Business & Economy

Nuke opponents vow to fight on

Environmental groups gathered today at the Statehouse for what was supposed to be Vermont Yankee’s “retirement party,” hosted by VPIRG. Instead, legislators and citizens promised to continue their efforts to shut down the nuclear power plant.

Rep. Tony Klein, chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources and Energy, tried to put a positive spin on what he described as an uphill battle for the state.

“The happy thing I can say is that we have been as successful as we could in terms of having a state speak for itself and determine its own future when it comes to issues like this. So we have done our job,” Klein said to the group of about 30 in the Cedar Creek Room in the Statehouse.

“Was there disappointment? Yes. There was disappointment. Was there surprise? No. There was no surprise that the federal courts would rule in our favor. I never entertained real hope that that was going to occur.”

The Public Service Board will be the likely focus of activists’ future efforts because its approval is necessary for the plant’s continued operation, though its corporate owner Entergy won the most recent round of court battles in the state’s attempts to shut it down.

Tonight the plant’s certificate of public good expires, and it will be in legal limbo if it continues to operate. However, federal Judge J. Garvan Murtha said Vermont Yankee may continue operations as the PSB deliberates on whether to renew its license for the next 20 years.

Jamey Fidel, general counsel and forest and biodiversity program director at the Vermont Natural Resource Council, said the VNRC is aiming to reopen the certification proceeding because of new evidence of groundwater contamination and thermal discharge leaks into the Connecticut River.

Chris Williams, a member of Vermont Citizens Action Network, said another hope for nuclear-free Vermont could lie in Entergy’s board of directors if it found the costs too high to continue operating Vermont Yankee.

“Most of the reactors that have been retired in this country have been retired by the directors of the corporations, and they’ve been retired for the most part for economic reasons,” Williams said.

Williams estimated almost half a billion dollars in costs to keep the Vermont Yankee reactor running, which includes upgrading its condenser and emergency response systems, as well as the cost of its new license.

Ned Childs, a member of the anti-nuclear group New England Coalition, who took a more negative view of Entergy, said best bet would be if the regulatory and legal process were “allowed to proceed without excessive meddling from industry or corrupt regulators.”

“No one can argue that the public has been repeatedly misled, lied to, and extorted by a bullying industry … This is not only a David and Goliath story; it is really the story of Faust, where a deal was made with the devil on all of our behalfs while an innocent nation in fact slept.”

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Erin Hale

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  • walter carpenter

    We the people will have to close this plant down since the legal process to do it has failed to date.

    • Steven Farnham

      We the people aren’t going to do jack. There isn’t any more “We the people.” Now, it’s all “We who grumble like hell, but have drunk the Kool Aid, and will follow like sheep. The principal and teachers have been fired, and the bullies are in charge. Get used to it.

  • Seymour Lariviere

    One the one hand Rep. Tony Klein said closing Vermont Yankee was a cornerstone of legislative policy. On the other hand he never expected to win in federal court. So….what did he really hope to gain? And more to the point, why make a “cornerstone” of a law that you know the feds will strike down? I just don’t get it. It makes you wonder what the agenda really is, and who is driving it, if the most important, highprofile legislation in recent history wasn’t expected to actually survive legal challenge.

  • David Usher

    Flawed ideology + political power + taxpayer dollars = bad policy.

  • Alex Barnham

    You will see the results of human power that rises above money, influence, and patience. Owners beware.

  • Howard Shaffer

    Chairman Klein’s remark is breathtaking! He championed a law that he expected the Federal court would strike down! What was he thinking?

    He was thinking he would do the politically correct thing for his constituents, thus assuring his reelection, and his credibility with the anti nuclear movement. After all he was “raised in the shadow of Indian Point” as he said.

    Mr. Klein was also gambling that Entergy would buckle and throw in the towel. He was wrong. Vermont looses. Perhaps he can’t fathom that others can actually believe they are doing something good and earning a living, by providing nuclear power. Why is it that only those who supply solar and wind power can believe they are doing something good and can make a living at it?

