Senate Leaders Hope To Derail Relicensing Of Yankee

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(Host) Leaders in the Vermont Senate hope to derail the relicensing of Vermont Yankee next week.

Senate President Peter Shumlin says that through a legislative procedure, the chamber could prevent the Public Service Board from deciding a 20-year extension on the license.

VPR’s John Dillon reports.

(Dillon) Shumlin said Yankee officials misled the state about leaking underground pipes, and have failed to come up with a competitive power contract for the state’s utilities.

Shumlin said he’s also worried about Entergy’s plan to sell Yankee and five other plants to a new, debt-heavy corporation. He said lawmakers have enough information to vote on the plant’s future.

(Shumlin) "We have tritium that’s leaking into the Connecticut River at a rate that should be of concern. We have a proposed spin-off that makes the recent shenanigans on Wall Street look like kindergarten action, and we have very clearly a decommission clean up fund that is short. So I would ask you to ask this question: ‘Why wouldn’t we make a judgment in light of all the information we have?’"

(Dillon) Vermont is the only state that allows the Legislature a vote on whether a nuclear plant should be relicensed.

Legislative leaders say the bill will be written to give the Public Service Board authority to extend the license. So if the Senate votes the bill down, the measure dies and the governor cannot veto it.

Shumlin – who is also running for governor – wants the Senate to vote before Town Meeting Day.

(Shumlin) "We’ve got to plan our energy future. We have a responsibility to businesses, to Vermonters, to make a judgment, and we’re going to make that judgment."

(Dillon) With Entergy Vermont Yankee’s numerous missteps in recent weeks, it’s not easy to find supporters these days at the Statehouse. But not everyone agrees with the timing of next week’s vote.

(Mullin) "I think this is a political vote; I don’t think this is a policy vote."

(Dillon) Rutland Republican Senator Kevin Mullin wants the vote delayed until the state gets more information about the radiation leaks, the power contract and other issues. But Mullin says he knows how he’d vote now.

(Mullin) "There’s no way that I would vote to relicense Vermont Yankee under the existing set of criteria that are out there right now, given that we don’t have a firm contract for a rate, we don’t have a firm decision on the spin-off, who will be guaranteeing the decommissioning. There are too many open questions."

(Dillon) Governor Jim Douglas says lawmakers should wait until they have all the facts. He pointed out that the Public Service Board is in the midst of lengthy hearings on the Yankee license extension.

(Douglas) "I think the Legislature ought to turn its attention to other, more important priorities. During the last month or so we’ve seen unemployment go up a half percent, we’ve seen income tax decline precipitously. I asked for a jobs bill to be on my desk by the end of January. That hasn’t happened."

(Dillon) Republican Lieutenant Governor Brian Dubie agreed. Dubie, who is running for governor, said – quote – "The facts deserve our full, eyes-wide-open attention – not political grandstanding."

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

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