Entergy May Challenge Vermont’s Oversight Of Yankee

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(Host) The owner of Vermont Yankee says it may try to take the state out of the question of whether the plant can be re-licensed because it’s a matter for the federal government to decide.

Entergy CEO Wayne Leonard made the comments this week. It’s the strongest indication yet that the company may challenge the state’s oversight.

VPR’s John Dillon has more:

(Dillon) Vermont is the only state in the country that has given itself the right to decide the fate of a nuclear power plant.

Yankee’s license expires next March. And the state Senate voted last year not to allow the re-licensing process to continue in front of the Public Service Board.

But Entergy CEO Wayne Leonard says Yankee’s future should be decided by the feds. He made his comments in a conference call with investment analysts.

(Leonard) "We strongly believe that this is federal jurisdiction. We have choices that need to be made and we’ll make them at the appropriate time."

(Dillon) The audio quality was poor on the call. Leonard said he strongly believes the federal government has jurisdiction. Later on in the call he said Entergy has to make a decision about Yankee by mid-year. He said the company faces a -quote – "line in the sand" and must decide whether to push forward or not.

Entergy declined to make Leonard available for an interview. And a company spokesman said he would not elaborate on the CEO’s comments.

But his statements were widely interpreted as a sign that Entergy may go to federal court to challenge the state’s role in re-licensing.

A court challenge would contradict Entergy’s previous promises. A former chairman of the Public Service Board says Entergy expressly agreed to submit to Vermont oversight when it bought the plant in 2002. Michael Dworkin now heads the Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School.

(Dworkin) "I think if you review the transcripts of what they said in the hearing room under oath at the time you’ll see that they said repeatedly that this was a commitment that was binding, that they would not break it, and that it could not be reversed by going to federal court."

(Host) Dworkin says the board relied on that promise when it allowed Entergy to buy the plant and make money from power sales.

(Dworkin) "To break that commitment would raise doubts about who has the right to those revenues and would certainly raise doubts about whether Entergy’s corporate officers could be trusted in any other statements in any hearing room in any state utility commission around the country."

(Dillon) Governor Peter Shumlin says he wouldn’t be surprised if Entergy challenges state oversight.

(Shumlin) "Even though they said they wouldn’t in the MOU that they signed with the Public Service Board. But this is a company that has a history of saying one thing and doing another."

(Dillon) Entergy expects to win approval soon from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission to operate for another 20 years. But even if the NRC has not decided the case by next March, NRC rules allow Yankee to keep operating while its license application is under review.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.


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