Entergy files new lawsuit against Vermont, this time over diesel backup power permit

Google Earth image of the Vermont Yankee plant in Vernon, Vt.

Google Earth image of the Vermont Yankee plant in Vernon, Vt.

On Thursday, Vermont Yankee operator Entergy Corp. brought a new lawsuit against the state, this time over a critical piece of back-up equipment.

The Louisiana-based company is arguing yet again in U.S. District Court that the state is federally preempted from regulating the plant. The company wants the federal government to intervene so that it can begin construction on a back-up diesel generator for the site by June 11, 2013.

To comply with federal regulations, the nuclear plant must have an emergency source of power, in the case of a station blackout. The plant’s contract for that power is set to expire on Sept. 1, 2013; TransCanada, the owner of the Vernon Hydroelectric Station, is not renewing the contract.

Entergy sought a Certificate of Public Good from the Vermont Public Service Board to build an on-site diesel generator for the purpose of backup power. But on Wednesday, the corporation received strong indication that it would not receive a permit in time from the state’s quasi-judicial board, which is tasked with regulating power producers and utilities.

“On April 24, 2013, the PSB’s Hearing Officer issued a scheduling order that makes clear that the PSB likely will not issue a final decision before June 11, 2013 date on which Entergy must begin construction of the generator so that it may be fully installed by September 1, 2013,” Entergy attorneys wrote in their complaint for injunctive relief.

Entergy argues that federal and state laws conflict with each other in this case.

“Whereas the NRC requires Entergy to install a station blackout generator in order to ensure the safety of the VY Station, Vermont has failed to grant Entergy authority to do so in a timely fashion,” Entergy’s attorneys write.

Therefore, Entergy argues, the state is federally preempted under two counts of the constitutional Supremacy Clause by the power vested in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission by the Congressional Atomic Energy Act.

“Vermont law is in direct conflict with the NRC’s regulation, and stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress.”

In addition to this suit, Entergy and the state of Vermont are currently litigating in the federal court of appeals over the Legislature’s power to shut the plant down, over a generation tax passed last legislative session, in the Vermont Supreme Court, and in front of the Public Service Board to provide a new Certificate of Public Good for the plant to operate for another 20 years.


Andrew Stein

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