Not everyone a fan of Vt. Yankee's legal victory - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Not everyone a fan of Vt. Yankee's legal victory

Burlington, Vermont - January 23, 2012

A few dozen activists chanted and waved their signs outside the statehouse Monday. They had a very clear message for anyone who passed by, "retire Yankee."

The Vermont Yankee opponents thanked Governor Shumlin -- and other lawmakers -- who have pushed to close the aging nuclear power plant on time. But say they're disappointed in the judge's decision to rule in favor of Entergy -- and vow that the fight is not over.

"The judge's issue was a setback, definitely not a defeat. So there's still room for the state to have a say in the process," said Liz Edsell of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group.

The protestors are holding out hope that the Public Service Board will finish what the Senate started last year -- in taking steps to shut down the plant. And that's possible based on the judge's ruling.

"The decision left room for the Public Service Board to go back and hear the petition for the Certificate of Public Good as long as they didn't base their decision on the pre-empted concerns," said Cheryl Hanna of the Vermont Law School.

That means that a decision to deny a certificate must be based on concerns other than safety. Protestors at Monday's rally cite economic, environmental and reliability issues with the plant and its owners.

"Entergy Louisiana has a pretty dismal track record. They aren't reliable. They've lied about underground pipes. They've had leaks," said Edsell.

But the nuclear regulatory commission -- a federal authority -- said that Yankee is safe and can continue to operate for another 20 years.  So the question becomes how much power does the public service board have? Legal experts say Entergy is arguing that as a merchant power plant -- which sells power on the wholesale market to the regional grid -- Vermont does not have the right to require them to obtain a new certificate of public good.

"We don't know whether Entergy will continue to try to argue this point that they really don't need a certificate of public good. As of right now, as a result of Judge Murtha's decision, they do require that certificate to keep operating," said Pat Parenteau of the Vermont Law School. "Entergy's position is, if you don't want to buy power from us Vermont, that's fine but we have the right to sell power to others outside of the state and you can't prevent us from doing that by denying us the opportunity to operate."

"If the Public Service Board does not renew Yankee's certificate -- legal experts say Entergy will likely challenge that decision. That case would go to the Vermont Supreme Court -- not the federal system -- and could result in a costly and lengthy legal battle.

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