State utility regulators have allowed Entergy Vermont Yankee to operate the state’s only nuclear plant through the end of the year.
The Vermont Public Service Board on Friday also approved an agreement between the state and Entergy that requires the company to pay $10 million for economic development in Windham County and to set up a $25 million fund to restore the Vernon site after decommissioning.
“We find that the realization of these benefits is in the best interests of Vermonters, notwithstanding the significant concerns raised by numerous parties in this proceeding,” the three-member board wrote.
“After carefully considering the positions of all the parties, we find that approval of the MOU (memorandum of understanding) will not only promote the general good of the state, but, is also the best option for the state under the circumstances,” the board concluded.
The MOU, signed in December, ended years of litigation between Entergy and the state, and it set the stage for Friday’s PSB ruling.
But the MOU has also been criticized by environmentalists and other parties in the case. They’ve argued that it is too vague, and does not fully commit Entergy to an accelerated timetable to decommission the plant.
The PSB in its order noted that Entergy had previously skirted other regulatory requirements.
“In its 12 years of operating in Vermont, Entergy VY has failed to comply with numerous board orders and statutory requirements,” the board said. “It has failed to follow procedural requirements that protect the integrity of board proceedings. The company has engaged in unacceptable conduct that erodes public trust and its capacity to act in good faith and to engage in fair dealing.”
The board said that if Entergy had wanted a 20 year license extension, “its track record may well have led us to find that ownership and operation would not promote the general good.”
But since the company only wants to run Yankee until the end of the year – and because of the financial incentives contained in the MOU – “we find that granting the ... extension subject to the conditions in the MOU is reasonable and in the best interests of the state,” the PSB said.
Updated 3/28/14 at 3:45 p.m. to add additional information from PSB order
Reaction to the ruling varied. The Vermont Public Interest Research Group said the PSB got it wrong.
“It’s clear from the board’s final order that our concerns about Entergy’s terrible track record were heard loud and clear. But the order sends a troubling message, suggesting that a company with the worst kind of record of misconduct could still merit a CPG. It does nothing to discourage that kind of behavior from Entergy or any other company in the future," VPIRG said.
According to the Board’s final order, “if Entergy VY were continuing to pursue a 20-year license extension, the experience over the last twelve years might well have led the Board to deny a CPG.” If that’s true, then this permit should have been denied as well.”
But Guy Page, spokesman for the Vermont Energy Partnership, praised the ruling.
“This is good and important news. For years Vermonters have sought a win-win agreement between Vermont Yankee and the State of Vermont. Today’s decision to approve Vermont Yankee’s Certificate of Public will help provide significant statewide economic and environmental benefits.
“This is because the PSB decision is a pre-requisite for implementation of the December 23, 2013 master settlement agreement (MSA) between plant owner Entergy and the State of Vermont. The MSA provides for decommissioning of Vermont Yankee without undue or unreasonable delay, resolves many expensive lawsuits between Vermont Yankee and the State of Vermont, provides $5.2 million in renewable energy funding, $10 million for Windham County economic development, and more time for post-employment planning for hundreds of Vermonters who work at and for the plant.”
Gov. Peter Shumlin was also pleased with the decision. “The decision provides certainty and predictability for the hard workers at the plant, over $10 million of economic development funding for the region, and lets us focus on the important work of transitioning to a future after Vermont Yankee," Shumlin said. "Our energy future relies on a different path than the past, one of sustainable renewable energy choices that Vermonters embrace and are already seeing the success and benefits of, and I look forward to continuing to move that effort forward.” Updated 3/28/14 at 6:10 p.m. to include reaction