Democratic leaders want to set conditions for re-licensing Vermont Yankee

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(Host) Democratic leaders at the Statehouse say several key conditions must be met if lawmakers are to seriously consider re-licensing the Vermont Yankee Nuclear plant for another 20 years.

But Vermont Yankee officials say the Democrats are looking at policy decisions that should be reviewed by the Public Service Board.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

 (Kinzel) When the 2009 session started, there was a possibility that lawmakers would consider a plan to re-license the Vermont Yankee plant for another 20 years. The current license expires in 2012.

But legislative leaders say there’s virtually no chance that this will now happen because, Entergy, the company that owns Vermont Yankee, hasn’t finalized a new power contract with Vermont utilities.

Speaking on VPR’s Vermont Edition, House Natural Resources chairman Tony Klein said Vermont Yankee must meet several conditions before his panel takes this issue up:

(Klein) "Obviously the full funding of the decommissioning fund, obviously a very good long term contract for the rate of power, obviously a continued contribution to our clean energy development fund and a restructuring of their property taxes so that they pay their fair share into the Education Fund for property tax purposes which they presently do not do."

Jay Thayer is a vice president for Entergy and the company’s point person for re-licensing at the Statehouse. Thayer says lawmakers have inappropriately expanded their review of the plant:

(Thayer) "We rely on the Public Service Board to make most of the decisions regarding utilities, power contracts the business deals that the utilities sign up for to produce the electricity for their customers so to have this done in front of the Legislature is really pretty unprecedented here in the state of Vermont."

The House last week gave its approval to legislation that requires Entergy to contribute several hundred million dollars into the plant’s decommissioning fund if Vermont Yankee’s license is not extended.

Backers of the bill say it’s needed because the value of the fund has fallen in the past year and because cost estimates for decommissioning have gone up.

If the bill passes, Thayer says Entergy will challenge it in court and he says the plant might have to close before its license expires in 2012:

(Thayer) "This would fundamentally change the conditions in our operating franchise that was set down by the Public Service Board in 2002 and we believe it deserves a legal challenge. If that were not to be successful….and we were to have to come up with these payments between now and 2012 we could not do that."

The Senate is expected to vote on the decommissioning bill before the end of the session.  Governor Douglas vetoed a similar bill last year and recently he indicated that his views on this issue haven’t changed.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.


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