MONTPELIER - Vermont Yankee owner Entergy Corp. turned to federal court Monday to try to keep Vermont from shutting down the Vernon nuclear power plant, the company announced this morning.
The company filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Vermont.
The action comes after many observers wondered what Entergy's next step might be as it tries to extend the use of the 39-year-old plant. The plant last month won permission of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to operate for another 20 years after its license March 21, 2012, but it has failed to win state permission amid concerns over tritium leaks and misinformation the company supplied to the state.
“Despite the fact that Vermont Yankee is important to the reliability of the New England electric transmission grid, emits virtually no greenhouse gases, and provides more than $100 million in annual economic benefits to the state of Vermont, it has been made clear that state officials are singularly focused on shutting down the plant," said Richard Smith, president of Entergy Wholesale Commodities in a news release. "That has left us with no other choice but to seek relief in the court system.”
Entergy claims that the state Legislature in 2006 invalidated Vermont Yankee's commitment to seek state permission to keep operating, by taking the decision out of the hands of the state Public Service Board.
“The 2006 state law took the decision about Vermont Yankee’s future away from the Public Service Board, a quasi-judicial expert decision-maker, independent of legislative control,” Smith said. “It instead placed Vermont Yankee’s fate in the hands of political decision-makers, namely the state General Assembly and governor who could deprive Entergy’s two subsidiaries of the opportunity to operate the Vermont Yankee plant beyond March 21, 2012, for unsupported or arbitrary reasons. This is not what we signed up for in 2002.”
The 2006 state law, which Entergy did not actively oppose at the time, requires the Legislature to vote to allow the Public Service Board to grant a certificate of public good. The state Senate, led by then-Senate President Pro Tempore Peter Shumlin, voted 26-4 in 2010 against that. Shumlin was elected governor last fall.
Entergy said its lawsuit points to a 1983 U.S. Supreme Court case that ruled a state has no authority over a nuclear power plant relicensing.
“Litigation is by far the least preferred approach,” Smith said, “but it is clear our disagreement with the state of Vermont on the scope of its authority over Vermont Yankee cannot be resolved between the two parties. Putting this dispute before a federal judge is the appropriate and responsible way to resolve this disagreement. Our filing today does just that.”
The company said the lawsuit filed today will be available on Entergy’s website at www.entergy.com.