Entergy wants 18 months to present case to PSB

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BRATTLEBORO -- During Wednesday's Public Service Board meeting to schedule new hearings in Entergy's request for permission to continue operating Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon for another 20 years, Entergy representatives told the board they would need one-and-a-half years to present their case.

The Vermont Department of Public Service agreed with that time frame, but the Conservation Law Foundation said that's just too long, suggesting one year was enough.

"One would expect an owner that can operate a nuclear power plant should be able to manage preparing a legal case in less than 18 months," said Sandy Levine, CLF's senior legal counsel.

Entergy told the board that its experts who presented testimony in the previous certificate of public good hearings had prior commitments and it might take some time to get them back to work on the Yankee case.

Levine said Entergy has known the board was going to restart the hearings after a federal district court judge issued a ruling in its favor, allowing continued operation of the plant.

"They're clearly just dragging their feet at this point," said Levine.

Jared Margolis, attorney for NEC, said whether the board agrees to one or one-and-a-half years is "not a huge deal."

Margolis said NEC believes because of Yankee's aging infrastructure, something will happen , such as in the past with a cooling tower collapse and leaks of tritiated water, giving Entergy "a little bit more rope to hang themselves."

For the most part, said Margolis, the parties at the board hearing on Wednesday agreed on everything to do with the schedule.

"We want to make sure that there's enough time to build a complete record," he said.

NEC will also need time to review the voluminous amount of information Entergy will soon present to the board, said Margolis.

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"Discovery is going to be intense. They're going to dump a lot of stuff on us."

While a year-and-a-half is a little bit drawn out, said Margolis, it gives the parties enough time to build a solid record on.

Entergy asked that it file some of its testimony at the end of June, but CLF, DPS and the New England Coalition all said the testimony should be filed sooner, perhaps within two weeks.

Like Levine, Margolis said Entergy has known this was being thrown back to the PSB since January when the judge made a decision invalidating the Vermont statutes that gave the Legislature the authority to forbid the board from issuing a CPG to Yankee.

Because the judge said much of the information in the state's record was pre-empted by the authority of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission -- predominantly safety issues -- Entergy and all the other parties knew the record would need to be updated.

"We need to build a record that doesn't contain pre-empted materials but contains materials that are relevant to the process," said Margolis.

Earlier this year, the PSB denied Entergy's request that it issue the CPS post haste. The board said because of the judge's ruling, the hearings should begin anew.

A new development that might be of interest to the board is the fact that Entergy asked for and received permission to remove Yankee from ISO New England's forward capacity market auction.

According to a press release from ISO New England, "ISO was able this year to accept Entergy's bid to withdraw Vermont Yankee from the capacity market for 2015-2016 because of some ongoing and expedited transmission system upgrades as well as new resources that have been procured through the Forward Capacity Market."

Platts noted that Entergy had previously submitted delist bids for the plant for the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 commitment periods, but ISO-NE rejected those bids due to reliability concerns, mainly uncertainty over Yankee's future in Vermont.

"ISO determined Yankee's power is not needed for reliability in the New England grid," said Levine, adding Entergy's claims to the contrary that were made to the PSB in previous hearings "are false."

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


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