New Vermont Yankee Agreement Gets Public Hearing

Jan 13, 2014

Members of the public will have a chance to comment Tuesday on a new agreement between the state of Vermont and the owners of Vermont Yankee.

The agreement would allow Entergy to operate the nuclear plant for one more year, and it puts Yankee on a faster track for decommissioning.

The Memorandum of Understanding between Entergy and the state was announced Dec. 23, after weeks of closed-door talks. The deal calls for Entergy to contribute $10 million to help the local economy adjust after the plant closes at the end of 2014.

Entergy would also invest $25 million in a site restoration fund and commit to a faster decommissioning timetable than federal rules require. In exchange, the state Public Service Board would grant Entergy permission to operate for a final year and to store additional spent fuel on site.

The board had been considering Entergy’s request for a one-year permit before the new agreement was announced.

Chris Recchia is the Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Service. The department represents ratepayers — and the Shumlin Administration — before the decision-making Public Service Board.

"Obviously, this represents a dramatic change in the information and direction in which this is headed. And I think the board wants to give the public an opportunity to weigh in." - Chris Recchia, Vermont Department of Public Service

“Obviously, this represents a dramatic change in the information and direction in which this is headed,”  Recchia said. “And I think the board wants to give the public an opportunity to weigh in.”

Recchia said the Tuesday evening hearing will cover both the proposed agreement and Entergy’s bid for a one-year permit. The settlement doesn’t cover all the issues, he said, but it sets the stage for future negotiations in many areas. It would also put an end to years of litigation, which has been costly on both sides.

And despite ongoing mistrust between Entergy and the state, Recchia said the shorter time frame means the individuals and entities that signed the pact will still be available and can be held accountable.

But some parties object that the agreement doesn’t include a role for Windham County residents. Chris Campany, executive director of  the Windham Regional Commission, which serves 27 towns in Southeastern Vermont, said the negotiations that led to the agreement are just the beginning.

“We need to just lay out the process through which the state, the region municipalities and Entergy can all continue to have discussions,” Campany said. “We need to be gearing up for the conversation that’s going to be taking place for years and decades. And some kind of citizens advisory board, some formal  process,  some structure, some means of communication — we need to start working that out now.”

Some areas that have been through the dismantling of a nuclear reactor have had citizen advisory panels to allow for local input and communication.

Recchia said the governor hopes to adapt the Vermont State Nuclear Advisory Panel for that role.

 “And we’ll be working with the legislature to try and make that happen,” he said.

The public hearing takes place Tuesday evening in Montpelier and at sites throughout the state on Vermont Interactive Television.