BRATTLEBORO -- Now that Entergy Vermont Yankee has handed over $5.3 million for "clean energy" development, state officials are looking for input on how it should be spent.
The Vermont Clean Energy Development Board has scheduled a public meeting on the topic at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 14 in Brattleboro Union High School's multipurpose room.
The site is important, because half of Entergy's contribution is earmarked specifically for Windham County. And Chris Campany, executive director of Windham Regional Commission, is advocating a careful, planned approach to spending that money.
"It's not that we want to slow things down," Campany said. "Let's be deliberate about this, because you don't get a crack at this all that often."
With Entergy scheduled to close the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant at year's end, state officials negotiated a deal that includes a significant cash contribution from the company.
On Thursday, officials announced that the state had received $5.3 million for clean-energy development. Also, Gov. Peter Shumlin and Vermont Public Service Department Commissioner Chris Recchia announced that Entergy has deposited $10 million as its first payment into the Vermont Yankee Site Restoration Fund.
Both of those payments were part of the deal between Entergy and the state, an agreement that was ratified when the state Public Service Board in March agreed to grant the Vernon nuclear plant a certificate of public good to continue operating through the end of this year.
"We are pleased that, with these deposits, Entergy VY has completed its financial commitments for this year, all in accordance with the terms of the agreements," Recchia said in a statement accompanying the announcements.
The state's agreement includes provisions designed to help Windham County deal with the pain of losing a major employer. That's why the Clean Energy Development Fund is committed to spending half of Entergy's $5.3 contribution "for clean-energy development activities in or for the benefit of Windham County," officials said.
Wednesday's hearing at BUHS will begin with a presentation on the state's Clean Energy Development Fund. The Clean Energy Development Board then will field questions and comments from the public.
Officials specifically are looking for input on the Windham County money, but they also welcome comment on the remainder of the clean-energy cash from Entergy that is to be spent statewide.
"These are the last funds the CEDF expects to receive from Entergy, and we want to be sure to leverage these dollars to achieve maximum economic and clean-energy benefit to the state and Windham County," said Andrew Perchlik, fund manager.
Campany has the same idea. He recalled that, at a recent meeting, officials and members of the public "began to see this universe of really good projects within the county" that could benefit from the Entergy funding.
Campany recommends that the state Public Service Board work with Windham Regional Commission to develop an "energy investment plan" for the county, "so we can make sure that these funds have the most impact and go as far as possible."
He also hopes the projects chosen, whatever they are, will be consistent with the recommendations made last year by the state's Energy Generation Siting Policy Commission.
The entire process of finding and funding projects, he added, must be public.
"This wouldn't be a behind-closed-doors activity," Campany said. "This would be a convening of the stakeholders."
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.