Utilities move ahead with Yankee deal, despite critics

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(Host) Officials at Vermont Yankee say they plan to go ahead and sell the plant, despite a last minute challenge that’s still before state regulators.

VPR’s John Dillon reports.

(Dillon) Over the last few days, the Vermont Yankee has see-sawed from near collapse to being back on track.

First, the Entergy Corporation of Mississippi vowed to walk away from the deal unless it could keep half of the excess decommissioning fund. The $300 million fund is set aside to dismantle the reactor when it goes offline. The Public Service Board said in its order approving the sale that ratepayers deserve any surplus. Entergy wants to keep half the leftovers, which could total $100 million.

Then the sale was revived with a last minute, three-way deal struck between Vermont utilities, the plant’s out of state owners and Entergy. The deal says Vermonters would get the excess decommissioning money, but the out-of-state utilities would give Entergy their share of the surplus fund. But regulators from other New England states now say they’re looking at whether this new arrangement is fair to their ratepayers.

Meanwhile, anti-nuclear groups have asked Vermont regulators to reopen their review.

Yankee wants to sell the plant by July 31. Spokesman Brian Cosgrove says the utilities plan to close the deal sometime in the next week, despite the new objections:

(Cosgrove) “We feel the arrangement and agreement that we reached that we announced a couple of days ago really does answer the concerns and addresses the issues involved, so we feel that it’s appropriate to move forward at this point, yes.”

(Dillon) That’s not the view of environmental groups, which challenged the deal before the Public Service Board. Mark Sinclair, with the Conservation Law Foundation, says the new deal fundamentally violates the Board’s order. He says the Board was careful to note that the decommissioning money has to go back to all ratepayers, not just those living in Vermont..

(Sinclair) “What’s very upsetting is that the utilities seem to intend to go forward and close this sale next week without any opportunity for the board to rule on this private agreement. I think that’s contemptible and we’re asking the Board to immediately rule that this private agreement violates the board’s order and to stop the sale.”

(Dillon) The Public Service Board has set a deadline for tomorrow for all the parties to comment on the new Yankee deal.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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