  • John Greenberg

    I don’t speak for Tony Klein, but I believe that both Vic Hudson and Howard Shaffer are completely misreading his remarks.

    He did NOT say he thought the law that was passed was unconstitutional. What he said is that he didn’t expect that the federal courts – constituted as they now are – would uphold the constitutionality of the law. Those are 2 very distinct propositions.

    Rather than attempting to speak for Tony, let me speak for myself. The laws that Vermont passed are completely unconstitutional. There is nothing in them which regulates safety or the “nuclear aspects” of nuclear power, which are the 2 areas which the Atomic Energy Act reserves to the federal government. Instead, they regulate items within the “traditional authority” of the States to regulate: economics, need for power, etc. Thus, these laws were fully compliant with federal law and with the relevant Court precedents (mainly PG&E) which interpret that law and the constitution.

    I therefore DID expect that Judge Murtha would confirm precisely that point, rather than embarking on an uncharted voyage through legislative history searching for a hidden motive which he was then (and still is) completely unable to link to Vermont’s laws. I was naïvely wrong. Tony’s comment, I believe, suggests that he was less innocent than I.

    I understand him to be saying that he did NOT expect that the judge would uphold the law, even though it IS constitutional. There is no “shame” (Hudson) in that, nor anything “breathtaking” (Shaffer) about it.

    The proof of the failure of Murtha’s method became immediately apparent in Entergy’s need for a second injunction as soon as the PSB began to even look at the legal context. In response to QUESTIONS asked by the PSB, the judge decided to throw out yet another small piece of legislative text, but left other parts in place which Entergy is going to find equally troubling down the road.

    Indeed, on the same day as Murtha’s ruling (March 19), the PSB independently ruled that Entergy’s permits have expired and that Vermont Yankee no longer has permits to continue operating under Vermont law. This decision depended neither on the first nor on the second provisions Murtha arbitrarily discarded, so it does not conflict with Murtha’s ruling.

    You can’t take an intricately woven set of laws, permits, and PSB orders, and simply remove one or 2 strands, as the judge tried to do. The result is an interpretative muddle. As I’ve said repeatedly, judicial interpretation needs to begin (and generally end) with the text of the enacted law; otherwise, there’s no end to the trouble one can find.

    In this case, given a whole series of prior laws and rulings, some predating by a quarter of a century the laws the judge threw out, we’ll be back at this before very long.

    It ain’t over till it’s over.

  • Howard Shaffer

    Looks like Mr. Greenberg made a Freudian slip. In his third paragraph he writes that the laws are UNconstitutional!

  • Bob Stannard

    Yes Howard, you still have a very keen eye. Good catch. However, John is correct of every other point that he made; and that you’ve not yet refuted.

    You and Vic Hudson thrive on acting as cheerleaders for this corporation and the question is why? If my mechanic lied to me as much as Entergy has lied to Vermont I would never again do business with him. Somehow, you two can find a way to forgive the lying when it comes to a corporation running an aged nuclear power plant.

    That, my friend, IS breathtaking.

  • John Greenberg

    Thanks for catching the typo Howard.

    Sigmund Freud: “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”

  • Douglas Hutchinson

    John Greenberg says: “In this case, given a whole series of prior laws and rulings, some predating by a quarter of a century the laws the judge threw out, we’ll be back at this before very long.” …We’ll be back at this before long because both parties have a right of appeal and have appealed the District Court decision. Judge Murtha ‘ s decision is consistent with 2nd Circuit precedent which he must follow including the use of legislative history, and he prudently has left for the higher court to reconcile any real differences between USSC and his application of 2nd Circuit precedent. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear Justice White’s comments about Legislative history in PG&E labeled as dicta in the briefs and at oral argument at the 2nd Circuit or above if it goes that far.
    John Greenberg says: “It ain’t over till it’s over.” I agree with John on this. But I’m hoping at the end of the day that we won’t hear about corrupt regulators, miscarriage of justice, pro-corporate courts, ignoring the will of the people, etc like we’re now hearing from some on this site. You won’t hear it from me regardless of the outcome.

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