On Eve Of Senate Vote, Entergy Offers Discounted Power

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(Host) On the eve of a legislative vote on Vermont Yankee’s future, the plant’s owner has offered to sell the state discounted power.

Entergy’s proposal did not sway legislative leaders, who insisted the plant should be shut down when its license expires in two years.

VPR’s John Dillon has more:

(Dillon) Entergy Vice President Curt Hebert came to the Statehouse with an offer he hoped lawmakers would not refuse.

He said if the plant is allowed to operate for another 20 years, Yankee would sell Vermont utilities 25 megawatts at 4 cents a kilowatt hour. That’s roughly what Yankee power costs now.

Hebert described the last-minute offer as a -quote "game-changer." But he said it was not timed to influence the Senate vote.

(Hebert) "Doesn’t have anything to do with the Legislature. It doesn’t have anything to do with anything other than the fact that we want to keep jobs here and we want to help."

(Dillon) Hebert admitted the company had made mistakes when officials misled the state about underground pipes.

Yankee officials had testified under oath that the plant did not have buried pipes that could leak radioactivity. Since early January, plant technicians have been hunting for a radiation leak from an underground pipe. Hebert said the leak of radioactive tritium into the groundwater was not a public health threat.

(Hebert) Now, no level that is elevated of tritium at the plant is acceptable. .. I want to answer that question now: Not acceptable.

(Dillon) Senate President Peter Shumlin said he would press ahead with the vote on Yankee’s future as planned.

(Shumlin) This current three year offer, or whatever it might be, it’s 2 percent of our power supply. All I’m saying is it’s wonderful that this has been put forth. It’s not significant to the debate tomorrow.

(Dillon) The state’s major utilities have already rejected a power contract proposed by Entergy. That contract is also contingent on the plant being sold to a new spin-off corporation called Enexus.

Steve Costello is a spokesman for Central Vermont Public Service. He said the company heard about the latest Entergy proposal from a press release.

(Costello) It appears to be a nice little sweetener to what they last offered. But we haven’t had any opportunity to look at what they’re offering in detail. In fact, we haven’t received anything from them on paper yet.  

(Dillon) Environmentalists described the Entergy proposal as a desperate attempt to swing votes. Chris Kilian of the Conservation Law Foundation said the state could create jobs and save money by investing more in energy efficiency programs.

(Kilian) We can get immediately available totally reliable, totally clean 25 megawatts for half the price.

(Dillon) But William Driscoll of the business group Associated Industries of Vermont said the Entergy offer was encouraging.

(Driscoll) If anything it reinforces the argument as to why we need to keep options open to re-license this plant.

(Dillon) Hebert of Entergy said the 25 megawatt offer was not the opening of new negotiations. He described the lower-cost power as a gift to the state.

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

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