Entergy fails to make quarterly payment to state of Vermont

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

The Vermont Department of Public Service is not convinced that the company that owns the Vermont Yankee nuclear power station will live up to its obligations.

The plant, which is owned by Entergy Corp., is currently operating on an expired state permit while the Vermont Public Service Board considers approving a new license for it.

Meanwhile both the state and Entergy have appealed a federal court decision finding a law requiring legislative approval before the plant could get a new license was unconstitutional.

The Department of Public Service, which represents ratepayers before the board, has taken the position that the plant can continue to operate under state law while the docket is ongoing, but that it must continue to keep obligations like making payments to the Clean Energy Development Fund.

On April 3, attorneys for Entergy filed a one-page letter with the board stating that it agreed with the department.

The company’s statement said it “must comply with the conditions in the existing certificates of public good that the Department lists at pages 7-9 of its cross-motion.”

These included payments to the fund, which subsidizes renewable energy resources.

But according to a filing by the department Monday, Entergy has not made its quarterly payment of $625,000, which was due on April 1.

Last week, a spokesman for Entergy told VTDigger.org that a story stating the company’s filing meant Entergy would continue to make payments to the fund “got it wrong.”

The department’s filing states that “it is clear that Entergy is attempting to limit the concessions it made in its April 3 response.”

The department said in its filing that Entergy will likely argue that it does not need to fulfill its obligation to pay into the state fund because the memorandums of understanding that are incorporated into the company’s license have expiration dates.

That argument, the department claims, doesn’t fly. In essence, if the plant is operating on an expired license, the expiration dates on the obligations in the license don’t expire either.

“Entergy cannot have it both ways,” its filing states. “While its operations expiration date is
suspended, so too are all dates affecting Entergy’s obligations under the CPGs.”

The Clean Energy Development Fund was established in 2005 by the state Legislature. Money raised through agreements with Entergy has funded the programs, which the Department of Public Service administers, bringing in about $6 million a year. Those agreements expired March 21 along with the plant’s operating license from the state. A bill pending in the Vermont Senate would replace those funds with a $6 million tax on the plant. Under that proposal, instead of all the money going to the Clean Energy Development Fund, it would be split among the CEDF, the education fund and a fund that would help Windham County plan for the plant’s closure.

In response, also Monday afternoon, Entergy fired back a letter to the board saying it would post the payments with a third-party escrow agent and only pay the money to the state fund if the board makes a ruling that it can continue to operate either temporarily or permanently under a new permit.

In its letter, Entergy said that given the uncertainty with the pending tax bill and whether state law allows the plant to continue operating with its expired license, it would not give the funds to the state immediately.

The letter states that the company would not pay money into the fund if the Legislature passed a bill that would increase the tax to replace the Clean Energy Development Fund money. Entergy attorneys said the company will provide the agreement to the department by Wednesday. It plans to put the $625,000 that was due on April 1 into an escrow account rather than give it directly to the state.

The Public Service Board has yet to rule on whether a provision in Vermont law allows the plant to legally operate during the relicensing proceeding. The plant has continued to operate, although the power it produces is sent out of state since contracts with state utilities expired March 21.

Despite approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and a favorable ruling in Vermont federal district court, the plant’s continued operation is still in flux given the pending cases in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and with the Public Service Board.

Entergy is also asking for more than $4.6 million in attorney’s fees for the federal court decision.

Meanwhile, the state’s two largest utilities are suing Entergy for $6.6 million over 2007 and 2008 cooling water tower collapses at the plant that forced them to buy power elsewhere.

Alan Panebaker

Comments

  1. Dave Bellini :

    Entergy. They’re like the Dallas Cowboys. There’s a quality that makes people cheer for their opponet.

  2. Bob Stannard :

    Imagine. The audacity of the State to insinuate that Entergy would renege on its obligation. What gall!

    Of course, Entergy has broken every promise and obligation it has made to Vermont so maybe there are “some” grounds for skepticism.

    • Townsend Peters :

      I am no fan of Entergy, Mr. Stannard, but in this instance it has made all the actual payments required by the agreements. What it has not made are, essentially, payments based on a creative rewrite of the agreements under which if the plant keeps operating, it has to make more payments than it actually promised to make.

  3. Sally Shaw :

    Leaks, lies and extortion. What a good neighbor.

  4. Randy Koch :

    This also shows what a toothless tiger both the PSB and the DPS actually are. And these two entities are going to regulate the uber-utility being created from the CVPS merger? We can see here that the giant utility is inevitably the regulator and and the captive board, the regulated.

  5. Can we finally revoke the charters for whatever child corporations Louisiana Entergy set up to do business in Vermont, and then close the plant?

  6. Mike Kerin :

    Entergy has done nothing but lie to the state since it purchased the plant. They should not get a new CPG.

  7. “The plant has continued to operate, although the power it produces is sent out of state since contracts with state utilities expired March 21″. This statement needs some clarification.

