Companies defend Vermont Yankee process

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VERNON — In response to objections from a Brattleboro anti-nuclear group, Vermont Yankee's current and prospective owners maintain that they've followed the "appropriate process" in seeking state approval for the Vernon plant's sale.

And for that reason, attorneys for Entergy and NorthStar Group Services are asking the Vermont Public Service Board to throw out a motion for summary judgment filed last month by New England Coalition. The companies say the coalition's motion is "inconsistent" with state statute and also "would overturn established board practice." Therefore, they argue, "the board should reject it" and allow the current sale review to continue.

Entergy wants to sell the shuttered plant to NorthStar to facilitate an accelerated decommissioning process that could result in most of the site being ready for reuse by 2030. The transaction is subject to federal and state regulatory review.

The companies' plan has attracted support, including backing from Vermont Yankee's host town. But skeptics question whether NorthStar has the means to follow through on its plans.

In early May, New England Coalition argued that several important elements of NorthStar's decommissioning proposal shouldn't be part of the sale deliberation that's currently before the Public Service Board.

That's because those plans improperly contradict agreements made by Entergy as part of two previous Public Service Board orders, the coalition contends. If NorthStar wants to make those kinds of changes, New England Coalition says, then it must reopen those previous dockets.

The activist group's objections include NorthStar's plan to combine Vermont Yankee's decommissioning and site restoration funds into one account, as well as a controversial plan to bury large amounts of concrete rubble on site.

In a response filed Monday, NorthStar and Entergy don't debate the merits of those plans, and they acknowledge that NorthStar is proposing "what may be considered departures" from past Entergy commitments. But the companies say the Public Service Board has authority to amend its past orders "in a new docket that addresses new parties and a new proposed transaction that were not before the board" previously.

The sale proposal, they argue, is "clearly different" from the past cases referenced by New England Coalition.

"The board will evaluate whether the transaction as a whole ... promotes the general good of the state," the companies say.

Also on Monday, the state Public Service Department — which represents the public interest in energy matters — weighed in on the dispute.

The department says New England Coalition's motion is "premature," and the group's objections might better be addressed as part of the state's overall review of the proposed Vermont Yankee sale.

This approach "promotes economy in the board's proceedings and causes no prejudice to (New England Coalition), given its full participation in this docket and the ability of the board to reopen the previous dockets at a later date, if needed," the department says.

Mike Faher reports for VTDigger, The Commons, and the Brattleboro Reformer. He can be contacted at mfaher@vtdigger.org.

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