A settlement that would allow the closed Vermont Yankee nuclear plant to be sold by the end of the year has been reached, although state regulators still have to approve the deal.
NorthStar Decommissioning Holdings wants to buy the plant.
The company says it can dismantle and decommission Vermont Yankee faster than the timetable planned by Entergy, the current owner.
But a big sticking point in the case has been the state’s concerns that NorthStar may not have enough money available to pay for all the work, including managing the spent fuel at the site.
The settlement — called a memorandum of understanding — was filed Friday with the state Public Utility Commission.
The settlement boosts the financial commitments needed for site clean up and restoration. Both Entergy, the plant's current owner, and NorthStar have agreed to commit more money to the project if it's needed.
James Porter, director of Public Advocacy at the Department of Public Service, said the settlement increases the financial assurance package by $250 million.
Porter said it was significant that almost all the parties involved in the case signed onto the deal. They include the department, the Agency of Natural Resources, the New England Coalition watchdog group and the Elnu Abenaki Trib.
"I'm very proud of the fact that was a great deal of outreach with all of the parties to this proceeding. And many meetings and much work was put in to with everybody's various interests," he said. "And at end of the day we wound up with all of the parties, except for one, entering into a memorandum of understanding. So I think that's very significant."
The Conservation Law Foundation did not sign on to the deal. In a statement, CLF attorney Sandra Levine said the deal still leave the public potentially on the hook.
"Vermonters are the losers in a recent agreement aimed to sweeten the deal for the sale of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant,” Levine said. “In a rush to secure a possible – and by no means certain – quick cleanup of the site, the settlement excludes reasonable protection for Vermont communities. The deal Entergy and NorthStar proposed leaves Vermonters vulnerable to picking up the tab if something goes wrong."
Under the settlement, NorthStar agrees to provide an initial $30 million contribution, plus payments totally an additional $25 million to an escrow fund that can be drawn on to pay for unanticipated costs.
The company also agrees to obtain a pollution liability policy with $30 million in coverage, and provide a $140 million "support agreement" that requires NorthStar's parent company to provide addional funds as needed.
Entergy agrees to put in $60 million more to a site restoration trust fund, and it commits to providing an additional $40 million if by 2023 certain conditions covering decommissioning are not met.
The settlement now will be reviewed by the Public Utility Commission, the three-member body that regulates utilities.
Entergy says it wants a decision from the PUC by the end of June, in order for the sale to close by the end of 2018.
Updated 03/02/18, 5:45 p.m. to reflect details of the settlement that was filed.