Maine utilities commission questioning Yankee sale

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(Host) State utility regulators have cleared the way for the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant to be sold next week. Late this afternoon, the Public Service Board issued an order rejecting two opponents’ requests to delay the sale. That means Entergy Nuclear of Jackson, Mississippi, can close on its purchase of the reactor by the end of the month. The Board says it’s satisfied with a new plan to deal with any surplus in the plant’s decommissioning fund.

Meanwhile, the state of Maine also wants to look at how the Yankee sale affects electricity consumers there. It’s not clear if this development could delay the sale of the plant.

VPR’s John Dillon has more.

(Dillon) The state of Maine also has a stake in the plan to salvage the sale of Vermont Yankee. Under the new deal, Central Maine Power will assign its share of the Vermont Yankee decommissioning fund to the Entergy Corporation of Mississippi.

Central Maine owns 4% of Vermont Yankee. It agreed to the deal in exchange for an up-front payment from the plant’s Vermont owners. The deal was constructed to meet a requirement by Vermont regulators that any decommissioning money must go back to ratepayers.

But now Maine officials are questioning the deal. Linda Lockhart is an attorney with the Maine public advocate’s office, which represents consumers.

(Lockhart) “We filed a petition with our regulatory commission, the Maine Public Utilities Commission, asking them to open an investigation and to prohibit Central Maine Power company from ratifying the amendment that would forego the future decommissioning funds. We believe that’s contrary to federal law and certainly not in the interests of Maine’s ratepayers.”

(Dillon) The public advocate argues that Maine ratepayers could lose if they forego their share of the future surplus decommissioning funds.

But the Maine utilities commission has not yet decided to hear the case and the Yankee sale is scheduled to close next Wednesday. Lockhart says if the Commission does open an investigation, Central Maine Power, or CMP, will probably not go ahead with the deal.

(Lockhart) “I don’t think CMP wants to go ahead if they believe the Commission opposes that kind of an agreement.”

(Dillon) Central Maine could not be reached for comment. Yankee Spokesman Brian Cosgrove says the Vermont owners still plan to close the deal.

(Cosgrove) “Absent any activities from Maine, we will continue to move toward the resolution of this sale.”

(Dillon) Yankee and Entergy could also decide to postpone next week’s closing. But Cosgrove would not speculate on whether the deal would be delayed.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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