State, Entergy head to federal court Tuesday over building of generator for Vermont Yankee

Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant operator Entergy Corp. and the state of Vermont will go head-to-head in U.S. District Court on Tuesday.

The Louisiana-based company is arguing again 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 backup diesel generator for the site by June 11.

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 Sept. 1; 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 this past year. But in April, the company said it received strong indication that it would not get a permit in a timely fashion from the state’s quasi-judicial board, which is tasked with regulating power producers and utilities. The company then filed the lawsuit in federal court.

On May 20, a Public Service Board hearing officer recommended that the board permit the project, and the Public Service Department supported the decision. On May 28, the anti-nuclear New England Coalition filed a lone request for oral argument in front of the board, urging the board to reject the application.

“NEC respectfully submits that the Board should reject the tortured logic of the (proposed decision), and find that the project is not necessary to meet the State’s present or future demand for service, and will not promote the general good of the State of Vermont,” wrote the coalition’s attorney Brice Simon.

The board will not make a decision on whether to permit the backup generator until it has heard the oral argument, which is slated for Wednesday.

Since the federal court hearing is Tuesday, and Vermont Yankee does not have the permit it seeks, Entergy is moving forward with the lawsuit.

“We’re not in a position to speculate on any aspect of the case,” Entergy spokesperson Rob Williams said. “Vermont Yankee should not be faced with the risk of being unable to comply with the NRC’s safety requirements, or having to incur the cost of installing a temporary generator, due to the state’s failure to act in a timely manner.”

In addition to this federal suit, Entergy and the state of Vermont are currently litigating in federal appeals court over the Legislature’s authority 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.

Correction: The New England Coalition’s lawyer is Brice Simon.

Andrew Stein

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  • John Greenberg

    Several clarifications to this story would be very helpful.

    1) Who is defending the State in this case? The AG’s office, DPS, or someone else?

    2) Which district court? Who’s the judge?

    3) Links to the documents in the case, i.e., to the briefs.


    • Hi John,
      Andrew will be covering the court hearing today. Detail to follow.

      • John Greenberg


  • Willem Post

    Vermont Yankee is performing a public good to New England by providing about 4,500,000 MWh/yr of low- cost, about 6 c/ kWh, near -zero CO2 emitting energy, much less costly than the RE energy supplied at about 17.16 c/kWh, 2012, by Vermont’s SPEED program and much less costly than Lowell Mountain’s variable, intermittent, I,e, junk energy, at at least 15 c/ kWh, based on 20 year lives and 0.25 capacity factors.

    The NRC mandates VY has emergency power. It’s a safety issue within the authority of the NRC.

    Vermont will be better served with VY having emergency power that is even more reliable than what they had before.

  • Pete Novick

    This reminds me of an old Far Side cartoon. Two goldfish are standing outside their fishbowl, the surface of which appears to be on fire. The caption reads:

    “Well, now we’re really in trouble.”

    Why doesn’t the government of Vermont stop this nonsense and get on with the number one challenge:

    – grow a internationally competitive economy

    – Make real progress closing the median household income gap between the VT and US median (VT – $37,000; US $45,000)

    – grow the white collar “knowledge worker” work force, so we can stop exporting our best and brightest high school graduates, who go off to college and have to seek employment elsewhere

    – Define and achieve real economic growth targets with our neighbor to the north, especially Quebec, which has seen some of the best economic growth among advanced economies in the last 10 years

    When is the Vermont political establishment going to learn you can’t push a rope?

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