In March, Rod Adams visited Vermont and toured Vermont Yankee. He was impressed by the excellent condition of the power plant. He also thought about Vermont's heritage of employee-ownership, dairy cooperatives and so forth. Rod began to think that the employees could buy Vermont Yankee, and run it as a "B" corporation that has social goals. Such a corporation is not required to maximize profits.
Rod didn't just "think." He contacted people and made inquiries. He posted about this idea, and so did I. We were hopeful about it. (I list references at the end of this post.)
My Phone Rings: Private Communications
Information for my blog comes from reading articles in the press or attending meetings (such as Public Service Board meetings). I rarely get a phone call. In this day and age, a phone call means "I want to tell you something, and I don't want to leave a digital trail. Don't quote me directly. This is background stuff only."
After Rod's posts, I got phone calls from all over the place: local people and nuclear supporters from other parts of the country.
When I came to summarize this "off the record" information, I realized what I heard was pretty much in the public record anyhow. Or I heard people's opinions, things that they wanted to share with me without a record.
Oh well. They needed to call. I needed to learn in the way that I needed to learn. So here's what I learned.
Employee Buy Out is Close to Impossible
Here are some of the reasons that an employee buyout is close to impossible.
Employees would not benefit that much.
Most employees would not participate in a buy-out. Most employees are focused on making their own choices between:
- getting the retention bonuses that Entergy has put in place versus
- starting anew somewhere else.
The new owners couldn't get licenses
In general, both the NRC and state agencies insist that nuclear plant owners have solid assets and a solid track record. A co-operative company formed by employees would not meet NRC criteria for a license or PSB criteria for a Certificate of Public Good. This would be true even if the company was backed by a wealthy private investor.
Political and Fiscal Opposition
The current Vermont administration has been very set against continuing operation of Vermont Yankee. They have expressed this by testifying against the plant in front of the Public Service Board, calling the plant "Entergy Louisiana" at every turn, and taxing it outrageously.
(Ummm, a completely unscientific survey conducted by Meredith Angwin reveals that most plants of this size pay a generation tax of less than $5 million dollars. Hey, as long as I am talking about "private communications," I may as well throw that one in, though tax records are public in general.)
There have been many other taxes, also, including a tax to clean up Lake Champlain (on the other side of the state from the plant) and to support Clean Energy projects. And there are other taxes. The state requires Entergy to pay the Red Cross for shelters in case of an evacuation: Entergy must pay the Red Cross a total of $700,000 over a period of four years.
It is nearly impossible for a business to fight taxes at this level. There is no reason to believe that employee ownership would lead to any less state taxes. Vermont Yankee would still be a nuclear plant and they would be employees of a nuclear plant. They would be worse: they would be owners of a nuclear plant. The taxes would stay.
I conclude that an employee buyout of Vermont Yankee is close to impossible.
I am sorry to conclude that there will be no employee buy-out, but I thought I had better make this statement explicit on my blog.
What a Waste---Vermont Yankee is in beautiful condition (March 28)
Vermont Yankee: Clean Kilowatt Cow That Deserves Saving (May 1)
Save Vermont Yankee. If not you, who? If not now, when? (May 6)
Saving Vermont Yankee: Rod Adams Moves Forward (May 7)
Employee Ownership (May 8)
Posts about Taxes:
Millions for education but not one cent for tribute (Meredith Angwin at ANS Nuclear Cafe, December 2013)
Vermont Yankee asked to pay $200,000 in 2014 Terri Hallenbeck at Burlington Free Press on how Vermont Yankee must continue to pay Red Cross for shelters. (Article undated, apparently early 2014)