Judge sworn in to new Environment Court

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(Host) Vermont’s new Environmental Court officially opened for business on Tuesday. The court’s two judges will hear appeals of land-use decisions under Act 250. One of those judges, Thomas Durkin of Brattleboro, was sworn in on Monday.

VPR’s Susan Keese was there.

(Governor Douglas swearing in Durkin)
“I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of environmental court judge for the state of Vermont…..”

(Keese) The Environmental Court was a centerpiece of Act 250 reforms promoted by Governor Jim Douglas. The court is expected to streamline Act 250 appeals. At the swearing-in Monday, Douglas hailed it as part of a new era in balancing environmental goals and economic progress.

He called Tom Durkin a scholar of environmental law. Durkin spent ten years as chairman of the District 2 Environmental Commission. That’s the citizen panel that oversees development cases in Southeastern Vermont.

(Douglas) “It’s often said that the best tribute to a judicial officer is that when people come out of a hearing or get a decision, win or lose they feel good about the process, they feel that their case was heard fairly and decided in an appropriate way. And that’s what I hear about the District Environmental Commission’s deliberations during Tom’s tenure.”

(Keese) Durkin is 47 and a graduate of Vermont Law School. His three children held the Bible as he repeated the oath in the historic Newfane courthouse.

Later he spoke briefly about his aspirations.

(Durkin) “I hope that once I’m on the bench and fully trained that I’ll assist in hearing cases fairly. That’s all I can try to do, is give people a fair hearing that come before the court and then give them a decision in a timely manner.”

(Keese) Governor Douglas said afterward that he plans to push for more changes in the state’s environmental permitting process this year.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Susan Keese.

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