    Entergy feeds its energy into the NE grid as it has done for about 40 years. Nothing is “sent out of state”. Vermont utilities, for political and business reasons, are not buying VY energy, because they playing along with legislature energy schemes to ensure generous electric rate increases; as the sayings go, “you can’t fight City Hall” and “one hand washes the other”.

    Each time a New Englander turns on a light, etc., about 26.5% of the energy used is nuclear.
    NE nuclear energy was 34,283 GWh in 2011. The plants are fully paid for.

    Wind energy was 760 GWh; high-cost (10 to 15 c/kWh, depending on subsidy level, ridgeline), variable, intermittent, partially-CO2-free, 0.6% of total NE energy.

    Solar energy was 10 GWh; high-cost (20 to 25 c/kWh, depending on subsidy level), variable, intermittent, partially-CO2-free, near-zero % of NE energy.
    http://www.iso-ne.com/nwsiss/grid_mkts/enrgy_srcs/index.html

    VY annual energy production is about 4,800 GWh/yr; low-cost (about 5.5c/kWh), steady, 24/7/365, near-CO2-free. Vermont’s total consumption is about 5,600 GWh/yr.

  8. Bob Zeliff :

    It certainly makes you wonder how much truth Entergy put in their paper work to the NRC when they were asking for an extension of life. Where there lies and half truths in that too?

    I think our Congressional delegation should demand the NRC revisit their decision to relicense Entergy/Vermon.

  9. Alex Barnham :

    The Vernon plant should be owned and operated by a Vermont business so this kind of craziness cannot be possible. I wonder who is responsible for this mess.

  10. How can antinuclear activist argue that nuclear is “too expensive” and renewables are “free” and then complain when the cheap to operate nuclear powerplant does not subsidize renewables that cost 5 times as much even when subsidized?

    Seems to me that the most basic arithmatic is beyond the comprehension of an antinuclear activist.

    • Michael Reddy :

      While it’s true that renewables are not free, the “cheap” costs of operating a nuclear power plant don’t include the long term storage of spent fuel, the clean up of radioactive waste, the threat of thermonuclear meltdown, the effects on the water of the Connecticut River, etc, etc. that such an operation requires. Those are external costs and it’s becoming more and more clear that they will be paid for by taxpayers not by Entergy.

      • Actually they do. Spent 30 seconds on google and you’ll see that nuclear power prices reflect payments to decomissioning funds, the nuclear waste fund, and several billion dollars worth of private insurance. When you’re done with that, google “thermonuclear.” It’s a big word, I get it, but you’re not using it correctly. You shouldn’t arbitrarily attach it to phrases because you think it makes it sound more frightening. That just makes you look like a psuedo-intellectual, pretentious activist.

    • Mike Kerin :

      Take away the subsidies that nuclear get and it isn’t cheap.
      Who do you think is going to pay for the cleanup when they do decommission the plant?

      Not only that but they lie to all of us about everything even when the truth might serve them better.

      • Mike,
        Nuclear energy production was 807 TWh in 2010, about 20% of US production.
        http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/nshare.html

        If nuclear would have received a subsidy of 1c/kWh, the subsidy would have been 807,000,000,000 cents, or $8.07 billion dollars in 2010.
        According to the US Department of Energy, the nuclear subsidy is much less than $8.07 billion.

        Nuclear energy is sold to the grid at a profit for about 5.5c/kWh, which is competitive with coal and gas.

  11. Alex Barnham :

    OK I look at the electrical consumption for New England for the year 2011 and I find this number:
    120,613,000,000,000 watts were used which is 120 quadrillion watts…way too much…conserving only 20% would equal
    24,122,600,000,000 or 24.1226 quadrillion watts or
    24,122.6 GWh
    Total renewables is only 7,262 GWh and so much fuss is being made about the cost of renewables but not one mention of conservation.

    Any fool can plainly see that conservation is far more effective than finding more ways to generate.
    Please correct me if my math is wrong.

    • Alex,
      US total electrical energy consumption about 3,800 TWh (= 38 quadrillion Wh), New England about 120.6 TWh (in 2011), Vermont 5.8 TWh.

      As you can see, whatever Vermont does to subsidize RE is of no significance to the environment, other than to benefit the Vermont RE oligarchies and create feel-good for all others.

      World CO2 emissions (in 1,000 million metric tonnes) were 29.89, 31.63 and 33.51 in 2008, 2009 and 2010, respectively, projected by the EIA at 33.51 x 1.5 = 50.27 in 2035.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Global_Warming_Observed_CO2_Emissions_from_fossil_fuel_burning_vs_IPCC_scenarios.jpg

      China, the US, Europe and Germany emitted (in 1,000 million metric tonnes) 7.46, 5.27, 4.3 and 0.79 in 2009, respectively.

      China, the US, Europe and Germany projected emissions are (in 1,000 million metric tonnes) 11.7, 6.4, 4.4 and 0.55* in 2030, respectively.

  12. Alex Barnham :

    The elephant in the room is still conservation.

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