Letter box

Saturday November 17, 2012

Yankee article
was misleading Editor of the Reformer:

The Nov. 8 article covering the Nov. 7 Public Service Board hearing in Vernon is misleading. The article presents a fair description of the purpose of the hearing, which was to allow citizens to present testimonies regarding whether or not the Public Service Board should grant the Entergy Corporation a "Certificate of Public Good" that would legally authorize the company to run the Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor for twenty years. However, it goes on to grossly misrepresent the numbers of vocal Vermont Yankee supporters and opponents that were present that evening.

While the article states in its opening paragraph that "supporters of the continued operation of Vermont Yankee outnumbered opponents by a margin of three-to-one," the actual tally of speakers broke down as follows: of the 73 total speakers, 39 members of the public, most of them employees at Vermont Yankee, spoke in favor of granting Vermont Yankee a 20-year extension; 34 members of the public, none of whom worked for the company, spoke against granting the extension. The inaccuracy of the Reformer’s report should be acknowledged and publicly corrected, for it deceptively suggests that a majority of citizens are in favor of keeping the aging nuclear reactor in operation.

The Entergy Corporation is actively working to paint itself a positive reputation in countless ways -- including by packing public hearings with Vermont Yankee workers -- as it tries to extend the reactor’s license and suppress the rights of the state of Vermont. These efforts, however, are desperate cover-ups of the fact that Entergy cannot be trusted; since the Louisiana-based corporation bought Vermont Yankee in 2002, it has lied to us and broken contractual agreements for the sake of increasing profit.

Unbiased reporting of public hearings and other legal proceedings leading up to the Public Service Board’s decision on the 20-year extension of Vermont Yankee’s license is essential. his decision is going to have an impact on citizens across the region, and these citizens deserve to know that the opponents of Vermont Yankee are not, in fact, outnumbered by supporters, and that this fight is far from over.

Nikki Sauber,

Keene, N.H., Nov. 12

Why wait
20 years?

Editor of the Reformer:

The Vermont Public Service Board hearing in Vernon on Nov. 7, offered an invaluable opportunity to listen to residents’ concerns regarding whether or not to issue Vermont Yankee a Certificate of Public Good to allow the plant to continue operating for the next 20 years. This is a very difficult decision for the PSB and I am concerned for the employees of Yankee. As a current graduate student of Environmental Studies at Antioch University of New England, I am hoping that I can offer my own perspective on this issue through my personal experience with a similar situation.

For the first 20 years of my life I grew up about 10 miles away from Maine Yankee. This nuclear plant was built in 1972 and successfully decommissioned in 1998 due to high costs to fix safety problems that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission identified. I was only 12 years old when the plant was decommissioned, so I do not remember how it impacted the local area in social or economic ways. But as a resident of the neighboring town, I know that the disappearance of the plant did not mark the disappearance of our community. It just marked the end of a phase of economic vitality for the town -- one of many in its history. As Maine State Senator Marge Kilkelly stated in a 1998 press release about the shutdown of Maine Yankee, "Though lifestyles must change, that ripple will fade eventually, and Wiscasset’s nuclear era will pass quietly into history just as its shipping heyday and railroad heyday passed: So be it." I do believe that the closing of Vermont Yankee will have the same difficult effects on its employees, whether they are felt now, or 20 years from now. These nuclear power plants were not built to last forever, and the longer a facility runs, the more dangerous it becomes.

Why wait another 20 years and let the rest of the country move ahead with cutting-edge alternative energy technology while Vermont continues to nurse a dangerously decrepit structure? Vermont has always been a progressive state, and letting Yankee operate for another two decades might cause the state to fall behind in its missed opportunities to embrace alternative energy sources and become a leader for the country. As one speaker commented during the hearing: change is inevitable, we should embrace it while we can, rather than passing on unnecessary burdens to future generations. Especially when it comes to the issue of nuclear waste. It takes nuclear power plants years to remove and clean up their waste (Maine Yankee has just begun to initiate a plan to deal with their radioactive waste, 14 years after decommissioning), should this responsibility be put off for 20 years, when the amount of waste has nearly doubled?

I can say one thing for certain, continuing to live in a town where there is no longer the threat for a nuclear reactor meltdown, offers a peace of mind like no other. In a world where there are so many hazards to our everyday existence, having one less thing to worry about is an indescribable relief that can only be fully realized when knowing that one of those threats is gone.

Heather Bolint,

Keene, N.H., Nov. 12

VY good for farms and forests

Editor of the Reformer:

On Wednesday, Nov. 7, I testified before the Vermont Public Service Board in favor of Vermont Yankee continuing to make low-cost, affordable power. I did so because I believe Vermont needs to favor low-cost, reliability in its energy choices, not high-cost, unreliability as is our current trajectory.

Agriculture and forestry comprises about 20 percent of Vermont’s economy, in a stable and widely distributed base of employment. Thousands more derive their living indirectly -- paper mills, Cabot Cheese, Ethan Allen Furniture and hundreds of self employed truckers, mechanics, and financial service workers.

These people look to state government to provide a stable and predictable economic framework in which they may operate. Energy is absolutely key to the success of farming and forestry. No industries in Vermont have more rapidly and profoundly modernized its production processes, and electrical energy is the indispensable base. One modern farmer with several hundred horsepower of electrical motors on his farm creates more value than 50 farmers like my grandfather could. An electric sawmill with five or six hands can put up as much lumber in a day as 30 or more hands could 100 years ago.

Both farming and forestry are dominated by small family owned businesses who have little influence over their selling price. The market provides our income: we can only control our expenses. Electricity is one of the largest expenses for the typical farm. In 2009, Vermont Gross Farm Income was $589,827,000. The National Agricultural Statistical Service shows electricity costing our farms $17,423,000 -- 2.95 percent of GFI. After all expenses are deducted, Net Farm Income for 2009 was $97,099,000. Electricity cost equals 17.95 percent of NFI. That is no fluke: the trend has also been very adverse: in 2003, electricity was 2.72 percent of GFI, and just 11.87 percent of NFI. The upward trend in the cost of electrical energy is very harsh for agriculture and the timber industry.

Vermont Yankee has anchored the power costs of all New England. Steady and predictable generation smooths price volatility across the region, helping to cap spikes and fill in voids. Other power sources tend to move in concert with dominant economic indicators. High energy costs could impact farmers and sawmills precisely at the same time as other stressors like high oil costs, or a drought. For Vermont’s economic health we need to maintain as many counter-cyclical mechanisms as possible.

An operational Vermont Yankee will also inject about $100 million per year into the Vermont economy, and pay millions in statewide education taxes which already fall heavily on farm and forest land. If Vermont Yankee remains open, some of that $100 million in economic benefit will find its way to the wood products makers and farmers. But if it closes, a share of those millions in lost taxes would be inevitably transferred to them, as well. I see no upside to closing Vermont Yankee for farmers and wood products manufacturers.

Bruce Shields,

president, Ethan Allen
Institute, Nov. 14


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