Saturday, August 17, 2013

Vermont Yankee Wins in Appeals Court

We have great news about Vermont Yankee: the appeals court ruled in their favor!

The fight has shifted to the Vermont Public Service Board. Your input to the Vermont Public Service Board is still needed and valuable.

The Appeals Court Ruling

On Wednesday, the federal appeals court in New York ruled in favor of Vermont Yankee.  They basically upheld Judge Murtha's decision that the Vermont legislature had attempted to shut down Vermont Yankee on illegal grounds.  The legislature was trying to regulate on the basis of nuclear safety, which is regulated by the NRC.

You can read a good summary of the case by Dave Gram of AP. To quote the first sentence of his article: "Vermont's attempts to close its lone nuclear power plant were deceptive and misleading, a federal appeals court ruled..." Andrew Stein at Vermont Digger also has a good article.  In addition, here's a link to the actual appeals court ruling.

My summary of the state's case against Vermont Yankee was written shortly after the appeals court hearing in January.  The state claimed that they wanted to shut down Vermont Yankee due to economics, not safety.

Economics? Really?  In appeals court, Vermont claimed it had a reason to shut down a plant for too low a price, and for sharing revenue with the Vermont utilities.  In other words, the legislature claimed to want to shut the plant down because it is an economic asset.

The appeals court judges noted the legislature's real reasons for trying to shut it down. They were trying to regulate nuclear safety.

Yes, they were regulating safety

The appeals court ruling includes a long history of court cases about Vermont Yankee. Here's an example.

Go to page 10 of the appeals court document to see a quote from a Vermont law passed in 2005 (Act 74). In this law, the state legislature requires Entergy to "configure the spent fuel pool so that high-decay heat assemblies are surrounded by low-decay heat assemblies."  (Sarcasm alert)  Gee, Entergy would NEVER have thought of doing that, without this legislation!  (End sarcasm alert.)

On to the Public Service Board

Governor Shumlin is not happy with the ruling, and he issued a press release including the following statement: While I disagree with the result the Second Circuit reached..., the process does not end today. Importantly, the Vermont Public Service Board's role in reviewing Entergy's request for a state Certificate of Public Good ...will continue.

In other words, the Public Service Board must still issue a Certificate of Public Good in order for Vermont Yankee to keep operating.  Shumlin clearly hopes they will not issue the certificate.

Cheryl Hanna
Pat Bradley of WAMC interviewed several people about this ruling, including me.  (I encourage you to listen to this four-minute segment.)
  • I wondered whether the board will look at the economics of Vermont Yankee, or whether it will listen to the anti-Vermont Yankee charge being led by the Shumlin appointees at the state Department of Public Service. 
  • Cheryl Hanna of Vermont Law School said the appeal court decision was no surprise. (Hanna had written an article predicting this outcome, right after the hearings in January.) She also said that whoever wins at the Public Service Board, the other side will almost undoubtedly appeal the decision to the Vermont courts.
 Still Time to Comment

I believe you can still comment to the Public Service Board, through the end of the month.  Here's a link to the docket:

And here's a link to a recent post with some background material for comments.

Long, thoughtful comments are always very welcome, but one or two sentences in support of the plant are very helpful.  You can write a great letter, or you can write a short postcard.  Share your own reasons for supporting Vermont Yankee: the plant's community support, economic impact, and positive effects on the environment (compared to fossil fuels).

Law and Facts won this round!  Onwards!


jimwg said...

Re: "On Wednesday, the federal appeals court in New York ruled in favor of Vermont Yankee."

Gee, that's great. Wonder how they regard Indian Point then! The irrational and often off-the-wall exaggerated nuclear fear is crazy out there! These states are BADLY overdue a dose of a 30-minute nuclear-energy teach-in "edu-mercial"! I'd love to see a opinion sheet of state legislators regarding nuclear energy to see how enlightened or clueless (or pandering to Green votes?) they are on the subject!

James Greenidge
Queens NY

Robbie said...

Radioactive water has been flowing out of the Japanese plant, quietly, ever since the disaster. Wake up! Nuclear Plants are not safe energy!

Meredith Angwin said...


Thank you.


The Pacific is naturally radioactive. I have seen ideas for using the oceans as a giant uranium mine.

I agree that it is not good that the Fukushima plants have not recycled all their water for clean-up. On the other hand, those leaks are not particularly dangerous, either. Nuclear plants are safe energy.

Wake up and consider the other types of energy we use: coal, oil, methane from fracking, wind turbines and solar panels made with extremely toxic compounds, etc.