Trespass charge dropped against Vermont Yankee activist

Prosecutors have dropped their charge against a man they say trespassed at Vermont Yankee, the shuttered nuclear plant along the Connecticut River that still stores radioactive waste.

Windham County sheriff’s deputies arrested Clay Turnbull in March 2016 after plant security staff discovered him taking photos to use in the debate over a plan by the plant’s owner, Entergy Corp., to build a second concrete pad to store the spent nuclear fuel.

Clay Turnbull

Clay Turnbull is a trustee and staff member for the New England Coalition. Photo by Randolph T. Holhut/The Commons

Turnbull, a trustee and staffer at the Brattleboro-based nuclear watchdog group New England Coalition, said his dog, a Chihuahua-corgi named Chicklett, tipped off security. They weren’t trespassing at the Vernon plant, Turnbull said.

“If I was trying to pull one over on them, would I have brought my Chihuahua-corgi with me to run around chasing mice?” the 54-year-old Townshend man said in an interview this week. “Was I dressed in camouflage? No.”

Entergy spokesman Joseph Lynch said the company “is aware that the state of Vermont and Mr. Turnbull reached a mutual agreement under which the state dismissed the trespassing charge against Mr. Turnbull. We have no further comment on the case.”

Turnbull signed a May 12 court document, which he said is not an admission of guilt, that spells out conditions of the dismissal.

The agreement says Turnbull needs Vermont Yankee’s written permission before stepping onto the property, unless he’s attending an event or meeting that’s open to the public or that his organization has been invited to. On those occasions, he must enter and exit the property through designated entrances.

And he needs to donate $100 to the Groundworks Collaborative food shelf in Brattleboro by the end of June, which he said he did already.

Steven Brown, a Windham County deputy state’s attorney, said his office consulted Vermont Yankee officials about the conditions of the dismissal. He would not comment further.

Turnbull said he was upset the court proceedings lagged on for 13 months but glad he’s not going to jail.

“I wasn’t sure they would let Chicklett in with me. That would have been tough.”

Dan Schwartz

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