Vt. regulators: Start over on Yankee nuke review

Posted March 30, 2012, at 10:01 p.m.

MONTPELIER, Vt. — The state Public Service Board has determined it must start from scratch in reviewing the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant’s application for a state permit to operate for another 20 years.

The result will be a do-over on a process that stalled in 2010 when lawmakers stepped in and blocked the board from issuing a decision even though it already had held extensive hearings. Vermont had a law saying both houses of the Legislature had to give their OKs before the board could grant Vermont Yankee a new certificate of public good. The Senate voted no, and the House never acted.

This past January, U.S. District Judge J. Garvan Murtha ruled that the Legislature had overstepped its bounds and put the case back before the Public Service Board.

Vermont Yankee owner Entergy Nuclear, based in New Orleans, had asked that the board issue a decision based on the existing record, but other parties objected.

On Thursday, the board ruled against Entergy, saying it needed to start its review over. The decision was reported in Friday’s Brattleboro Reformer.

The board cited three reasons for its decision: First, it said some of the material presented in earlier hearings is now considered out of bounds because the federal judge ruled that the state is pre-empted by federal law from ruling on it.

Second, the board cited “misstatements” in the earlier hearings by Vermont Yankee executives, which it said further tainted the record.

Third, it said the evidence in the case was “stale” and did not take into account changes in the wholesale electricity markets and in other factors that could influence its final decision.

“The evidentiary record does not reflect potentially relevant developments subsequent to the completion of evidentiary hearings, such as leaks from underground piping at Vermont Yankee, and changes in power-market prices that may affect the value of the revenue-sharing agreement,” the board wrote. “Thus, not only has there been no progress in correcting the record, but also even the evidence unaffected by Entergy VY’s misinformation is now several years’ old.”

The board set May 2 as the date for the opening hearing in its new review.

Entergy said the board’s decision gives it “additional clarity regarding the next steps in Vermont Yankee’s quest to obtain a Certificate of Public Good from the State and, on behalf of our more than 600 employees and the myriad businesses who rely on the continued operation of Vermont Yankee, we look forward to the opportunity to demonstrate that the plant deserves a new Certificate of Public Good.”

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