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Vermont's forgotten petro spill

Ultimately, the architects and engineers (mostly) agreed, and now it's more common to designate the desired design objective for concrete but not every little aspect of materials, mixing, and placement.

Public education chose to stay with prescriptive, not performance, specs as the recent Vermont-led lawsuit against the Federal No Child Left Behind requirement-almost all students "proficient" in reading and math by 2014-has demonstrated.

In the BP spill case, every aspect of the deep-water drilling had been prescribed and regulated by government-right up to the moment of failure.

In the Williamstown situation, the dry-cleaning business Unifirst sought and received special official Montpelier sewage-disposal-design-and-installation-assistance and approval for its septic system. The installation and operation met every regulatory standard. Then it failed.

Benzene showed up in drinking fountains at the next-door elementary school. Mothers-how can I say this graciously-reacted negatively.

Vermont Health Commissioner Roberta Coffin defended both her department and the Agency of Natural Resources by stonewalling.

Protestors-many of Vermont's Beautiful People class-at the health department headquarters in Burlington yelled "You're not gonna treat us like a bunch of farmers!"

Then, somehow, it all went away behind closed-doors. Was the regulatory system ever held as being even partially responsible for its deficient prescriptive specs? Not officially. Unofficially, in secret legal bargaining, maybe. We'll never know.

In the off-shore New Orleans situation, the same governmental regulatory oversight was enforced on the compliant oil-drillers.

The installation and operation met every regulatory standard and inspection. Then it failed.

Oil showed up on the surfaces of water and wildlife. The public-how can I say this graciously-reacted negatively.

Will it ultimately all be secretly settled, just as in Williamstown? Probably.

Will the feds reject even partial responsibility? Probably yes. Will they relinquish writer-and-inspector job-creating prescription specs and adopt a performance spec approach to regulation? Probably no.

If you're bemused by my lat. 44, long. 73 map reference (an inland locale), you're probably one of those non-rural New Vermonters who doesn't recognize such Old Vermont land and farming terminology as headland, link, pins, proud, rod, rood, rowen, or summer meadow either.

It's not in my job description to bring you to "proficient" in Anglo-Saxon/Middle English /Northern New England etymolog, without bonus pay. You'll have to look it up. Warning: some language and geographical proficiency required.

Longtime Vermont resident Martin Harris now lives in Tennesee.

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