(AP Photo/Vermont Yankee Corporation)
(AP Photo/Vermont Yankee Corporation)
Saturday July 20, 2013

VERNON -- The owner of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant confirmed Friday that administrators expect to reduce the company's workforce as part of an effort to "increase efficiencies."

Whether any of those cuts will occur at the Vernon plant -- and, if so, when and how many -- remains unclear.

Chanel Lagarde, a national spokesman for Entergy Corp., issued a statement saying there are "a number of companywide strategic imperatives under way examining how we meet both the challenges and opportunities of today's business realities."

"One specific initiative is focused on finding ways to increase efficiencies in all parts of our business," Lagarde said. "We do expect workforce reductions to be one result of this initiative. We don't have final specifics at this time regarding who or how many employees will be affected."

The possible layoffs were first reported by VTDigger.org, which cited a source inside Vermont Yankee as saying Entergy could cut 10 percent of the plant's 650 employees.

The online news organization also cited an internal document in which Entergy employees "are essentially being asked to reapply for their jobs." The document refers to "Entergy's Human Capital Management Initiative."

Vermont Yankee spokesman Rob Williams on Friday referred a request for comment to Lagarde, who issued a prepared statement and said he could not elaborate.

The statement added that Entergy will "remain focused on all our key stakeholders throughout this process, and we will deal fairly and communicate openly and honestly."

"We will not compromise safety, security, reliability, customer service or compliance as we move forward," Lagarde said.

Entergy says it employs about 15,000 companywide. It owns and operates power plants with about 30,000 megawatts of generating capacity, including more than 10,000 megawatts of nuclear generation capacity.

On Tuesday, Entergy said its second-quarter operational earnings are expected to be approximately $1 per share compared with $2.11 per share in the second quarter last year.

The company attributed a decrease in earnings to "substantially higher income-tax expense than the prior year" as well as to "higher non-fuel operation and maintenance expense and higher depreciation expense."

Also cited in the notice were lower revenues due to "lower volume and energy prices" for the company's nuclear holdings.

"Nuclear production declined due to more unplanned and refueling outages," the company's notice said. "Refueling days at Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station and Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station totaled 50 days in second quarter 2013, versus 35 days at two other plants for the same quarter last year."

Additionally, the earnings release noted "expenses associated with the implementation of the human capital management strategic imperative."

The long-term future of Vermont Yankee remains in doubt due to an ongoing court battle with the state.

Though the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission has renewed the plant's license for another two decades, the state Public Service Board has not yet issued a certificate of public good for the facility's continued operation.

A federal judge ruled in 2012 that Vermont lawmakers overstepped their authority when they voted to forbid issuance of a state certificate of public good for Vermont Yankee.

State officials have appealed.

Due to that uncertainty, Entergy has not renegotiated a long-term tax deal with the town of Vernon. In May, Vernon Selectboard approved a second one-year extension of an expired tax-stabilization agreement keeping the Vermont Yankee plant's value steady at $300 million.

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.