Negotiations over new Vermont Yankee contract delayed

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(Host) Negotiations over a new power contract with Vermont Yankee have been delayed.

A contract was supposed to be delivered this fall. Utilities now say they hope to reach a deal by the end of the year.

The delay means Vermonters won’t know until after the November elections how much they may have to pay for electricity in the next decade.

VPR’s John Dillon has more:

(Dillon) Yankee’s license expires in 2012, and the state Public Service Board is reviewing its request for a 20-year license extension.

But before it gets too far into that review, the board wants to know how much the utilities will pay for Yankee’s electricity. That’s because the price of power is a key factor when the board decides if a new license serves the public good.

But when the utilities and Yankee assembled before the board recently, there was no deal on the table. John Marshall represents Entergy Vermont Yankee.

(Marshall) "They’ve scheduled a number of meetings over the next couple of months to finish negotiations. But they have not reached agreement on a contract."

(Dillon) In documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Entergy says the future is bright for its shareholders.

The company said – quote — "as our existing contracts expire we expect to benefit from the increase in power prices in New York and New England."

And Entergy attorney Marshall told the board that the company is ready to sell power to Vermont utilities at market rates. Right now, the utilities pay considerably less for Yankee power.

But market-priced power from Vermont Yankee isn’t good enough for the state Department of
Public Service, which represents ratepayers.
David O’Brien is public service commissioner.

(O’Brien) "If there is not a value equation on the power supply – in other words, if this is looking like a market agreement that we could buy tomorrow from a number of providers – that really calls into question why you would go forward."

(Dillon) The Public Service Board has imposed a deadline on the negotiations. It said recently if there’s no deal by December 22nd, that it may have to delay the re-licensing case. James Moore is with the Vermont Public Interest Research Group.

(Moore) “That’s what the board was trying to do, was send a strong message to all the interested parties saying, `You’ve got to come up with a deal by end of the year or things are going to drag down even slower.”’

(Dillon) Entergy says the two major Vermont utilities and their customers will do well under a profit-sharing arrangement. That deal allows the utilities to benefit when the Yankee power is sold to other customers above a certain price.

But Commissioner O’Brien says that deal alone isn’t good enough. He says the utilities need a beneficial long-term contract to make the economic argument that Yankee should be re-licensed.

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

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