The future of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant is emerging as an issue in the race for Attorney General.
While Incumbent Democrat Bill Sorrell is defending the state’s decision to try to close the plant as soon as possible, his two opponents oppose this strategy for very different reasons.
Their comments came in a debate that was sponsored by the Burlington Free Press and it highlighted some key differences between the three major party candidates.
Republican challenger Jack McMullen said his top priority is to implement a statewide strategy to fight prescription drug abuse. That’s something that McMullen says incumbent Democrat Bill Sorrell has failed to do.
Sorrell disputed that allegation and he said his office has also been working hard on a variety of consumer fraud issues.
Progressive Ed Stanak said one of his top priorities would be the passage of legislation to limit "the personal rights" of corporations.
The candidates also differed on the future of Vermont Yankee. McMullen says the state’s legal efforts to shut the plant down are very weak and he said it was time to make a deal with the owners of the facility.
"What other things could we ask of Entergy that we might negotiate in exchange for pulling this appeal ?" said McMullen. " I’ve heard transparency and safety are two concerns. Fine you can go to Entergy and ask for greater transparency and greater safety and save ourselves the $4 to $8 million I estimate it will cost to take that up all the way."
Although the state lost the first round of this legal battle in federal court, Sorrell thinks there’s a sound argument to make at the appellate level.
"You don’t want to file an appeal just to go through the motions if you don’t think you have sound legal arguments to make but we have sound legal arguments to make and we’ll see what happens," said Sorrell. "And we moved for accelerated argument, Entergy opposed it and the Second Circuit just ruled for us and we could see an argument in that case as early as December."
Progressive Stanak says he’s been an opponent of the Vermont Yankee plant since 1978. He thinks the best way to close it down now is to challenge its water discharge permits because he has concerns about the current legal strategy.
"Vermont should be very cautious about pursuing a case to the Second Circuit let alone to the U.S. Supreme Court which could establish extremely bad precedent for the ability of other states to stand up on behalf of their citizens on this issue of nuclear power."
While McMullen and Sorrell both supported the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana, Stanak argued that outright legalization was the best approach for the state to take.