who believe that OMYA's planned strip mine in Danby will be "just a quarry - like the Danby Marble Quarry": 1) the uninformed, 2) the misinformed, 3) the bought-off.
OMYA is the company that told people five years ago: "This quarry won't open for 80 to 100 years." Now their PR girls are telling people, "Just a quarry, little hole in the ground, you won't see it, you won't hardly hear it." A visit to OMYA's 40-trucks-a-day Hogback strip mine will destroy that illusion.
The difference between "illusion" and "delusion" is that the delusion is actually believed. Selling either one is likely to constitute fraud, a felony.
OMYA's strip mine proposal only became known about six months ago and has become common knowledge only in the last four months. How many of the Danby properties sold in the last six months have been sold with disclosure about the strip mine? The answer is very few. Mostly we hear about potential sales falling through as soon as they hear about the quarry or strip mine.
Several people who want to sell property in the Danby Four Corners area have been told: "Don't even try. Your property is now unsalable, worthless." How long before people get tired of paying full taxes on a property that has lost its value? Getting that property reappraised may be difficult (especially if you have to deal with the delusional), but if that strip mine opens, it will be easy.
Once the Danby Four Corners valley no longer generates the tax revenue it once did, guess who will be paying more taxes to make up the difference? The uninformed, the misinformed, and the bought-off.
BILL ROSS Danby
Not responsive to Danby residents
The meeting with the Select Board was well attended. One resident spoke about a visit from the OMYA public relations ladies, who belittled the negatives of OMYA's agenda but did agree with the resident that "your home value will probably go down."
The Select Board did not appear responsive to our position during the meeting. On Monday, Aug. 7, Herald correspondent Sandi Switzer's article appeared in this newspaper. On Friday, Aug. 4, Brad Bender (lister for Danby) chose this opportunity to make an "innocuous statement" concerning the agenda of our meeting. It was a clear attempt at rebuttal of our position. Mr. Bender, self-styled expert on "strip mines" and their effect on property values, was not present at the meeting yet felt free to inject his biased comments on this matter, after the fact, to the press.
In the future if Mr. Bender is prone to expound on any subject, let him demonstrate the courage to do so in the glare of the public forum, rather than in the shadow of obscurity.
RAYMOND BIENKOWSKI Danby
Rutland Herald, Letter to editor
August 17, 2000
No right to halt traffic
I just finished reading an article in today's (July 28) Herald about the town of Wallingford wanting to fight OMYA over trucks running through Wallingford. As Yogi Berra would say: "This is déjà vu all over again." Haven't we been through this already with Brandon and Woodstock? We seem to be reverting back to the pre- Constitution days when each state and town charged road use taxes and set up their own little fiefdoms without caring how this affected their neighbors or inhabitants.
OMYA is a large, clean industry that provides good-paying jobs for many people in Rutland County. The spin-off employment OMYA creates, such as the trucking companies that support the Florence plant, provide many more good-paying jobs for county residents. When is this NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) thinking going to stop? Is every little community along the way going to decide what kinds of vehicles are going to be allowed to pass through? I'm not particularly wild about all the tourist buses during the fall foliage season. Should we ban the buses because they are a pain in the neck for a couple weeks? I'm sure our hotel and food service industry would have a fit. What would happen if the city of Rutland decided it did not want Rutland Town fire and emergency vehicles traveling through the city? Rutland Town would have a job fixing that problem.
I admit these examples are far-fetched, but no more far-fetched than each town deciding what vehicles can or cannot travel through its borders. Somewhere, sometime we have to balance the needs of industry, community rights and peoples' right to peace and quiet. I have lived on Route 7 in Salisbury where the truck hauling for OMYA passed by frequently. I didn't find them any different than any other large truck. In fact, the drivers were usually more mindful and polite towards other traffic. Maybe Wallingford has some special problems that need to be worked out with OMYA fine. I just have a problem with the first reaction of these small town problems is "Ban the offender!"
