By Guy Page
Immigrants seeking asylum in Canada have been traveling in large numbers to an unmanned border crossing in Champlain, New York, where they are arrested by Canadian police for illegal entry, WCAX reported July 31. Other press reports show similar activity in Derby Line, Vermont.
Olympic Stadium in Montreal has been re-opened to house asylum seekers, whose numbers grew to 1,500 this July alone, the New York Times reported.
Why is this happening?
One explanation cited by Canadian politicians is that immigrants fearing U.S. immigration crackdown are seeking a new life in Canada through a loophole in a 2002 diplomatic agreement.
Immigrants in the U.S. without documentation are refused entry into Canada at manned Customs stations and ports of entry, such as the facility on I-89 at Highgate Springs. The Safe Third Party Agreement between Canada and the U.S. requires immigrants seeking asylum to request it in the first country they enter — in the case of most of these immigrants, the United States.
But like many diplomatic agreements, there’s a loophole. Immigrants to the U.S. may enter and remain in Canada — albeit after being placed under arrest — if they seek entry at the many unguarded, illegal border crossings along the thousands of miles of border. The Champlain, NY crossing is easily accessible by throughway from major population centers on the U.S. eastern seaboard.
After arrest at Champlain, immigrants may stay in Canada while their asylum request is heard. If the request is denied, asylum seekers must be returned to their country of origin.
“We’re stretched to the limit,” a Quebec provincial official reportedly told the Times. Many immigrants are reportedly Haitian or African people for whom French is a first language. Politicians on both sides of the immigration issue would revise it to reflect the new reality of large numbers of immigrants choosing to flee the U.S., their original country of choice for emigration.
Vermont logging industry in decline, but hope remains
Consumer demand for paper and biomass fuel may never rebound. Vermont has the highest workers’ compensation costs in the region. The wholesale price for lumber has stayed flat since 1994 despite growing production costs. Regional lumber mills are closing. And fewer and fewer young people want a career in an industry that is understandably seen as both dangerous and financially uncertain.
Those are just a few of the problems plaguing the Vermont loggers, especially those working the forests of the Northeast Kingdom, according to “Bleak outlook for forestry industry,” Editor Tena Starr writes in the 8/2 Barton Chronicle. The article succinctly captured the industry’s challenges and remaining hopes and solutions, and can be read online.
In particular, the story notes that Vermont biomass power plants produce electricity at $85/megawatt, compared to $25/megawatt for a typical wholesale price, based on fracked natural gas. On the upside, the market for firewood is still strong, and many Vermont schools now heat with woodchips. And as more loggers quit, there is some increase in demand for those who remain.
The State of Vermont last year made a few helpful changes. It cut the sales tax on skidders and parts, and also started renting skidder bridges to loggers. Pro-industry lobbyists and legislators (such as Sen. Bobby Starr, Orleans-Essex counties) say hearings will begin this fall on a Right to Forestry bill, similar to a right-to-farm bill. Changes in biomass power plant efficiency standards and the Current Use laws also would be welcome help from Montpelier, they said.
The future of logging will greenhouse gas mitigation. Vermont forests at present consume at least 50 percent of all instate man-made Co2 emissions. Changes in forest use will influence how that percentage rises or falls.
Vermont pricing drops for Tesla storage batteries, Nissan electric cars
A homeowner lease of a Tesla Powerwall battery now costs as little as $15 per month, Green Mountain Power spokesperson Kristin Carlson confirmed to SHH last week. The batteries reportedly can store power from solar arrays or conventional power purchased at “off peak” times of day, for later use at peak-power times or during a power outage. For more information, see GMP website page.
Ms. Carlson also reports that the $10,000 rebate from GMP on the EV Nissan Leaf has led to record sales for program partner Freedom Nissan. The partnership has been extended through September, and cars are still available, she said. The car lists for $30,000 but with a federal rebate of $7500 and the GMP rebate, the price could drop as low as $12,500.
Good news for Vermont Yankee decommissioning plan
Since July 24, supporters of the NorthStar plan to promptly decommission Vermont Yankee have received three pieces of good news, according to the Vermont Energy Partnership website:
· The general public will have more time to learn and comment about the plan, because the next state public hearing has been delayed from September until Jan. 4;
· NorthStar’s plan has become even stronger financially, as a result of the company’s purchase by a NYC equities company; and
· NorthStar has already begun planning and design work, signaling its good faith and commitment to the job and saving an estimated $12 million on the final cost.
Statehouse Headliners is intended primarily to educate, not advocate. It is e-mailed to an ever-growing list of interested Vermonters, public officials and media. Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership, Divestment Facts, the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare and the Church at Prison.