Lawmakers given authority over Yankee uprate proceeds

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(Host) The Public Service Board has ruled that lawmakers should have the final say on how millions of dollars associated with an increase of power at the Vermont Nuclear Power Plant should be spent. The Douglas administration had hoped to earmark the money to help clean up Lake Champlain.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) There aren’t a lot of issues that House Speaker Walter Freed and Senate President Pro Tempore Peter Welch passionately agree on, but this is one of them. In order to gain the support of the Douglas administration for a power increase at the Vernon plant, the Entergy Corporation promised to pay up to $20 million to acknowledge that Vermont consumers should also benefit from the power expansion. The governor quickly proposed using nearly $8 million of this money, which would be paid out over a number of years, to augment clean up efforts for Lake Champlain.

That decision was immediately opposed by Welch and Freed, who argued that the money should be appropriated through the legislative process; the two leaders had a plan to use the funds to benefit electric consumers in southeastern Vermont.

In its ruling supporting the power expansion, the Public Service Board agreed that the money, which it calculated to be worth only $7 million, should be deposited in the state’s General Fund to be used at the discretion of the Legislature. Welch says the PSB made an important ruling:

(Welch) “I’m very pleased that the Public Service Board essentially bought our argument that that money can’t be the private piggybank of the governor. It has to go through the legislative process, where there will be a debate about the best way to spend that – including whether it should be spent at all.”

(Kinzel) Freed says the exact figure that Entergy should pay to the state should probably be subject to negotiations. Freed says he’s going to continue to push to have most of the money returned to the people of Windsor and Windham counties:

(Freed) “And even more specifically, to buy down the electric rates in those areas, which would entice manufactures to come over the border, over the river from New Hampshire or from Massachusetts; to move into some empty facilities that we have in Windsor County, that we have in Windham County. I think would be an excellent use of this money.”

(Kinzel) The state won’t receive any of the settlement money until the power expansion is approved by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission. That review could take up to a year to complete.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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