Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Act 160 and Local Liars: A Review of the State's Role in the Entergy Lawsuit

Act 160 is the Vermont law passed in 2006 that gives the legislature the power to refuse a Certificate of Public Good to Entergy, therefore preventing the plant from operating past March 2012. This law was a substantial amendment to the agreement (Memorandum of Understanding) that Entergy had signed in 2002 when it bought Vermont Yankee. That Act 160 substantially changed the contract is one basis for the Entergy lawsuit.

Immediately after the suit was filed, Peter Shumlin claimed that Entergy had supported Act 160. He was surprised that Entergy went back on what they said at the time and sued about something they supported. You can see him saying this in the following clip from True North Reports. The part about Act 160 starts at about the 3.40 minute mark.

In a blog post in late April, I said that Entergy had not supported Act 160. In that post, I referred to my search for evidence that Entergy had supported Act 160. I found only evidence that Entergy had fought it, albeit without a lot of flair and energy. I found a few quotes from Brian Cosgrove of Entergy opposing Act 160. In that blog post, I asked people to give me more evidence about Entergy and Act 160 if they could find it.

On May 8, the Times Argus published a front page article, written by Peter Hirshfeld, titled "Who Said What? And Does It Matter?" The article is unfortunately behind a paywall (I can't link to it) but Hirshfeld found Brian Cosgrove of Entergy making the same negative comments about the bill that I reported in my blog post. Hirshfeld found more evidence, though. In four hearings about the bill, he found that Entergy lobbyists said very clearly that Entergy did not support the bill. On March 2, 2006, lobbyist Gerry Morris said: "This is my third time testifying on this issue and...we still oppose the bill."

Ignorant? Falsehoods?

Since Shumlin said Entergy didn't oppose Act 160, he is either ignorant, or he is lying. ( I will let you choose whether he knows what happens in the Statehouse, or he doesn't.) As John McClaughry notes in a post: Shumlin's statement about Entergy supporting Act 160 is simply not true.

I have begun to think that when Shumlin accuses somebody else of lying, that's a psychological signal that he himself is about to tell a whopper. (Hey, we bloggers can be parlor shrinks if we want to be!)

And the Legislature Lies, Too

The legislature breaks its own laws, while accusing Entergy of not respecting the law. If you remember, the Senate voted to not-allow the PSB to issue a Certificate of Public Good to Vermont Yankee. This vote took place in February, 2010. An election was held this fall, the legislature reconvened, and they never took up Vermont Yankee as an issue in the 2011 session. They acted as if that vote in February 2010 was the official and correct response to their own law, Act 160.

It wasn't official and it wasn't correct. As John McClaughry (head of the Ethan Allen Institute) points out, the legislature broke its own law. McClaughry, a former Vermont Senator, wrote a letter to the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tem of the Senate, and sent a copy to True North Reports, which published it as The State, not Vermont Yankee, Violating the Law. Act 160 says:

“the general assembly shall consider concurrently the issue of storage of spent nuclear fuel… and the operation of Vermont Yankee nuclear power station after March 21, 2012 ,… and shall grant the approval or deny approval of such activities concurrently”.

As John continues: "A plain reading of this statute requires that the general assembly – House and Senate, in the same biennial session – must either grant or deny approval for spent fuel storage and continued operation of VYNPS."

They didn't vote. It's a new session, newly elected legislators, and they didn't vote. Only the Senate voted, last session. The "general assembly" did not vote. Act 160 does not allow the legislature to do a pocket veto of the plant. The legislature broke their own law.

Ah well. The legislators' pants are on fire, but luckily, I live about fifty miles from Montpelier so the flames won't affect me. However, their foolishness might help Entergy win its lawsuit against Vermont, and that would be a Good Thing.

(Full disclosure. John McClaughry is head of the Ethan Allen Institute, and my Energy Education Project is a project within that Institute. McClaughry and I are in agreement on the role of Vermont Yankee for the future of Vermont's energy. (He would never have let me start the Energy Education Project as part of the Ethan Allen Institute if we hadn't agreed on this.) However, since some people in Vermont see the Ethan Allen Institute as part of a vast conspiracy, I might as well point out my connection explicitly. True North Radio also gets some funding through the Institute.)

1 comment:

Travelogue for the Universe said...

Well written and a very balanced piece. Meredith, I Am concerned about the lack of media coverage of your very scientific, logical approach. Luckily where the real arguments will happen, the emotion will have be checked at the courthouse door.