Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Legislators visit Vernon and are shocked to find economic pain.

Quotes and Comments

On Monday, October 28, two legislative committees went to the Vernon Elementary School to listen to local companies and residents discuss the next steps after Vermont Yankee closes.  They had an afternoon session in which business groups addressed them and an evening session open to public comments.  The two committees were the Natural Resources and Energy Committee, and the Commerce and Economic Development Committee.

On the Save Vermont Yankee Facebook page, I have seen this visit described as a "dog and pony show"  and that the legislators "couldn't care less."  Other comments were less flattering.

So I thought I would devote this blog post to quotes from the newspaper articles about the meeting, along with some commentary about the quotes.

Where the Money Comes From

In the afternoon meeting,  the various business groups presented their issues and questions. This meeting was reported by Terri Hallenbeck of the Burlington Free Press. Windham County asks state for help as VY prepares to shut down.

A quote from that article:

Meanwhile, the Legislature should be wary of forcing Entergy to pay more taxes and fees without knowing where that money is coming from, Tom Buchanan, chairman of the Windham Regional Commission’s Vermont Yankee Study Committee.

There is a risk if lawmakers levy a new tax on Vermont Yankee to pay for spent fuel, for example, that that money could come from the plant’s decommissioning fund, he said. That would simply slow the decommissioning process, he said.

Blogger comment: Very true.  Later in the article, Mike Twomey of Entergy explains some of the things for which the decommissioning money can be used.

In my opinion, the legislature saw Vermont Yankee as the ultimate cash-cow (Money for the Clean Energy Development Fund. Town of Vernon shares property taxes with the state, etc.).  Perhaps as the plant closes, the legislature will come to their senses and recognize that their golden goose is leaving town.

This issue reminds me of the time when Entergy first filed a federal lawsuit against Vermont.  Shumlin immediately arranged for the legislature to pass a law that Vermont Yankee would pay for the state's costs in defending against that lawsuit!  The law was never enforced (Attorney General of Vermont Acknowledges "Shaky Concept" in Charging Entergy for Vermont's Expenses) but it gives an idea of the legislature's ideas on what they think they can do---just by  passing a law.

The Legislature Has Responsibility

Andrew Stein at Vermont Digger wrote Windham County Seeks $2.2 Million in State Aid to Recover from Vermont Yankee closing.  A quote from that article:

Martin Langeveld, a Vernon resident, told the legislators that they should feel responsible for mitigating the impact of Vermont Yankee’s closure.

“In this situation, the governor and the Legislature did the exact opposite of what you usually do,” he said. “Instead of trying to preserve jobs, instead of trying to attract and support a large employer, they actively sought to close one down. That is unique. That is what makes this one different.

“I suggest you need to consider what the Legislature’s responsibility is now that it has gained that objective it sought for so long,” Langeveld said. “In this case, you have a special responsibility to permit a mitigation effort to go forward and to generously fund that mitigation effort.”

Blogger comment: Langeveld said it well.

Tony Klein Notices Real People

Susan Smallheer at Times Argus wrote State Catches Heat for Vermont Yankee Closing.  The final two paragraphs of that article:
Rep. Tony Klein

Rep. Tony Klein, chairman of the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee, and a leading Yankee opponent, told the gathering he had a “greater appreciation of what’s going on down here. That’s a big accomplishment.”

“You’re not just a nondescript face any more,” he said. “We have heard it first-hand and we have a greater appreciation of what needs to happen.”

Blogger comment: Oh puh-leeze. Klein has been a determined foe of Vermont Yankee.  I have heard him say that the presence of Vermont Yankee could destroy the Vermont "brand." (On the other hand, Klein is a great supporter of wind turbines.)

Around the time of the famous vote in the Senate (2010), many people from Vermont Yankee came up to talk to the legislators.  They reported that the legislators avoided them, ran into the committee rooms to hide, wouldn't look the plant employees in the eye, etc.  I did not blog about this because I didn't know which legislators did what.  I try for accuracy on this blog.  Sometime I think I try too hard for too much accuracy.

Well, for Tony Klein, I think it IS a "big accomplishment" that the people of Vernon are not "nondescript face(s)."  People in the nuclear industry should be grateful for whatever progress we make with anti-nuclear committee leaders. Right?

Okay.  Time to end this post. I'm getting snarky...


Howard Shaffer said...

Great post!!

Could you show in this comment stream, or a future blog, the graph of jobs over 20 years from 2012-2032 from the Legislature's official economic report on "with and without" Vermont Yankee? They can't say no one warned them!!

Also, the Governor went to ISO recently. Now that VY will shut down and there are wind farms being curtailed, did he decide to learn how the grid works? Or maybe he wants ISO to cover for him?

Meredith Angwin said...

Thank you Howard!

I think the Governor went to ISO in order to say: "I tried to get them to put more renewables on the grid!" Vermont has very little power over ISO, both because ISO is supposed to be neutral and also because Vermont is only 4% of ISO's load. A state like Massachusetts is sure to have more clout with them. But the visit was kind of like a photo-op for the Governor, in my opinion.

Here's a link to one of the blog post that includes the diagram you mentioned. This is from September 2010.

The red line is if Vermont Yankee shuts down...employment quickly drops to 1000 fewer jobs, then slowly goes down to around 1500 fewer jobs, then slowly comes up. (The black line is VY continues to operate.) The blue and green lines are "renewable build-out" scenarios, but unlike "plant operates" or "plant closes" takes work, and maybe even faith, to understand the assumptions of the renewable-build-out scenarios.

Basically, Vermont Yankee closing will lead to a multi-year job loss of 1000 to 1500 jobs.