Entergy asks court for OK to continue operating Vermont Yankee, as it waits for license approval from Public Service Board

The dry cask storage units outside of the Vermont Yankee plant. Photo by Laura Frohn, News21.org

The dry cask storage units outside of the Vermont Yankee plant. Photo by Laura Frohn, News21.org

Entergy is going back to federal court asking for assurance that the state will not shutter the plant March 21, when its current license expires.

Despite a victory in federal court finding two Vermont laws unconstitutional, attorneys for Entergy expressed concerns that the board would not allow Vermont Yankee to continue operating.

The Public Service Board held a status conference March 9, and briefs are due Friday.

Entergy already asked Judge J. Garvan Murtha for assurance that the plant could continue operating during the proceeding. The Public Service Board at the conference would not guarantee that the plant would keep operating.

With the clock ticking, Entergy’s motion in federal court asks Judge Murtha to preserve the status quo.

The filing states: “A statement from the PSB — in direct conflict with this Court’s Decision — that Plaintiffs may not operate during the interim period stands irreparably to damage Plaintiffs’ ability to keep VY open and to retain critical employees.”

In February, the board issued questions to Entergy and other parties in the docket asking if the plant could continue to operate after March 21. A state law that prevents the plant from storing spent fuel at Vermont Yankee after that date without approval from the Public Service Board.

The Vermont attorney general and Department of Public Service agree that the plant can continue operating while the Public Service Board determines whether to grant a new license. But the board last week questioned whether it had the ability to let Vermont Yankee keep producing spent fuel and pushed Entergy attorneys on why they hadn’t addressed the impending issue earlier.

Entergy’s filing says the delay is not the company’s fault, and the board would have made a decision earlier if it hadn’t been for the Vermont laws that spawned litigation and put the licensing hearing on hold.

Two Vermont laws required legislative approval for storage of spent nuclear fuel at Vermont Yankee after March 21 and for continued operation after that date. In 2010, the Vermont Senate voted against relicensing the plant, and the litigation in federal court ensued.

Federal district court Judge J. Garvan Murtha ruled the Atomic Energy Act pre-empted the two state laws, but his decision left the Public Service Board’s discretion intact.

When the board reopened the proceeding and asked whether the plant could continue to operate, Entergy fired off an immediate request to the court asking it to let the plant operate after March 21.

The status conference apparently did not instill confidence.

Wednesday’s request for a ruling states: “The very real prospect that the PSB will answer its own questions adversely to Plaintiffs, and thus order that VY must cease operation or storage of SNF from operation after March 21, 2012, stands irreparably to harm Plaintiffs.”

The company’s filing implies it might continue operating even if the board says it should not.

The motion goes on: “On March 9, 2012, the PSB made clear that it does not necessarily agree with the AG’s and the DPS’s view. In the event that the PSB ultimately disagrees, Plaintiffs will be forced either to cease operating or, if they defy the PSB by continuing to operate, to face the prospect of a diminished credit rating, a loss of crucial employees, and a demerit in the PSB’s consideration of Plaintiffs’ petition for a new CPG.”

Environmental groups have pushed for the plant to shut down March 21.

Sandra Levine, senior attorney with the Conservation Law Foundation in Vermont, said continuing to operate after March 21 would violate Vermont law and a memorandum of understanding signed by Entergy in 2002 agreeing that the plant could only operate up to March 21 without additional approval from the board.

“Entergy continues to seek approval to violate Vermont law,” Levine said. “They remain bound by the Public Service Board’s orders. They will need the board’s approval for continued operation. The district court’s order was clear that only legislative action is pre-empted.”

Sarah Hofmann, deputy commissioner of the Department of Public Service, said the department agrees the plant can continue to operate under state law but that Entergy has not lived up to its commitments.

“If they are going to be allowed to run on expired CPGs (certificates of public good), then they have to live up to all the commitments in those CPGs,” she said.

A spokesman for Entergy said the company would not offer additional comment on its filing.

Alan Panebaker

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9 Comments on "Entergy asks court for OK to continue operating Vermont Yankee, as it waits for license approval from Public Service Board"

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Alex Barnham
4 years 4 months ago

I do feel sorry for the people who, in the light of all the evidence, totally disregard the truth. The overwhelming evidence is available to us and the good people of Vermont (as opposed to the bad people) will do everything possible to protect our land, air, and water from being destroyed by nuclear contamination.

Bob Stannard
4 years 4 months ago

Nor should we expect Entergy to ever live up to any future promises or committments they may make.

The fear is that the PSB might grant them a CPG with conditionsto allow them to continue to operate. As has now been proved beyond any doubt, Entergy will agree to anything, but their word is no good.

Mike Kerin
4 years 4 months ago

I for one don’t believe anything this corporation says. Entergy has lied and deceived and mislead the State of Vermont from the very first moment they began dealing with us.

There is only so much we can take.

4 years 4 months ago

The issue is not with “hard-working” people at Vermont Yankee. The issue is with management. Entergy sat in the PSB meeting on March 9th spewing double speak. Avoiding answers to direct questions. Knowing full well there was a current issue with the plants condenser and saying nothing about it. Saying nothing is as much of a lie as saying there are no underground pipes.

John Greenberg
4 years 4 months ago

There were 218 Vermonters working at VY when DPS prepared its report in November 2008, not 500 as Vic Hudson alleges.

Ruaidhri O'Cruadhlaoich
4 years 4 months ago

Other than the jobs in Vernon how does Vermont benefit from Vermont Yankee in the future?

Is there a deal in place to use the power produced by the plant if they continue to operate?

Where will spent fuel be (safely-is that word allowed) stored in the future?

Is NRC actively involved in the latest issue of containment failure?

Bob Stannard
4 years 4 months ago
Do you now, Vic? You trust the workers who recently left a metal plate large enough to stand on inside the leaking condenser unit? You trust the workers who lost a hot, radioactive spent fuel rod? You trust the control room operator who tested positive for pot? You trust the person in charge of the substance abuse program who blew a positive breathalyzer? You trust the chief operating officer who continually misled the legislature? You trust the same C.O.O who misrepresented the facts before the state’s regulatory board? You trust the employee who threw the wrong switch during the outage.… Read more »
4 years 4 months ago
I attended the meeting Vic. I WAS THERE IN PERSON. I am not depending on someone else giving me a version of what was said. I heard it for my self. Entergy did not answer pointed questions. Entergy lawyers repeated phrases, word for word, that certainly appeared practiced. Entergy lawyers spoke with out communicating and the board asked on more than one occurrence to have what was said explained “What does that mean?” They made no mention of the condenser issue at that meeting Vic. It would not have been in their best interest to raise it. The board pointedly… Read more »
4 years 4 months ago
What the Governor and the DPS said has nothing to do with the PSB Vic. The PSB was deliberately left out of the legal battle for that reason. This was discussed in the March 9th meeting too. I WAS THERE I HEARD IT FOR MYSELF. When the chairman of the board expressed that, Entergy was caught off guard. When the chairman of the board noted that he expected Entregy would have asked about that a long time ago the lawyers tried to come up with something on the spot and the chairman of the board told them outright they would… Read more »
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