JIM EDGE Chittenden
Rutland Herald, Letter to editor
August 16, 2000
OMYA plans threaten state
I was born in the land of the strip mine. This helps explain my vehement opposition to OMYA's obvious intentions here in Vermont. I've seen the devastation wrought by the impact of wholesale surface mining in West Virginia. Where coal once was king, the environment and economy are in a shambles. It is the only state in the country that has been steadily depopulating over the past three census periods. Those who claim that a few quarry jobs will keep our youth at home should note the migration of generations from the "Mountaineer" state.
For those who think it can't happen here at such a scale, consider the fact that OMYA has not only absorbed the mineral rights of what was Vermont Marble Co., but enlarged their holdings to the point where they are the second largest property owner in the state. That simple fact speaks volumes as to their intent. I don't think that, when OMYA bought these additional properties a few years ago, they planned to build a summer camp for crippled children. No, they planned to strip out the marble. What is now threatening Danby Four Corners could roll along the marble deposits from Sunderland to Vergennes, and that's the heart of this state.
Bill Ross was right in his letter on this page when he said that, if the people of this region really understood the magnitude of this threat, there would be demonstrations in the streets. It's happened in response to OMYA's operations in other parts of the world, and I expect it to happen here.
Among the many groups that should be alarmed are those involved in the tourist industry. Our one great asset here is our natural beauty. That is the engine that drives tourism, which is the keystone of our economy. The inn owners in Brandon can give us an earful about the impact OMYA has had on their business. They took OMYA to the Vermont Supreme Court, and they won.
OMYA is huge, with 150 plants in 30 countries. Their unending thirst for calcium carbonate grows by the day. Their scientists labor to produce new ways to further develop their product. It's called doing business. But can Vermont afford to embrace a business so huge, so intrusive, and so insensitive to the quality of life we struggle to preserve here?
Some of us would support OMYA for the sake of property rights and free enterprise. These are laudable concepts when balanced with responsible development. I believe that this is the function of Act 250, which may in the end save us.
For the really stubborn, let me take them to the land of my ancestors and show them something that will change their minds.
MICHAEL FANNIN (Selectman) Tinmouth
Rutland Herald, Letter to editor
July 28, 2000
Don't let OMYA ruin the peace
Regarding the calcium carbonate mine (and the proposed truck route) proposed by OMYA for Danby Four Corners:
We have, for 35 years, owned a home west of Wallingford on Route 140 - a home we dearly love for the peace and quiet of its surroundings. We are alarmed and angered by OMYA's proposal to destroy that peace with 40 round trips over 11 hours, six days a week, by 18-wheel dump trucks with jack brakes hauling OMYA's mine rock up and down Route 140. That translates to 80 truck passings a day - a deafening, ratcheting, grinding noise every eight minutes, six days a week, for apparently the rest of our lives.
Forget hearing the birds. Forget hearing the wind in the pines. Forget enjoying our yard and, quite possibly, forget our sanity.
Route 140 means steep inclines and descents - and that means blatting brake noise and laboring engines. It also means OMYA will destroy the tranquility of every homeowner on Route 140 - an unconscionable invasion by a company apparently willing to disregard the anguished concerns of home-owning taxpayers.
Surely OMYA could find an alternative route or an alternative method for removing mine debris that would not cause such widespread damage to the lives of so many.
Surely OMYA would not want to become the corporate Grinch who stole all that we love about Vermont from the property owners/taxpayers who live here.
Don't let it happen, Vermonters of Danby, Tinmouth, and Wallingford. Let your voices be heard to preserve what we all love about living here.
CHARLOTTE and BILL JOHNSTONE Wallingford
Rutland Herald, Letter to editor
July 8, 2000
Destructive new quarry methods
Recently at several public meetings called to question OMYA's mine in Danby Four Corners, company spokesmen maintained that their operations were a continuation of the old historic process of marble extraction in Vermont. This is not entirely accurate. The historical quarry technique is a different animal from what OMYA proposes. The contrast is best seen in Danby itself.
