VERNON -- The future of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant remains uncertain, as does Vernon's long-term tax revenue from the facility off Governor Hunt Road.
That's why the Vernon Selectboard has approved yet another one-year extension of an expired tax-stabilization agreement with plant owner Entergy.
The deal keeps the plant's value steady at $300 million. Town officials say there is no chance for reassessment or negotiation of a long-term tax deal until a legal dispute between Entergy and state officials is resolved.
"Who knows right now while everything's still up in the air? There really is no value to the plant when they're fighting to stay open," Selectboard Chairwoman Patty O'Donnell said. "So I think it was really pretty big of (Entergy) to come to us and offer us what last year's assessment was."
O'Donnell also said she hopes the dispute ends soon, both for the town's sake and for the sake of those who work at Vermont Yankee.
"These people just don't know what their future's going to be, and that's a terrible way to live," O'Donnell said. "I just wish everybody would stop playing politics and let us all get on with our lives."
Though the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission has renewed the plant's license through 2032, the state Public Service Board has not yet issued a certificate of public good for the facility's continued operation.
A federal judge last year ruled that Vermont lawmakers strayed too far into federal jurisdiction when they voted to forbid issuance of a certificate of public good.
State officials have appealed, and the dispute has dragged on as Yankee opponents -- including anti-nuclear activists who protest regularly at the plant's gate -- argue vehemently that the facility is unsafe.
In light of that uncertainty, and with a previous tax deal with Vernon expiring, Entergy last year asked the town to simply maintain Vermont Yankee current valuation.
"What we came up with (last year) was extending the contract for one year, because we thought that, at the end of the year, there would be an answer one way or another. And there's not," O'Donnell said.
So Entergy representatives contacted Vernon earlier this year and asked that the town again extend the contract. Selectboard members on Monday voted unanimously to that second extension, which expires March 31, 2014.
Because Vernon's tax rate has not yet been set for fiscal 2014, it is unclear exactly how much Entergy will pay the town. But it will be a significant amount: For the current year, the company handed over more than $1.3 million in property taxes.
"Extending the existing agreement was the right thing to do," Entergy spokesman Jim Sinclair said in a statement e-mailed to the Reformer. "And we appreciate the support of the town officials for the continued operation of Vermont Yankee."
O'Donnell said there should be no question that Vernon administrators stand behind Entergy and its continued operation of the local plant.
"Obviously, you'd have to live under a rock to not know that the town of Vernon supports Vermont Yankee," she said. "We've had votes to prove that fact. But unfortunately, control's being taken out of our hands. So we just have to wait like the employees."
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.