Judge Murtha's ruling in the case is over 100 pages long. At one level, however, it can be summarized as follows:
The State of Vermont tried to alter a contract unilaterally. That is not allowed. The contract still stands. Just as it says in the contract, the Public Service Board will decide on the Certificate of Public good. The Public Service Board cannot consider radiological safety in granting this certificate, because that is the responsibility of the NRC, not the states. Also, the Board can't insist on below-market electric rates for in-state utilities, because that is against the Interstate Commerce Clause of the Constitution.
The Memorandum of Understanding
The contract that determines how Vermont Yankee applies for the Certificate is the Memorandum of Understanding. This is the contract between Entergy, the state and utilities, signed in 2002 when Entergy bought Vermont Yankee. It requires Entergy to obtain a Certificate of Public Good from the Public Service Board (PSB).
However, the fact that Energy actually applied for this certificate will be will be much discussed. During the trial, Entergy claimed that the PSB's neutrality had been seriously affected by the legislature's actions from 2006 to 2011. When the ruling was issued, it was not clear whether Entergy would appeal: the ruling put Entergy in the position of needing a PSB certificate in order to keep the plant operating. So far, Entergy has not appealed the ruling. It now seems that they have put the plant's fate into the hands of the PSB.
Both Entergy and the State have until mid-February to appeal, so it is not clear what happens next. Entergy could conceivably appeal while also applying to the PSB. The State could appeal and also request that the PSB not act until the court case is resolved.
It is all up in the air. As usual.
A Brief Guide to What They Are Saying
For a fuller review of the matter, I recommend these two articles. They are very different, and it is enlightening to read them and compare them.
Dave Gram of Associated Press reports that Entergy asked the PSB for a ruling. However, much of the article consists of a lengthy interview with one of AP's favorite nuclear opponents, Ray Shadis. Shadis worries that the PSB hasn't reviewed nuclear safety factors since Fukushima. Apparently, Shadis ignored the part of the judge's ruling which said that the PSB cannot consider radiological safety considerations. Shadis' comments make up most of the article.
Terri Hallenbeck of Burlington Free Press (BFP) provides a more complete report. She quotes plant opponents. However, she also quotes the Entergy CEO as he wonders whether the state will appeal. In this article, I learned that Entergy has until the end of this week to request legal fee reimbursement from the state. I also learned that PSB guidelines for a certificate do not require that a power plant provide service to Vermont. A very interesting article.
In my opinion, these two articles are an amazing compare-and-contrast, between mediocre reporting (AP) and excellent reporting (BFP). The AP article depends on the usual statements of the usual opponents. The BFP article obtains both sides of the story and includes a timeline about reimbursement.
A Final Note as We Await the State's Decision on Whether to Appeal the Ruling
Will the state appeal? Cheryl Hanna of Vermont Law School describes the bigger picture of federal prerogatives and attempted state pre-emptions. Her short, well-written interview is mostly about food safety, but definitely worth reading. Once there are federal laws regulating a subject, the role of the state is circumscribed. In other words, it is very unlikely that Vermont Attorney General Sorrell could win this case by appealing.