Shumlin Still Mulling Over Appeal Of Vermont Yankee Ruling

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(Host) Governor Peter Shumlin still wants Vermont Yankee shut down. But he says he hasn’t yet decided if the state should appeal a federal court ruling that allows the nuclear plant to keep operating.

But a court appeal may not be the governor’s only option. As VPR’s John Dillon reports, Shumlin said Wednesday that his administration will seek to reactivate a state regulatory hearing that could determine the plant’s future.

(Dillon) It was the governor’s first news conference since federal Judge Garvan Murtha handed the state a stinging defeat last week.

The judge ruled that the Legislature overstepped its authority when the Senate voted two years ago against Yankee’s request to keep operating past March.

Shumlin said he’s trying to be uncharacteristically quiet on all things Yankee while he and Attorney General Bill Sorrell mull an appeal.

(Shumlin) "It has been no secret that I feel very strongly that it’s in the best interests of Vermont to close the plant on schedule in 2012. My view on Vermont Yankee hasn’t changed. It’s been clear and articulated many, many times. What we’re focusing on now is how we get the best decision that we can."

(Dillon) The governor went on to point out that Murtha’s decision left a role for the Public Service Board – which regulates utilities and energy companies – to now decide Yankee’s fate.

(Shumlin) "Let’s not forget that Judge Murtha’s decision affirms Vermont’s ability to have destiny over their own future by going before the Public Service Board. I have a lot of confidence in the Public Service Board."

(Dillon) In 2010, the three-member independent board had been hearing Yankee’s request for state approval – called a certificate of public good – to operate for another 20 years. The board put that case on hold while the Legislature debated the issue.

Shumlin said his administration will ask the board to reactivate the Yankee case as soon as the 30-day federal court appeal period expires. He said one question yet to be resolved is whether a federal appeal and the state PSB case can proceed at the same time.

The cost of a court appeal is another issue for Shumlin and Attorney General Sorrell to consider. Shumlin defended Sorrell against critics who have said two recent high profile losses in federal court has cost the state millions of dollars in legal fees.

(Shumlin) "Obviously, we’re going to spend whatever we need to spend to ensure that Vermonters get a good decision. I want to make clear that on the question of spending I’ve read a lot about what this case has cost. I’m surprised that no one in the press has asked whether that’s been a net loss or gain for taxpayers. It’s important to know that this year alone the attorney general has brought in about $40 million into the attorney general’s office from winning cases."

(Dillon) But supporters of Vermont Yankee say the state should not spend any more money on the case. They hailed Murtha’s decision as being good for the state overall.

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


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