Over the past 160 years or so, Vermont marble has been predominantly removed from underground in block form. The largest mine of this sort in the world lies under Dorset Mountain in Danby. Should you visit this site, and I have over the years, you could see an opening in the side of the mountain large enough to fit a tractor trailer. Standing at this opening, the only sounds you hear are from the surrounding countryside. You don't hear the quarry machinery deep down in the mountain. According to quarry personnel, approximately 300 truck loads of cubic stone leave here in a year's time.
Economically, a lot of people make money from these big blocks. First the local tax base, then the quarry owners, the quarrymen, the truckers, the saw plants, the fabricating plants, the truckers again, the brokers, the sales people around the world, then finally the setters and masons who work on site. One 10-ton block can make a lot of money for a lot of people. In short, the cubic quarry impact in its environment is minimal while its economic impact is great.
I have worked as a stone carver for over 25 years, and if OMYA were proposing this type of operation, I would endorse it in a heartbeat.
Now let's go from cubic stone to dust. Only in recent years has marble rendered to calcium carbonate been a part of the stone industry. In this process large tracts of surface landscape are opened up and huge amounts of stone are blasted, crushed and trucked to OMYA's fully automated receiving plant in Florence, where it is processed into slurry and shipped out by rail. All this is hardly what Vermonters lived with generations ago.
In the stone-to-dust business, fewer people benefit. The quarry owners do, the quarrymen, the truckers, OMYA's lab and office personnel, the railroads, and finally customers make money on their product. This adds up to about two-to-one economic advantage to the traditional cubic method.
Poor Danby pays the highest price of the new method is brought to bear in the Four Corners. Whatever taxes they receive form the open pit will fail to offset the hit on the grand list as property values fall in the neighborhood and the cost of road maintenance rises. OMYA's blast-and-grab operations are not the historic norm but a threat to the quality of life that was handed to us by our Vermont ancestors.
MICHAEL FANNIN Tinmouth
Rutland Herald Letter to editor
June 20, 2000
OMYA quarry exacts high cost
Why should so many have to sacrifice what they hold dear for the benefit of so few?
I make this observation in respect to OMYA's proposed strip-mining operation at Danby Four Corners. In an effort to persuade us locals what a wonderful idea this disaster is, company officials trot out the tired old mantra all developers use - jobs, jobs, jobs. According to their estimates, the operation would create around 30 decent-paying jobs. Are these 30 jobs equal to the impact that this operation will have on whole communities surrounding the pit and along the trucking route? I think not.
Let's ponder that impact on current use for a moment. Those living in the vicinity of the pit will feel the very real impact of blasting as it degrades the stability of their homes and affects the water table. The insidious hum of extracting machinery will put an end to the peace and tranquility they now enjoy. Their property values will be reduced to nil.
The impact around the quarry will be significant, but even more people will be affected along the trucking route. Imagine what it will be like for them as OMYA's 76,000-pound dump trucks take 40 loads out with 40 return trips a day, six days a week for the next 50 years. Like the property owners near the quarry, the value of their land and homes will dive while their town taxes rise to maintain the roads that are being used as an industrial conduit. How ironic that they will be spending their money to facilitate the destruction of their way of life. Is the destructive impact on these hundreds of unfortunates who live in proximity to the pit and along the shipping route worth 30 jobs?
Speaking of jobs, there seem to be quite a few to choose from. I've never seen such a job market in Vermont in 30 years. According to the press, some businesses are importing help from oversees to fill positions. Look at all the help-wanted ads. The only people not working in Vermont are either disabled or just don't want to work.
From what I understand, OMYA's motivation for looking into developing this site is because of their limited permitted trucking from Middlebury where they have plenty of material to feed their plant. I would suggest to them that if they want to stop making enemies here in southern Rutland County, they should finish what they started and continue their rail connection from their Florence plant to Middlebury. Their parent company, Pluess-Staufer, has got more money than God, so use it and keep Vermont a friendly place to do business.
MICHAEL FANNIN Tinmouth
Rutland Herald, Letters to editor
May 19, 2000
OMYA ready to ruin Danby
Congratulations to Bruce Edwards of the Rutland Herald for his revealing article on OMYA's past, which appeared in the March 28 edition. Since OMYA (Pluess-Staufer) demonstrates an extraordinary effort to portray itself as a compassionate corporate citizen, it's only proper for the people to know the rest of the story.
