Vermont's Attorney General is in New York City, headed to the 17th floor of Manhattan's 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. The future of Vermont Yankee hangs in the balance.
"The issue at hand primarily was whether or not Judge Murtha correctly examined the facts in this case," said Vermont Law School's Cheryl Hanna.
Vermont is appealing a lower court's decision that allows the utility to continue to operate without legislative approval. Last January a federal judge in Vermont ruled that state lawmakers violated federal law by considering the safety of the nuclear power plant when voting not to extend its operating license. "The challenge to us today is to suggest to the court how the trial judge got it wrong," said Vt. Attorney General Bill Sorrell.
Sorrell spent a quarter million dollars on outside counsel, hiring renowned constitutional lawyer David Frederick to argue on the state's behalf. "Here we are at the 2nd circuits. It's a different league and we wanted to fight fire with fire," Sorrell said.
Frederick was pitted against Entergy's lawyer, Kathleen Sullivan. She called the lower court's decision meticulous and told the three panel judge there's no denying Vermont lawmakers were motivated by safety concerns. Frederick argued that there were a number of reasons other than safety motivating lawmakers -- chiefly -- that Vermonters could be stuck with a hefty clean-up bill if Entergy went belly up.
"This was really the first time I think we have heard a very clear, articulation of what economic concerns that the state had in wanting to shutdown Vermont Yankee," Cheryl Hanna said.
"What I heard today was a very skilled DC lawyer make the same inaccurate statement that the state made a year and a half ago," said Guy Page, a pro-Yankee lobbyist.
The three judge panel showed concerns that Judge Murtha's ruling left no room for the state to regulate on the economic issue. But legal expert Cheryl Hanna says the appeal was too close to call.
"Whoever wins or loses, I think that's only going to be because of the law and not because of gravitas of either one of the lawyers," Hanna said.
Outside court, Entergy's lawyer declined to comment, but a happy Vermont team said they were cautiously optimistic. "Predict at your peril, but I think we had a really good outing today," Sorrell said.
"It's obviously a very a complex matter. They recognize the complexity. We just wait, that's what we do," David Frederick said.
Thursday, April 17 2014 11:24 AM EDT2014-04-17 15:24:20 GMT
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