Entergy & Fake Grassroots

“Clean Energy. Good Jobs. Reliable Power.” Sound familiar? For years we put up with Entergy’s PR campaign for Vermont Yankee, pitched over photos of Yankee workers: “Safe. Clean. Reliable.”

Entergy has been using this same pitch in New Orleans — this time to build a natural gas plant which would be paid for and maintained by Entergy customers. The gas plant would be built in New Orleans East, a black, Vietnamese and Latino neighborhood.   The local Sierra Club is not alone in labeling Entergy’s plan environmental racism.  Plus, “According to projections by the U.S. Geological Survey, portions of New Orleans East, including the southern edge of the Michoud site, could be underwater before ratepayers cover the full cost of construction.”

Facing an uphill battle, Entergy hired a PR firm to sway opinion. That firm hired a fake company, Council for Responsible Governance, which is two guys who hire actors to act like citizens. The actors attended public hearings wearing orange, pro-Entergy tee shirts. Some actors received $200  to make public comments based on scripts at utility hearings. They also filled the room to capacity, which meant “real” citizens were unable to get into the hearing and speak.

In other words, fake grassroots activists.

Now this all really sticks in my craw.

Entergy claims it knew nothing about the paid actors, and that it was all the fault of the PR firm they hired. Do we believe them? Remember: a few years ago, Entergy created a fake grassroots group of African Americans to push for a project on Long Island.

Entergy stumbles on astroturf

https://thelensnola.org/2018/05/04/actors-were-paid-to-support-entergys-power-plant-at-new-orleans-city-council-meetings/

 

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Public Hearing April 12

The VT Public Utilities Commission will hold a public hearing on the sale of VT Yankee at the Brattleboro Union High School multi-purpose room, 131 Fairground Road, Brattleboro. Please use the East side entrance past the gymnasium for entrance.

At 6:00 P.M, prior to the start of the 7:00 PM public hearing , the VT Department of Public Service will host an information session.

 

Here are two issues we’ll bring up at the hearing: transparency and state oversight.

1. Transparency:

NorthStar claims it will be transparent, open to the public, and honest. At the last NDCAP meeting that transparency was put to the test.  Lissa Weinmann, NDCAP panel member and policy expert on nuclear waste, asked Scott State – now CEO of both Waste Control Specialists (WCS) and NorthStar – if the interim high level nuclear waste site WCS is planning for Texas will have to wait until federal law is changed to allow interim sites.  State said no. She was incredulous, and repeated her questions; he stuck to his no. Chris Williams of CAN and NIRS expressed his shock at State’s denial. He and Nancy Braus of Safe & Green had just spent the weekend at a national nuclear waste policy conference, where the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 was a hot topic. The act only allows for centralized storage. No interim storage is allowed.

The US General Accounting Office backs up Lissa & Chris:

Authorization: The Administration would require new legislative authority for interim storage because provisions in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act that authorized interim storage have either expired or are unusable because they were tied to milestones in the development of a repository at Yucca Mountain that have not been met. www.gao.gov/

You can read more about this on our website here: A Kumbaya Moment?

 2. State Oversight

Can the state agencies provide enough oversight of decommissioning for us to trust that the companies are doing the job they claim they can do? Recent events brought renewed attention to this perennial problem.

  • A former Navy yard radioactive superfund site in San Francisco is being redeveloped for housing. Workers switched hundreds of radioactive soil samples with those from sites previously declared clean. The contractor originally denied the allegation, raised by four whistle blowers, but has since admitted to the fraud. One of many recent articles is here. Here is an earlier article on the whistleblowers. We need tight oversight to ensure this kind of fraud does not occur at Vermont Yankee.
  • In northern Vermont, despite years of good work by activists, a gas pipeline was built. Citizens worry that the Department of Public Service failed “to provide sufficient oversight during the pipeline’s construction.” 80 public comments and good work by James Dumont, their lawyer, convinced the PUC to take a closer look. On Thursday, the PUC “ordered a comprehensive investigation of the methods and practices used by Vermont Gas Systems in the construction of a controversial, 41-mile gas pipeline from Colchester to New Haven.” VtDigger covers the story here: 2018/04/05/investigation ordered vermont gas pipeline/ and here.

 The Vermont Yankee sale agreement calls for lots of reports from NorthStar to the state.  Is self-reporting enough? As we read the agreement, the State would only have ‘boots on the ground’ oversight under protocols to be created for non-radiological oversight. See MOU ¶5(k). We hope we are missing something, and that the state will have personnel on site for all aspects of decommissioning. Then again, it may be another situation whereby the federal rules on nuclear reactors and radioactive waste restrict the authority of the state.