Kudos to Mr. Harris Peel of Danby for his most eloquent article on this matter. Mr. Peel turns a bright light on OMYA's attempt to portray their horrendous plan of 50-year duration, to transform our pristine valley into a 32-acre "scarred pit," as "business as usual."
What do we know about OMYA? What kind of corporate citizen is OMYA really like? Well, for starters they seem to be rushing things in a secretive way, trying to avoid the public from getting involved in meaningful discussion on all aspects of their plan. For example, I have attended meetings in Tinmouth and Wallingford. The meetings were well-attended. Only Mr. Burns, head geologist, and an attorney represented OMYA.
Make no mistake, as chief geologist, Mr. Burns knows all the answers. Who then can come forth and respond to our questions? As a result of all of this, it is safe to say that as of this moment we have had not one legitimate business meeting with OMYA. We have had social affairs. All that was missing was tea and crumpets. This unfortunate state of affairs begs the following question: Where is John Mitchell? Why is he in seclusion? I can offer one possibility: By evading the people, Mr. Mitchell can disguise the destructive nature of the plan. Mr. Burn's job is to act as a buffer. In addition, his absence tends to trivialize their horrific plan. It also enables Mr. Mitchell, when he meets with the Act 250 panel to say, "We have had many meetings with the people answering their questions." Can anything be further from the truth?
Two hundreds years ago Thomas Jefferson exclaimed, "Corporations do not have allegiance to the very ground they stand on." Here with OMYA we have an example of what Jefferson said but worse. This is a foreign corporation about to threaten our rural American ground that they stand on. It is the hope of all the people in this beautiful countryside that no matter how great the divergence of our positions, the people's position will prevail because it is the only just and honorable one.
RAYMOND BIENKOWSKI Danby
Rutland Herald, Letter to editor
April 26, 2000
Outrageous proposal for Danby quarry
I am writing to express my total disbelief that a strip mine by OMYA Corp. in Danby Four Corners is being allowed to go forward.
In a state where the Vermont Land Trust protects farmland from non-farming uses, and clear-cutting your own land without the proper permits can lead to heavy fines, it totally flabbergasts me that a corporation cannot only clear-cut the land, but take away the mountain the trees grew on. I realize that mining is a federally regulated industry governed by archaic laws which have allowed foreign-owned corporations to pillage for profit, destroy the natural beauty of our land, and our quality of life with total impunity.
It is a sorry state of affairs when our elected officials in Washington, D.C., have failed to recognize and correct these outdated laws, which in this environmentally sensitive era, allow this destructive mining practice to continue.
VITO MACALUSO Tinmouth
Rutland Herald Letter to editor
April 12, 2000
Corporations must be accountable
I would like to add my voice to those commending Bruce Edwards on his articles in the March 28 issue exploring the activities of OMYA during and after World War II.
It is remarkable that officials of OMYA would not discuss the company's problems in postwar France. While it certainly is true that those now in charge were not in charge then, OMYA is a corporation, and as such it has the status of a legal person which is immortal until dissolved. Corporations receive tremendous benefit from their privileged status and immortality. They should not expect to reap the benefits of immortality while pretending that their accountability ends with the demise of whoever was steering the corporation in the past.
Of course, the individuals now at OMYA are not personally accountable for what the company did more than 50 years ago. But the company is, not least because its size and strength now derive partly from its activities then. If it had not acted as it did, it would be a different corporation today. So it is never irrelevant to examine the past activities of any corporation - as long as that corporation is still in business. If a corporation wishes to end its accountability, it should end its existence.
RICHARD ANDREWS Andover
Rutland Herald Letter to editor
April 7, 2000
Paper's vendetta against OMYA
I have followed your heavy-handed and bias-laden stories about OMYA for years, but this one takes the cake. You have sunk to the level of trash journalism and tabloid-esque reporting in your article on March 28. Dredging up Nazi German history and the irrelevant role of OMYA (if they even had one, which you failed to prove either way) screams of not having enough news to print or a vendetta against OMYA. Or both. Your Nazi witch hunt is unacceptable. Even worse, this article is run right before the Legislature is to make major decisions regarding trucking rights in the state of Vermont - which OMYA has a very strong role in. You should be ashamed. Leave your own political agenda at home or in the voting booth, and report the real news.
