Monday April 4, 2011

VERNON -- The owner of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant wants the state to reject an environmental group’s request to have the Agency of Natural Resources review the plant’s discharge permit.

Last week, Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee sent a letter to ANR Secretary Deborah Markowitz stating that a petition entered by the Connecticut River Watershed Council is meritless and should not serve as a basis to the company’s pending discharge permit.

The letter was sent to Markowitz on April 1 from the company’s legal counsel, Goodwin Procter.

On Feb. 17, the Connecticut River Watershed Council sent the petition to ANR asking the state to review Vermont Yankee’s discharge permit, which allows the power plant to release heated water into the Connecticut River.

The petition was filed on behalf of CRWC by the Vermont Law School Environment and Natural Resources Law Clinic.

CRWC, in its petition, stated that the heated water released from the plant threatened the ecosystems in the river and the environmental group wanted ANR to evaluate the effects on the Connecticut River water.

The environmental group also wants ANR to open the permit process to the public.

But Entergy argues that Vermont Supreme Court and the Vermont Environmental Court have both considered the impact already and the company says the state should not use the CRWC’s petition to drive its review.

Three years ago, the Environmental Court reviewed an earlier request by CRWC to determine if heated water discharged from the plant was safe for the river.


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Yankee’s discharge is nonradioactive water that is withdrawn from the river, run through the plant’s condenser to cool reactor coolant water and released into the river at temperatures around 100 degrees.

The Environmental Court issued a decision limiting the times at which Yankee can release heated water into the river and at which river temperature it had to cease to do so.

Both courts have approved Entergy’s plan to release water and the company says the watershed council has not raised any new issues that require further investigation.

The courts have already "reached the conclusion that Entergy’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit has assured and will continue to assure the protection and propagation of the balanced indigenous populations of fish, shellfish and wildlife," the letter states.

"CRWC’s claims also raise no reasonable concern about the environment," the letter states. "CRWC has provided no credible evidence of new material information that alters these determinations."

The nuclear power plant, which sits on the banks of the Connecticut River, has been operating with an expired discharge permit and ANR said in late March that it was ready to take a new look at the permit process.

Entergy says that while ANR could respond to the watershed council as a courtesy, the group’s argument "cannot serve as the basis for any appeal or objection to any NPDES permit that ANR may issue to Vermont Yankee."

In the letter to ANR, Entergy says the environmental group does not provide "a coherent or credible explanation of why alternative closed-cycle cooling operation is warranted."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reform-er.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 279.