The Memorandum of Understanding
I began blogging on January 1, 2010. With my first substantive post, on January 3, 2010, I began discussing and linking to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The MOU is a key document in the story of Vermont Yankee. Only nine pages long, the MOU describes the terms of purchase when Entergy bought Vermont Yankee in 2002. It includes the cost of power, the decommissioning fund, decommissioning options, and other issues about the purchase. The MOU was signed by Entergy (the buyer), utility representatives (the sellers), and the State of Vermont, in the person of the Commissioner of the Department of Public Service. As far as I can tell, it is as binding as any other document the state has ever signed.
Shumlin doesn't like it. The MOU includes the option to use SAFSTOR (delayed decommissioning) for the plant. Well, fine, Shumlin doesn't have to like it. However, Shumlin goes further: he repudiates it as a binding document because "Here in Vermont, Your Word is Your Bond." He doesn't feel the SAFSTOR option was discussed enough in committee. Therefore, in his opinion, the contract does not have to be honored. In Shumlin's opinion, SAFSTOR was a matter of Entergy "sneaking" some words in among "thousands of pages" of documents.
In the video clip above, you can hear Shumlin answer Terri Hallenbeck, a veteran reporter for the Burlington Free Press. Shumlin said that SAFSTOR wasn't discussed enough in the committee. At around 2 minutes and 40 seconds into the video above, Hallenbeck asks Shumlin why the discussions in the committee rooms would matter more than the document the state signed. Shumlin's answer: "You working for Entergy today?"
There is almost nothing I can do to comment on such an outrageous statement. A reporter's question means she is working for Entergy. If you question me, you are against me!
Okay. So Shumlin is being outrageous. He is in a world of his own. If a person asks a question, and the question indicates that reality doesn't always fit Shumlin's plans---that person is in league with his enemies.
Nineteen Eighty Four
What makes this interchange so Orwellian ("War is Peace" from 1984) is Shumlin's constant use of the phrase "In Vermont, Our Word Is Our Bond" while he explains that the contract is not something he plans to honor. A contract isn't a contract, a contract is whatever Shumlin thought the contract was.
"Our Word Is Our Bond." I find this far more frightening than if Shumlin said: "Yeah, it's in the contract, but Vermont is going to do its best to break that thing down. I don't like it, and Vermont has lawyers on staff. We'll bust it." That would at least acknowledge the existence and validity of a signed contract.
War is Peace. Signed contracts are the work of sneaky people from Louisiana. Vermonters don't have to honor such things, because in Vermont, Your Word Is Your Bond. War is Peace.
I need to thank two excellent reporters for the information in this post. First, Anne Galloway of Vermont Digger who posted the YouTube above in her article on Shumlin's press conference. Terri Hallenbeck of Burlington Free Press for her incisive follow-up blog post which includes links to the history of other power plants in New England that have had delayed decommissioning. I also want to thank Howard Shaffer, whose short comment on the Hallenbeck article gave me the crucial idea for this post. I believe that the other reporter whose voice you hear on the video is John Dillon of VPR.
The Big Brother Image from Wikimedia commons is not exactly right for this post, but I can't find a DoubleThink Image. I can't even imagine what a DoubleThink image would look like. Or perhaps the video is the illustration?