On Tuesday, Jan. 14, the Public Service Board heard testimony from citizens around the state on Entergy's application for a Certificate of Public Good, which expired March 21, 2012.
The most memorable line came from David Bradshaw of Lyndonville: "To permit Vermont Yankee to operate is like allowing a drunk to drive after his license has expired."
About 40 people testified, over half from the interactive TV studio at Brattleboro Union High School. All but six testified against trusting Entergy. Dick Brigham of Cuttingsville said, "Let's face the facts. The easier that the Public Service Board is on Entergy, the more that Vermonters will have to pay. Vermonters will be shish-kabobbed."
Many echoed the testimony of Paul Burns of VPIRG and Chad Simmons of the Safe and Green Campaign. While appreciating the good faith work of Gov. Peter Shumlin and his team, and agreeing that Entergy should contribute to economic development and renewable energy, they could not support a settlement that is so vaguely written and that allows a corporation with such a consistent record of untrustworthiness to be granted a CPG.
Peter Cooper testified that when negotiations began, people "hoped the result would be a fair and equitable agreement, with both parties committed to the same goals. This settlement does not achieve that. Critical to what is missing is deadlines that commit Entergy to doing what it says it will do." He predicted the end result will be more lawsuits by Entergy.
"After 35 years, I left Brattleboro, my beloved community, to get as far away as I could from Vermont Yankee and still keep my job," said Ann Darling. "I don't know what your legal limits are ... But this is not an exercise in legal abstractions. This has to do with our lives and our communities."
Betsy Williams of Westminster West said, "Do not let Entergy shift financial responsibility onto the backs of Vermont taxpayers. Do not allow Entergy to leave behind a sacrifice zone, permanently contaminated by corporate malfeasance."
Leo Schiff asked the Board to "remember that the regulators in Russia and Japan did not care for their land and loved ones any less than you do."
I asked the PSB to take a moment to look at the big picture, with an eye to the wave of decommissioning sure to come.
"Vermont is an activist state, led by a Legislature and a governor against Entergy. What will other states' public utility commissions learn if a backroom deal controls the PSB process? Be bold. Be creative."
"A CPG is a Certificate for Public Good," said Nancy Braus, a business owner who lives in Putney, and a business owner. "I don't see giving Entergy carte blanche to run this plant is in the public good."
Chad Simmons works for a nonprofit and served on the Post-VY economic impact committee. His wife runs a small business in Brattleboro. He understands the economic impacts on charities and the local economy, but called the "bribe-like" nature of $10 million in incentives "completely unacceptable and short-sighted. This should not be a negotiation. Entergy must be held to the highest standards possible, without compromise for public health and safety."
Ann Ferguson of Leverett, Mass., and Nina Keller from Wendell, Mass., also testified in Brattleboro. Nina is a town official.
"Everything is economics, including the economics of evacuation. I see nothing about evacuation in the MOU," she said.
Nina Swaim recommended the PSB set four conditions: to yank the CPG and fine Entergy the minute any agreement is broken; bind the parent corporation to fully fund decommissioning and restoration if Yankee declares bankruptcy; establish a citizen watchdog panel; and after closing, hire union workers who are able to report problems to the state.
Because Entergy was not completely forthcoming in a geologic study before building the concrete pads for the dry casks in the flood plain of the Connecticut River, one man worried "about the long term stability of this place."
Rep. David Deen pointed to recent research showing the cooling towers must be used, even for as short as the next year.
"Entergy has fought tooth and nail to hide behind their flawed science and cherry-picked modeling results in order not to have to stop discharging thermal pollution to the river."
The final person to testify, Clay Turnbull of the New England Coalition, said that "The $606 million in the decommissioning trust fund is not far from the $630 million Entergy estimated it needed, and in a year it could be even closer. What might happen to the funds if the stock market crashes again? The money is there now, let's use it now."
Leslie Sullivan Sachs is project manager of the Safe and Green Campaign. She lives in Brattleboro.