SCOTT McCALLA Rutland
Rutland Herald Letter to the editor
April 5, 2000
OMYA history is relevant today
It is a pleasure to congratulate you on the publication of the three pieces by Bruce Edwards on OMYA in the March 28 edition of the Herald.
Obviously, they represent a great deal of work by the writer. The depth of coverage - as well as the careful delineation of the three areas of concern about Pluess-Staufer (OMYA) - should entitle the Herald and Mr. Edwards to consideration for national journalistic prizes. You both have my vote as a member of the Overseas Press Club.
The editorial in the next day's paper (March 29) was - given the obtrusive nature of OMYA's presence in southern Vermont - nothing short of pusillanimous. (A harsh word from one who often cites your editorials to visitors as both well-reasoned and exquisitely crafted.)
Let me defend my choice of adjectives:
- Pluess-Staufer has made great efforts to portray itself in its operations in Florence and vicinity, as well as its projected operations in Danby, as a caring, honest corporate citizen whose word can be taken as its bond.
- Pluess-Staufer is owned by Max H. Schachenmann of Switzerland.
- On page 11 of the March 28 Herald under the subhead "OMYA's Response," Mr. Edwards writes: "Pluess-Staufer officials did not want to discuss the questions relating to the company's postwar problems in France. They said the company had no records of such charges and that no former or current employees, including 86-year-old owner Max H. Schachenmann, had any knowledge of the postwar problems in France."
- On the same page under the headline "German business partner had post-war problems," Mr. Edwards details the efforts Pluess-Staufer made to help their SS Nazi partner, Ludwig Peppler, "be freed" from post-war arrest. The company enlisted the help of the Swiss Political Department to spring Peppler, who had served with the SS guard detachment at Buchenwald in 1938 and was promoted to SS officer status in 1939.
- The same Max H. Schachenmann who had no "knowledge of the postwar problems" of their wholly owned company in France wrote the Swiss Political Department on March 13, 1947, thanking them for their report on partner Peppler. Mr. Edwards reports the Schachenmann letter as saying that his "company officials read (the report) with the greatest of interest."
- The Schachenmann letter concerning his fifty-fifty German partner was written just 18 days after his wholly owned company in France had been fined 2 million francs for its questionable business dealings with the Germans.
- No knowledge of post-war problems for his wholly owned French company? Please.
Given the extraordinary amount of controversy over the apparent implacability of OMYA in its dealings with the state of Vermont, Florence, and a series of Route 7 towns, this statements seems - well, pusillanimous: "Certainly, OMYA's travails during World War II are no reflection on OMYA Inc. of Florence."
When you have the same owner of a company who does everything possible to help a German partner who was an ex-Buchenwald guard during the exact time period that his company says he had no knowledge of an enormous fine to his largest wholly owned company, you do not have a situation of "no reflection on OMYA Inc. of Florence."
Companies, like individuals, have personalities, attitudes, predilections, predispositions. Again, like individuals, they can be generous or predatory.
I have some knowledge of the difference. In my diplomatic career, I was, for three years Ed Morrow's special assistant for liaison with American industry. At that point, 1961-64, we were focused on the fact that American companies with international subsidiaries were often the mirror which reflected what the host country citizens thought of America. My job was to support the efforts of the "good" companies, try to ameliorate the efforts of the "bad" ones. (In those days, IBM was considered "good"; United Fruit was "bad.")
Today, many of the people of Florence, Brandon, Danby, Tinmouth, and Wallingford vote "bad."
The company, according to my experience, won't change after the death of its 86-year-old leader. Let us hope that 50 years from now, some spokesman won't say that no one in OMYA has any knowledge that they had anything to do with producing a scarred pit that was once beautiful Danby Four Corners.
I rest my case. Pusillanimous?
