DPS says Entergy is not to be trusted

Thursday February 7, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- Entergy is not to be trusted and should not be given permission to continue its operation of Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon.

That's the gist of a document submitted by the Vermont Department of Public Service to the Vermont Public Service Board, which is considering whether Entergy should receive a certificate of public good that would allow it to run Yankee for another 20 years.

"One of the criteria the board has traditionally applied to a business that wants a certificate of public good has been, is this company a fair business partner for the state and the customers to be dealing with?" Geoffrey Commons, the director of public advocacy for DPS, told the Reformer. "The department's position is Entergy has not demonstrated that they should be issued a certificate of public good. They don't meet the criteria."

In the filing, Commons noted Entergy made a number of promises to the board prior to receiving a CPG in 2002 approving the sale of Yankee to Entergy. However, Entergy has broken at least two of those promises, he wrote.

"Entergy's assertion that it ‘has not strayed from' its commitment in the 2002 (sales order) to seek a CPG for continued operation beyond March 21, 2012 is simply false," wrote Commons. "Entergy did not commit merely to seek a CPG for continued operation ... it committed not to operate (Yankee) ... unless it sought and received a renewed CPG."

During previous hearings before the board, Entergy officials "frequently and unequivocally" made repeated promises that they would only continue operation if the CPG application was "made and granted," wrote Commons in the filing.

And in 2002, Entergy recognized the near-total authority the state has to regulate Yankee, but "now attempts to minimize the state's authority and is aggressively asserting a theory of broad federal preemption."

"Entergy can't have it both ways," said Sandy Levine, senior attorney for the Conservation Law Foundation, which opposes Yankee's continued operation. "Throughout Entergy's ownership of Yankee it has been before the Public Service Board and has requested things from the PSB while always acknowledging the board's authority over a wide range of matters, including ones that Entergy is now saying are off the table."

In 2002, Entergy took the position that "Vermont Yankee is subject to cradle-to-grave regulation of almost all aspects of its functioning other than two areas where federal jurisdiction supersedes the board's (authority) ..."

Those two areas are the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's jurisdiction over rates and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's jurisdiction over radiological safety.

However, now that state utilities and Entergy failed to enter into a new power purchase agreement, Entergy is contending the board no longer has "traditional authority to regulate need, reliability (and) cost," wrote Commons.

But nowhere in the agreement authorizing the sale of Yankee to Entergy does it say the board's authority is dependent on the existence of a PPA, noted Commons.

Operation of Yankee imposes a number of burdens on the state that the PSB needs to consider, wrote Commons.

They include: Yankee harms the Vermont brand; it damages Vermont's tourism and agriculture industries; it may be adversely affecting fish in the Connecticut River; and "imposes other environmental, aesthetic, and economic burdens on Vermont including those associated with the storage and transportation of spent fuel."

"Entergy contends that Vermont must endure those burdens but lacks any meaningful authority to evaluate whether the station's future existence is justified in light of them," wrote Commons. "Under the guise of federal preemption, Entergy has sought to preclude evidence related to almost every rational area of interest regarding (Yankee) ..."

And finally, noted Commons, Entergy has contended its position stated in current filings and those from 2002 are "entirely consistent," which he wrote is "demonstrably false."

"Reduced to its core, this issue demonstrates that Entergy, as a business, is prepared to promise whatever it takes to achieve its immediate business objectives, and, is prepared to violate such promises if honoring them would be inconsistent with subsequent business objectives," he wrote. "The board should not issue a new CPG for the VY station to a business that conducts itself as Entergy has here."

Jim Sinclair, spokesman for Vermont Yankee, had little to say about the DPS' most recent filing.

"If a response is appropriate, we will make it in our own filing."

Levine said that in the DPS filing, the Department of Public Service finally came out and said what Entergy critics have been saying for years.

"Entergy cannot be trusted and should not be awarded a CPG to operate Yankee for another 20 years."

"We think that Entergy has not made its case to show it deserves a new CPG," Commons told the Reformer. "If that state of affairs continues, we think the board will deny one."

Bob Audette can be reached at raudette@reformer.com, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow Bob on Twitter @audette.reformer.


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