Douglas Says Yankee Relicensing Is A Top Legislative Priority

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(Host) Governor Jim Douglas says re-licensing the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant is one of his top priorities for the 2010 legislative session.

Douglas says the plant offers low cost power. And he says Yankee’s 600 good-paying jobs are important at a time when the state economy is still floundering.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Vermont Yankee can’t operate beyond 2012 unless lawmakers give their specific approval to the license extension.  

As they consider this issue, Douglas wants them to focus on Vermont’s need to have what he calls a long term, low cost source of power and he wants them to remember that the plant is one of the largest employers in the southeastern part of the state:

(Douglas) "A company with 640 employees that paid good union wages that paid significant taxes to the municipality in the state, that made hundreds of thousands of dollars of charitable donations every year – we would trip over ourselves to find and recruit that employer and bring it to Vermont. We have such an employer in the southeast corner of our state. …Why would we want to let it go?"

(Kinzel) Senate President Peter Shumlin represents Windham County, where the plant is located. He’s also a Democratic gubernatorial candidate.  He says the governor is making a false argument.

(Shumlin) "The fact is whether we shut down Vermont Yankee or keep it running, jobs are going to be created here decommissioning the plant. A billion dollars worth of economic activity in Windham County. Or not. And when you move from Vermont Yankee to renewable energy, you’re going to have a huge number of jobs created. So jobs will be created as a result of this decision."

(Kinzel) At a recent environmental forum, all five Democratic gubernatorial candidates said that they oppose the re-licensing of the plant.

Douglas wants lawmakers to vote on the future of Vermont Yankee during the 2010 session so that legislators running for higher office, and particularly Shumlin, are accountable for their vote:.

(Douglas) "It’s easy to go to a meeting of a special interest group and tell the crowd what they want to hear. I think it’s important to have a vote so that all their constituents know. And I think one candidate in particular, who represents 640 highly paid union employees, ought to be put on record."

(Kinzel) Shumlin seemed surprised by the governor’s comments because he says he’s made it clear where he stands on this issue.

(Shumlin) "The answer is, ‘No, I don’t.’ So that’s being accountable. I would vote against re-licensing Vermont Yankee, based upon the information I have right now."

(Kinzel) Shumlin has been asking Vermont Yankee officials to reveal what rate they’re going to charge Vermont utilities for their power if the license is renewed.

They haven’t released this information but they’ve indicated that it’s likely that they’ll unveil a new rate at Public Service Board hearing late next week.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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