Thursday November 15, 2012

You are being asked to judge whether the operation of the Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor for another 20 years would be for the public good. Part of that decision must be affected by what Vermonters themselves want for the future of our state. The question of the Vernon reactor running for an extra 20 years beyond its original operating license has been debated for a good while and Vermonters have repeatedly rejected the license extension.

A grass roots movement in Vermont towns from Halifax to Westfield passed Town Meeting resolutions calling for the reactor to close. Hoping to influence possible legislative action, in two successive years, 45 towns considered these resolutions and 40 towns passed them. The legislature agreed with the town meeting results and voted 26-4 vote in the Senate to say no thank you to 20 more years of VY. Then, in a gubernatorial race that was also a referendum on the future of the reactor, Peter Shumlin was elected, confirming once again that a majority of Vermonters support the safe shutdown and decommissioning of the reactor. We have just re-elected him handily, confirming our earlier vote.

It is in the interest of any state, and it is for the good of a citizenry to have a working democracy. It is important that our statewide institutions work and that our state functions for the greater good of us all. In Vermont, we have worked hard since our inception to live up to the tenets of our state and national constitutions. When our Congressional Representative Mathew Lyon refused to be cowed by the Alien and Sedition Acts, Vermonters rewarded him with another term, even though he was in jail for the campaign. Vermonters collectively made a decision to say no to the fugitive slave act. We were among the first to call for a nuclear weapons freeze through Town Meeting votes and we continue to weigh in on important issues as we see fit. We have, through our environmental laws, our interest in the welfare of our children, and our embrace of freedom and independence established an identity that makes Vermont unique among states and treasured by Vermonters.

We are a state full of citizens who are serious about their civic duties. The fact that our citizen legislature and our other state institutions are responsive to Vermonters and have not been brought under the control of moneyed interests as they have in so many other states is a reflection of the strength of our institutions as well as the quality of our citizen participation. But Entergy of Louisiana would dismantle and discredit these very institutions and traditions that are the bedrock of our democracy. It is using the power of the Federal Courts to usurp Vermont laws and to deny the state any sovereign power to determine our own future. Entergy's lawsuits impugn our elected representatives and assault our right to govern ourselves. They insultingly assert that the legislature has only considered safety in rejecting twenty more years of VY. They sneer at the thought that we should have a say about environmental and economic liability questions that arise when considering twenty more years of accumulating and storing highly radioactive waste. They would like to see national and international trade laws or agreements trump any state controls. In short, they want to deprive us of our citizenship by effectively blocking the processes of governing ourselves, and instead they want us to simply be consumers of goods, free to choose among their products, but not free to have any influence over how those products affect or endanger us.

How can it possibly be in the the public good to allow a corporation to have more power over our destiny as a state than we do as its people? How is it in the public good to allow twenty more year of radioactive waste to build up along the banks of the Connecticut River while Entergy dithers away and continuously falls short of its commitments to the decommissioning fund? How is it in the public good to be told that "we the people" are not in fact a sovereign populace, but rather mere pawns to be manipulated to maximize corporate profits? These are not hyperbolic, rhetorical declarations, but a simple assessment of current realities. If Entergy succeeds in shutting down the will of the Vermont people, then Monsanto will eagerly follow suit, using its billions to make sure that we never have the audacity to want to label the contents in our food. Corporations are already using their power as defined in free trade agreements to over-ride and bully entire countries if they stand in the way of furthering profits. Corporate law dictates that these corporations operate in the best interest of the shareholders, not considering the interests of the locations where they do business, or the environment or the future, but just for maximizing profit. This is inimical to the needs of a commonwealth and a citizenry. Please recognize that losing our sovereignty like this is not in the best interests of Vermont and deny Entergy a Certificate of Public Good.

Dan DeWalt writes from Newfane. He is also a contributor to www.thiscantbehappening.net.