Group Seeks Delay In Yankee Hearings For Supreme Court Appeals

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As the legal uncertainty surrounding the Vermont Yankee plant continues, an anti-nuclear group wants utility regulators to take a time out in order to let the state Supreme Court resolve some of the issues.

The Public Service Board was supposed to start hearings next week on Yankee’s future. The board will decide whether the nuclear plant deserves a new, 20-year state license. 

But now the New England Coalition, an anti-nuclear group, wants the board to delay the proceedings.

Coalition lawyer Jared Margolis said a time-out makes sense because Entergy Vermont Yankee has filed an appeal with the state Supreme Court. Entergy has appealed a PSB decision to close one Yankee docket and open another. Margolis said the coalition does not want a delay for delays sake. But he said the board should wait until the Supreme Court appeal is resolved.

"We’re very much looking forward to putting the information in front of the board, to having the board issue a decision that is supported by a record that shows it’s not in the best interest of Vermont to continue operating Vermont Yankee," he said. "But because of Entergy’s appeal to the Supreme Court, we need to be careful, the state of Vermont and the parties need to be careful about the expenditure of resources here. And we’re just worried that Entergy’s appeal makes it so that we’re going to waste those resources yet again. And we don’t think that’s a good idea."

Margolis is referring to an earlier round of PSB hearings on Yankee that ended back in 2009.

Four years ago, the board took weeks of testimony on whether the plant should get a new license from the state, called a certificate of public good. But state law at the time also said the Legislature had the final say on Yankee’s future. So the board halted its hearings while the Legislature weighed in.

When the Vermont Senate said no to Yankee in 2010, Entergy sued in federal court. The company won, and that case is now on appeal.

Meanwhile, the PSB last week dismissed its old case, the one with the hearings in 2009, and said Yankee’s future would be decided under a new docket.

It’s that decision that Entergy has now appealed to the state Supreme Court. Entergy also wants the Supreme Court to rule that the PSB had enough evidence to decide in 2009 that Yankee should get a new state permit.

Margolis says that question needs to be settled first.

"If they’re really asking for the Supreme Court to issue them a certificate of public good given the record that was established in 2009, which is what they say in their docketing statement, well then why are we re-litigating this case right now?" he asked "They’ve put the issue in front of the Supreme Court."

An Entergy spokesman said the company would not comment on the latest legal action. 

And Geoff Commons, the lead lawyer for the state agency that represents ratepayers, said he was reviewing the New England Coalition motion and would have a response by Wednesday.

But right now, Commons said, the state was focused on getting its evidence together for the new round of Yankee hearings that begin Feb. 11 at the Public Service Board.

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