Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Shumlin Overstates Again

Was it only yesterday that I wrote a post about Shumlin overstating himself, claiming that Germany got 30% of its electricity from solar when it only gets 1% that way? Gosh, it seems like yesterday, but it was actually six weeks ago.

Shumlin did it again. He made massively incorrect statements. Then he ran with them. Today's Shumlin statements cannot be blamed on the poor tongue-tied politician vainly attempting to deal with a fierce and unanswerable Fox News reporter. Shumlin did this one all by himself. He issued a press release, quoted below:

Message to Entergy Louisiana – “You are in Vermont – Not China”
Montpelier , Vt. – Entergy Louisiana announced it is now imposing “new guidelines” for journalists. Entergy will now have a “caddy” that will control all cameras and video cameras on site and will confiscate all cameras and review stills and video footage. Entergy Louisiana will then return cameras ‘at time to be determined’ by Entergy.
The new guidelines would have prevented Vermonters from ever seeing the picture of the collapsing Cooling Tower or the transformer fire. Without these photos Vermonters would never have known about the level of deferred maintenance occurring at the plant.
“These new tactics disguised as ‘guidelines’ more resemble actions of governments like The Republic of China. Entergy Louisiana’s actions make it impossible to believe them when they say, they are committed to being more open and transparent, “said Senate President Peter Shumlin. “This is not the Vermont way!”

Short Background

Entergy was forced to allow a group of intervenors to take a tour during the outage. The intervenors were bringing their cameras, and Entergy wanted to restrict the pictures they took. More specifically, they wanted to ban documentary film maker Robbie Leppzer from filming within the plant. The outcry against this decision was fierce, and Entergy backed down. They allowed the filmmaker on site, but insisted on reviewing all film taken within the plant. This is the background for Shumlin's press statement.

How is Shumlin Wrong? Let Me Count the Ways

First Error: These new tactics disguised as ‘guidelines’ more resemble actions of governments like The Republic of China. Actually, no. Every industrial facility restricts cameras on site. When we toured the coal plant, the rule was "no cameras." At any software company, the rule is "no cameras."

Oddly enough, freedom means that you can restrict people from taking pictures within your property. You can keep the people out. (No Trespassing!) You can keep the cameras out (No Cameras!) Or you can be very sweet and mild-mannered (We will review your pictures to be sure you are not showing proprietary information or information about security measures.) Entergy is being very sweet about this. In return, Shumlin is following the rhetorical fallacy of Reductio Ad Hilterum. Instead of Hitler, Shumlin is using China.

Second Error: The new guidelines would have prevented Vermonters from ever seeing the picture of the collapsing Cooling Tower or the transformer fire. Oh, for heaven's sakes, Mr. Shumlin. Those pictures weren't taken by the press. The press was nowhere around at the time.

When they were faced with a cooling tower collapse, do you think that the first thing VY staff did was call the Brattleboro Reformer? Of course not. Some people at VY took pictures to document the problem, others shut off the water. Now, the way the pictures got to the press is a bit mysterious, and they were "leaked" by sources before Entergy had a chance to distribute them. At least, that is the story I heard. I hope people who know more will correct this post if I am wrong. At any rate, press access to the plant had nothing to do with it.

Third Error: Without these photos Vermonters would never have known about the level of deferred maintenance occurring at the plant. Sure, Mr. Shumlin. Nobody would have told the NRC or issued a press release about the incidents. It would have been much better to simply have lots of gossip in Vernon and Brattleboro. Sure. That's the Shumlin view of how industrial facilities operate. Germany gets 30% of its "juice" from solar, and industrial facilities hide even the most obvious events (such as collapses and fires) from their regulators and the public.

Fourth Error: these pictures on their own say very little about the "level of deferred maintenance" at the plant. These incidents are not an advertisement for the plant, that is certain. But I think that the plant's recent 532-day-power run without significant time off-line or unscheduled outages says a great deal about the plant's general level of maintenance. It's one of the best power plants in the country.

Conclusion: Vermont Yankee is a good power plant, and Shumlin is a .... Okay, I don't want to go there...

Shumlin overstates himself.


Errata
Oh for heaven's sake. I had to read Terri Hallenbeck's blog on the subject to notice that Shumlin referred to the Republic of China (aka Taiwan) instead of the People's Republic of China (aka China or Red China). The Fifth Error. I am embarrassed that I didn't catch his mistake myself.

4 comments:

David said...

I only wish your comments were less entertaining. I can just see the spittle flying to the front row as Shumlin cries "CAMERA's FORBIDDED!! OH THE HORROR!!"

Sure wish we had a good political cartoonist on board.

Jason said...

I've noticed these same communist tactics used at our nation's capital! The national archives similarly censored me! I went there with the intention of taking flash photography of our nation's founding documents, as part of an expose I'm doing on government corruption, and they said no! It was like I was living in Orwell's 1984 or something.

Seriously, though. Today, Shumlin is angry about camera's not being allowed in (extremely common in high security areas). I wouldn't be surprised if tomorrow he said nuclear plants were unsecure terrorist targets.

Meredith Angwin said...

David. I also deeply wish we had a good political cartoonist. Do you know any?

Jason. VY has often allowed photographers from local newspapers to film at the site. There are many clips of the search for the tritium, for example. But those were newsmen known to VY, and invited at VY's convenience.

The group that went through on April 29 was quite a different group. They were intervenors (CLF, others) who insisted on visiting, despite an outage taking place. Their visit, and their "right" to visit, was subject of PSB dockets and orders. VY had no reason to trust them to comply with the most reasonable rules.

Robert Hargraves said...

Call Michelle Ollie at The Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction. They have done several graphic novels. Maybe they would like to do one on Vermont Yankee.