BRATTLEBORO -- The Windham Regional Commission was dealt a pair of blows in its participation in the Vermont Public Service Board’s upcoming hearings related to the certificate of public good for Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.
Earlier this month, the board denied the WRC’s request that the PSB order Entergy, which owns and operates Yankee, to reimburse the WRC for its expenses related to the hearings.
In addition, the board denied a request by the New England Coalition, which the commission and other parties to the hearings supported, that it combine the presentation of evidence and the rebuttal process into one round, rather than two rounds, as the board has already ordered.
Chris Campany, the executive director of WRC, said that while the PSB’s ruling was disappointing, the commission will stay involved in the certificate hearings.
"There will be a discussion with our executive board as to how much time we can afford," he said.
While the regional commission has no position on whether the plant should continue to operate or be ordered to shut down, Campany said one of the WRC’s most important roles is to communicate to the board the concerns of the region as a whole.
"It’s also important for us to glean information from the docket that we can communicate back to the general public," he said.
WRC contended that Entergy failed to notify the parties that a decision made by the
In that case, a federal judge ruled the Vermont Legislature had overstepped its bounds when it voted against allowing the PSB to award a certificate of public good for Yankee’s continued operation.
However, wrote the board, the direct cause of WRC’s need to "relitigate the same subject" was the federal court’s decision.
"The federal district court decision had the effect of returning the matter to the Board for adjudication ..." wrote the PSB. "Furthermore, unlike the cases in which the Board has allowed the award of certain additional costs resulting from a party’s provision of inaccurate or incomplete information ... WRC is seeking reimbursement of costs because of (Entergy’s) tactical choices."
Campany said most important for the commission is what will happen to the site, whether the plant closes in the next year or two or decades down the road, and that’s why the WRC must remain involved.
Conditions imposed by the Public Service Board during the certification process can insure the site is reclaimed as quickly as possible, thereby limiting the economic impact on the region.
"There is some evidence that immediate decommissioning represents a softer landing for the community," said Campany.
If that were to happen, many of the employees at the plant would stay on to help clean up the site, he said, rather than move on right away to jobs elsewhere.
That would also mean that the people who know Yankee the best could contribute their knowledge to the clean-up process.
"It might help preserve the social fabric in Vernon and where these people live if they are inclined to stay longer," said Campany.
The commission is concerned that the plant may wind up held in Safstore for decades while the decommissioning fund reaches a level sufficient to guarantee the site is returned to as close to its original condition as possible, he said.
One thing that might stand in the way of returning it to commercial or industrial, or even residential use, is the status of spent fuel on the site and whether it will be kept in a spent fuel pool or in dry storage or shipped off site.
The PSB can also have some say as to who is responsible for the costs of decommissioning the site -- not just Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee, but also its parent corporation Entergy Nuclear, said Campany.
Bob Audette can be reached at email@example.com, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow Bob on Twitter @shocked60.