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Vt. seeks compensation for nuke waste storage

BirdsEveViews photo
The Vermont Yankee Nuclear Plant in Vernon, Vt., will be shut down in 2014.

BirdsEveViews photo The Vermont Yankee Nuclear Plant in Vernon, Vt., will be shut down in 2014.

MONTPELIER, Vt. — The closing of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant at the end of next year will leave the state with an $11 million gap in tax revenues.

But some politicians — including Gov. Peter Shumlin — suggest Yankee should continue to pay the state. They’re talking about a fee or tax on the storage of high-level nuclear waste in Vermont.

The revenue shortfall will arise because when Entergy Vermont Yankee stops producing electricity, it also will stop paying the state’s generation tax.

In a recent interview on VPR’s Vermont Edition, Shumlin suggested there’s another source of money from Vermont’s only nuclear power plant.

“Obviously we know the generation tax is going to end whenever Entergy stops generating,” he said. “But I would not suggest that’s the end of Vermont’s revenue needs, when in fact I believe we deserve compensation for obviously storing high-level nuclear waste as long as it’s going to sit on the banks of the Connecticut River, which I don’t believe is the best place to keep it.”

Entergy stores the waste both in steel and concrete casks and in a spent fuel pool in the reactor building. The waste will be there for the indefinite future, because there’s no national nuclear waste repository.

Shumlin said he wasn’t looking to replace all the revenues that will be lost from the generation tax. But he reiterated he’s thinking of asking Entergy to pay for the privilege of storing its waste in Vermont.

“The question for us as policymakers now is: Is there an appropriate compensation to Vermonters for storing high-level nuclear waste here that we weren’t promised?” he said. “And that’s something we will be looking at.”

Some lawmakers, however, seem gun shy about a new tax. Senate President John Campbell, D-Windsor, said he’s concerned about new legal challenges from Entergy. The company has successfully sued to overturn two state laws that would have forced the plant to close.

“While I certainly do not care to have those nuclear wastes sitting there on our shores, I am not sure if we have the actual authority to implement a tax of that nature,” he said.

But Campbell said he wants to see if Entergy has continuing tax liabilities after Yankee stops generating.

“I see Vermont Yankee as being no different than, let’s say the Acme Tool and Die Corporation, that if they close their doors (and) if there is something that is still occurring that would call for some type of tax liability, then that tax liability will be continued,” he said.

Tax legislation has to start first in the House. House Ways and Means Committee Chairwoman Janet Ancel, D-Calais, said lawmakers have to first decide whether they need to come up with a new revenue source to replace the generation tax. Ancel said the waste tax idea has been floated in the past.

“It’s too early to know whether that’s the place to look. But ... if we decide to replace the revenue, we decide what the figure is, I expect that would be one of the things that we would consider,” she said.

Entergy hasn’t said yet when it will close the plant, so Ancel said it’s unclear when the full impact will be felt on the state’s revenues.

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