NorthStar funding bill in limbo

Demolition begins on the east cooling towers at the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant, in Vernon, Vt., on Thursday, July 11, 2019. The plant was shut down on Dec. 29, 2014.

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BRATTLEBORO — The coronavirus pandemic has reshuffled the priorities of the 2020 Legislature, putting the future of a bill requiring NorthStar Vermont Yankee LLC to pay more toward the Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel in limbo.

Rep. Laura Sibilia, I-Windham-Bennington, told members of the Issue Committee of the panelMonday that the bill passed the Vermont House and was sent over to the Senate and assigned to the Senate Finance Committee.

But Sibilia, who is a member of the decommissioning panel, said that all happened before the coronavirus pandemic hit the state and forced the Legislature into emergency mode.

"I don't think it's going to be make it over to the 'urgent pile,'" she said.

The Legislature has been meeting remotely since early March, and Rep. Sara Coffey, D-Windham-1, said the House still has to tackle several important bills, including one that passed the Senate last week that would allow it to vote remotely. Coffey said other big issues deal with the state budget and the shortfall in revenues that the coronavirus response is creating.

The House bill addresses several issues dealing with the citizen advisory panel, in addition to its funding. Sibilia said the bill made it out of the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee and to the full House, and made it over to the Senate before the cross-over deadline.

Sibilia suggested that committee members talk to Sen. Mark McDonald, D-Orange, who is the Senate's representative on the panel. Sibilia said it wasn't clear to her how McDonald felt about the bill.

She also suggested that Lissa Weinmann, who is vice chairwoman of the panel and was appointed by Senate President Tim Ashe, D/P-Chittenden, talk to Ashe to see if it is his priority as well.

June Tierney, commissioner of the Department of Public Service, had pushed for the change in the enabling legislation in order to come up with a new source of funds for the panel. To date, most of the funding comes from her budget.

The panel had voted in February to seek changes in its enabling legislation that would include the partial funding from NorthStar, among other changes, including membership on the panel.

This winter, Scott State, the CEO of NorthStar Vermont Yankee, said he was not opposed to the company contributing to the funding of the panel.

Contact Susan Smallheer at ssmallheer@reformer.com or at 802 556-2147.


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