Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Court House Update in February

I went to a Superbowl party, and everyone asked me: "What's going on with Vermont Yankee?"

It's very confusing.  As a matter of fact, the whole thing is as confusing as a complex play in a football game.  I wish I had instant-replay and colorful arrows to track the different players.  Anyhow...

There are four court cases, at least two Public Service Board cases, and maybe more.  Here goes.

The Four Court Cases

The first case is the federal appeals case held in New York City last month: 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals.  The state was trying to convince the court that it had economic reasons to shut down Vermont Yankee. The hearing was 30 minutes long and I think that the state's case is fairly weak.  In any event, the judges will rule in a few weeks or a few months or whenever.  You can read about it and listen to the hearing on my blog post:  State Claims Economic Argument for Closing Plant.

The second case is the intervenor case claiming that Vermont Yankee is operating illegally: this case was brought in Vermont Supreme Court. This is the "let's you and him fight" case, where the Public Service Board wrote a strange ambiguous letter that opened the door for such lawsuits.  You can read about it at my earlier Hot Potato blog posts. Or you can watch a succinct 90 second video from WPTZ at my post: The Short Version: Another View of the Vermont Supreme Court Hearing.The hearing is over, and we wait for a ruling from Vermont Supreme Court.

The third case is a new case, brought by Entergy, about the Public Service Board closing a docket. This case is also in Vermont Supreme Court. The Public Service Board had a docket, docket 7440, on the Vermont Yankee Certificate of Public Good, but they decided that docket was compromised by the various lawsuits. So the PSB opened a new docket, docket 7862, subject of my blog post: Docket 7862, Where Are You?  (Docket 7862 is now on the Public Service Board website).

In January, the Public Service Board closed docket 7440.  However, the "you and him fight" letter (see the second case) was on that docket, and closing the docket might have consequences.  I am not a lawyer, and I am puzzled.  However, Entergy reviewed the matter,  and they brought suit in Vermont Supreme Court against the Public Service Board for closing the docket.  An article by Susan Smallheer at the Rutland Herald gives the background of the case. The article ends with the confusing (to me) statement that the PSB thinks that by triggering an appeal by Entergy, the court cases would ultimately be simplified.

I also recommend you to read the Entergy brief, which I have posted at the Energy Education Project website.  It has appendices that give all the relevant statements, dockets, etc.  The Entergy brief is like a history of the case.  When you figure out this whole thing, write a comment or send me an email.  Okay?  Thanks.  I appreciate your help.

The fourth case is about money, specifically the sudden $12 million dollars a year tax that Vermont laid on "plants above 200 MW that started operations after 1965." Entergy claimed this was an unconstitutional levy on a single business.  (I agree!) A federal court recently said they lacked jurisdiction on this and dismissed the case.  I thought I would list it here, because it is an important case, in my opinion. It may be case-closed, or it may be heard in another court.  I don't know, but I think it is important.

The Two Public Service Board Cases

One of the cases is  Docket 7862, the new docket about the Certificate for Public Good. This seems to be going along according to schedule.  Public hearings are over, but public input continues.  You can submit your input through this form.  I hope you will write something about why you think Vermont Yankee should have a certificate of Public Good.

The other docket is about the new diesel generator, as mentioned in my post Black Start, BlackOut and Diesels. Due to a grid operator change in the classification of Vernon Dam, Vermont Yankee needs a new diesel generator, and needs a Certificate of Public Good for that diesel.  There was one hearing on this docket 7964, and it was not reported in the press.

Word of mouth says the hearing was very preliminary and inconclusive.  I bet it was!
  • If the PSB grants permission for the diesel, are they also signalling that they plan to grant a Certificate of Public Good for Vermont Yankee?  
  • If they don't grant permission, are they interfering with nuclear safety requirements?  
I personally think "inconclusive" will reign on this docket until other issues are resolved.

Football is over

Football is over until next year, but the court cases linger on....Sometimes I wish I wasn't the go-to person for these questions all the time.  It makes it hard to concentrate on the game. Can someone please pass the potato chips?

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