Editorial: Yankee ruling

Last week’s decision by a federal appeals court effectively closed off one avenue in the effort to close down the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.

A three-judge panel with the 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals upheld affirmed Judge J. Garvan Murtha’s decision of last year in U.S. District Court in Brattleboro, where he found that the state Legislature’s focus was safety, an issue outside its purview, one that comes under strictly federal oversight through the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“We agree with the district court’s careful analysis of the legislative intent motivating Vermont’s enactment of Act 160 insofar as the district court identified radiological safety as the Vermont legislature’s primary purpose in enacting the statute,” the judges wrote in their decision. The panel found this true also for Act 74.

“Providing an inadequate and misleading legislative record, failing to provide plausible legislative rationales, and imposing impermissible safety related obligations through non-statutory memoranda of understanding, do not and cannot shield Acts 74 and 160 from this Court’s review.”

The judges went on to say, “We do not question the legitimacy or sincerity of those Vermont residents and officials who have safety-related concerns about Vermont Yankee, but Vermont has other avenues available to air its concerns.”

That avenue — as all interested parties are aware — is the state Public Service Board, which is expected to issue its own ruling on Vermont Yankee later this year. What the Public Service Board is determining is whether to provide the nuke plant with a new certificate of public good that would allow the plant to run until 2032, the length of time under the NRC’s 20-year licnese renewal.

Based on the appeals court ruling, the criteria that the board, such as the long-term economic impact with regard to decommissioning as well as the effect on the Connecticut River.

The ruling, said Gov. Peter Shumlin, “does not change the simple fact that Entergy has over the years not been a good partner with Vermont, preferring to focus on multiple lawsuits against the state. I remain steadfast in my belief that Entergy’s continued operation of this facility is not in the best interest of Vermont. Our state’s energy future should be charted by Vermonters, and I am committed to increasing Vermont’s reliance on renewable, sustainable, and responsibly managed sources of energy.”

While this ruling provided Entergy and Vermont Yankee with a win, the fight is far from over.

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