Vermont Yankee remains hot topic
Published: Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 12, 2012 21:09
Almost 40 years after it was built, the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant is still a topic of heated debate for legislators and citizens alike.
Over the course of a few months, legislators have sought to legally shut down the plant and protestors rallied the streets.
On Sept. 11, Entergy, Vermont Yankee’s parent company, fired back.
Entergy filed a new lawsuit in federal court against Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell, Gov. Peter Shumlin, and Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Taxes Mary Peterson for a tax levy that Entergy is calling “unconstitutional,” VTDigger.org stated.
Entergy seeks to overturn an electrical generation tax that charges Vermont Yankee $0.0025 per kilowatt-hour and raises roughly $12.5 million in annual state revenue, according to VTDigger.org.
Over the summer, political figures like Sorrell supported legislation to overturn a January ruling that allowed Vermont’s only nuclear power plant to continue operation.
On June 11, Sorrell filed a court brief that supported Vermont’s appeal of the Entergy Vermont Yankee case, which resulted in the continued operation of the power plant.
Supporters of the brief were from the National Conference of State Legislatures and nine states: New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire and Utah, according to the Attorney General’s Office.
This document backs Vermont’s appeal against Judge J. Garvan Murtha’s landmark decision to continue the operation of Vermont Yankee, and it shows support for decommissioning the nuclear plant located in Vernon, Vt.
Act 160, the measure used by Vermont legislators to decide the future of Vermont Yankee, was reversed by Murtha’s decision on the grounds that it pre-empted Vermont Yankee’s enterprise, which he found illegal.
“Although Act 160 sets forth a non-pre-empted purpose consistent with decades of Vermont energy policy, the district court nevertheless engaged in the ‘pointless’ and ‘unsatisfactory’ exercise of ‘attempting to ascertain [the legislature’s] true motive,’ which the Supreme Court has rejected,” the brief stated.
Sorrell has been working to shut down Vermont Yankee during his time as attorney general and said that he has been listening to the concerns of Vermonters for years.
“The district court’s approach in this case sets a troubling precedent that could chill legislative participation and debate,” he said.
With an upcoming election for Sorrell this fall, the Vermont Yankee issue has become an important part of his platform.
“Vermonters deserve to have a say in their energy future,” he said.
In addition to Sorrell’s work in the legislature, there were multiple protests at the entrance of the plant this summer.
Protesting the power plant is nothing new — Vermont citizens have rallied for and against Vermont Yankee since it opened in the 1970s.
The Shut It Down Affinity Group displayed their 20th effort since December 2005 to shut down the plant, according to VTDigger.org.
The affinity group staged a “die-in,” in which they chalked the outline of their bodies at the entrance of the nuclear plant to express the health hazards that they believe pose a threat to their community, VTDigger.org stated.
Deb Katz of the Citizens Awareness Network, a group that organizes nonviolent action to shut down Vermont Yankee, has worked for 20 years to get the word out about decommissioning the nuclear plant.
“Entergy believes it is above the authority of the state and anyone else. We believe the court will eventually be in favor of Vermont,” Katz said. “We believe Murtha made the wrong decision. It’s an issue of states’ rights; the issue of economics, liabilities and environmental choices belongs to the state.”
Katz suggested that Vermont Yankee could meet a similar fate to Fukishima, a Japanese power plant that was destroyed in 2011 following a tsunami and earthquake.
“Vermont Yankee is seemingly 150 miles away from Burlington, which does not make it feel real,” Katz said. “Tokyo is 150 miles from Fukishima and has definitely been affected by its partial meltdown.”
Junior Matt Chickanosky said he did not know much about the nuclear plant.
“I had not heard much about it until it was a hot topic in the 2010 elections,” he said.