HARRIS PEEL Danby
Why pick on OMYA?
I am as much a history buff as the next person, so I read your March 28 OMYA and World War II article(s) with interest.
I could not help but notice that although "history" is being recorded, as it should be, there really appears to be a drive on OMYA to experience a guilt trip here. Needless to say, coercion had a great deal to do with World War II. As opposed to collaboration.
Nazi Germany invaded and occupied Poland in September 1939, followed by Czechoslovakia, Belgium, the Netherlands and France. Petain, who was head of the Vichy government in France, just plain gave up, and there was word he gave allegiance to the Nazi Party. There was no recourse once Hitler took over. However, there was a group of civilian partisans who, throughout the war, gave allegiance to their cause by harassing the enemy in helping the Jews, downed British and American airmen, blowing up bridges and generally causing havoc to the Nazi enemy.
In the case of Pluess-Staufer, would you say they were not coerced into "cooperating"? Certainly with a member of the family being threatened and with a partnership (with the SS takeover of his riding club) gone sour, it would seem to me they would cooperate, only to have the owner's son murdered anyway by the SS just before war's end. Was this to be considered as some type of resistance to cause such a tragedy?
Now we come to the present day. Pluess-Staufer has paid its "fine" - both financially, in court, and with the loss of a family member. To record this as history is fine. To make it a headline article in a Vermont newspaper is a little ludicrous. Wasn't it Hitler himself who said, "A chicken in every pot and a car (VW) in every garage?" So, are we "investigating" as thoroughly and making it front-page news in Vermont, of the Nazi "dealings" of Standard Oil Company, the Ford Company, Volkswagen, Peugeot? They certainly have an interest in Vermont - and many, many employees. Or are we just trying to oust another company from this state because their trucks use our highways?
PATRICIA DWINELL Rutland
Dean a failure as environmentalist
Howard Dean is right to worry about Democrats defecting to Anthony Pollina, the Progressive candidate for governor (Rutland Herald, March 19).
Mr. Pollina is a genuine environmentalist, unlike Governor Dean, who claims to be one in every election campaign, only to revert to a pro-development stance the rest of the time.
During his years in office, Dean has done nothing to help the state's farmers - the people who keep our magnificent countryside open and alive. He has done nothing to improve the impoverished rural economy.
Actively or behind the scenes, Governor Dean is behind a number of important projects that can destroy what most of us love about Vermont. He has lost no opportunity to encourage development by huge ski areas. Killington is an example: When completed, it will be the second largest city in Vermont. Then there's Stowe, Okemo, Stratton, Mount Snow - you name it, Dean supports their continued expansion, regardless of environmental impacts on their neighbors.
He supports two proposed monster gas plants that will vastly increase air pollution in Vermont and neighboring states.
The ultimate irony is that while Vermont has joined other Northeastern states in suing Midwestern states that pollute our atmosphere, Dean's Agency of Natural Resources - behind the scenes - has asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to allow Vermont to increase its output of NOx, oxide of nitrogen. That is the very same substance produced by those Midwest power plants we are suing. This goes on despite the fact that the electricity produced by those two gas plants will benefit Vermonters not at all - it will be exported to other states. And as for natural gas - Vermonters will get little or none of it for their own use.
He has supported construction of a pipeline that will bring gas from New York state to the huge plants in Bennington and Rutland, despite the destruction of private property along the way.
He supports longer, heavier trucks on our highways, ignoring safety hazards and damage to our towns and roads.
He is determined to have Route 7 widened between East Dorset and Danby, even though that will create major safety problems in and between those two towns.
And while the House was doing its best to gut Act 250, did the Dean administration come to the rescue of that landmark legislation that has done so much to protect the environment that means so much to Vermont's economy? No, not a word in its defense.
And what is he doing to protect residents of Tinmouth, Danby, Wallingford, and Rutland from traffic problems created by giant trucks from OMYA, which will make 40 round-trips a day, six days a weeks between Danby and Florence? Nothing.
The list of Governor Dean's failures to protect the environment goes on and on.
RICHARD KETCHUM Dorset