 Perhaps the state will talk about their authority to monitor decommissioning during their presentation at 6pm, before the PUC public hearing. We hope to see you there.

For more information on the sale of VT Yankee, including links to the sale agreement and the latest news, go to our Decommissioning Resources page.

The formal PUC announcement is here: http://puc.vermont.gov/event/puc-case-no-8880-rescheduled-public-hearing 

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Public Comments & the NorthStar Settlement

Stephanie Hoffman, an attorney with the VT Dept. of Public Service, made a presentation on March 22 at NDCAP on how the department contributed to the settlement agreement among NorthStar, Entergy, the State and other parties to the sale. Her power point outlines is useful and informative, especially pages 9 and 10 which are charts about all those financial details outlined in the agreement.

You can access the presentation here. 03.22.2018 – NDCAP PSD MOU Presentation

At the same meeting, Ann Darling of the Safe and Green Campaign commented on Section 8 of the MOU, addressing her remarks to Scott State, CEO of NorthStar and Waste Control Services. You can read her remarks here: Ann Darling Open letter to Scott State, NorthStar & WCS CEO, March 2018

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A Kumbaya Moment?

Thank you to everyone who showed up and who spoke at the NDCAP meeting on Thursday night. Despite the headlines (“Groups fall into step behind Yankee sale & decomm” and “Settlement allays concerns about VY sale” ), only Richie Davis in the Greenfield Recorder got it right. You can watch the full NDCAP meeting online here on BCTV.

The meeting was not a kumbaya moment.  Yes, just before the meeting, in an email to its members, long-time critics New England Coalition referred to their relationship with NorthStar, the proposed owners, as a partnership. Yes, we want Yankee decommissioned in our lifetimes. It is the responsible thing to do: we created it, we clean it up. However, skepticism over trusting another corporation was raised by four members of Safe and Green and Chris Williams of CAN. After twenty plus years of being lied to by Entergy, it is hard to trust another corporation. NorthStar claims it will be transparent, open to the public, and honest.

Sure enough, in the second half of the meeting that transparency was put to the test.  Lissa Weinmann, NDCAP panel member and policy expert on nuclear waste, asked Scott State – now CEO of both Waste Control Specialists (WCS) and NorthStar – if the interim high level nuclear waste site WCS is planning for Texas will have to wait until federal law is changed to allow interim sites.  State said no. She was incredulous, and repeated her questions; he stuck to his no. Chris Williams of CAN expressed his shock at State’s denial. He and Nancy Braus of Safe & Green had just spent the weekend at a national nuclear waste policy conference, where the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 was a hot topic. The act only allows for centralized storage. No interim storage is allowed.

The US General Accounting Office backs up Lissa & Chris:

Authorization: The Administration would require new legislative authority for interim storage because provisions in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act that authorized interim storage have either expired or are unusable because they were tied to milestones in the development of a repository at Yucca Mountain that have not been met.

https://www.gao.gov/key_issues/disposal_of_highlevel_nuclear_waste/issue_summary

VtDigger and the Rutland Herald left this part of the meeting out. Were those reporters wearing rose colored glasses in their kumbaya versions of the sale? Let’s hope the Public Utilities Commission uses a magnifying glass. The PUC will hold a public hearing on the sale April 12th at a location to be announced.

UPDATE: On March 27th VtDigger posted an article covering the issue of waste disposal and Lissa Weinmann’s questions, here: Companies propose possible plan on storage of VY spent fuel.

By the way, Stephanie Hoffman of the Vermont Public Service Department made a presentation on its participation in the settlement agreement.  She outlined the top five public comments made to the Public Utilities Commission at the public hearing, in writing, and on line, and how those top five match up with the agreement and MOU. We will post it once it is available. 

 

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Citizens: Q&A on VY Future

The Nuclear Decommissioning Citizen Advisory Panel is meeting this coming Thursday, March 22 at 6pm at Brattleboro Union High School’s Multi Purpose Room. There will be presentations on the new Agreement to sell Yankee to NorthStar Group Services, and a presentation by Waste Control Services on a plan for all the radioactive waste that isn’t hot enough to sit in a cask. There is time on the Agenda for Q&A from the public. Here’s the link to the full agenda on the NDCAP home page. You can read more about the agreement on our post last week. Our webmistress, Leslie Sullivan Sachs, wrote an essay looking at 10 years of broken agreements, published here by the Commons of Windham County and VtDigger. 

There a new citizen rep on the panel, Lissa Weinmann from Windham Country. Lissa has been active and writing on Vermont Yankee issues for years.  Lissa is a Senior Fellow of the World Policy Institute, where her areas of expertise incluce the Socio-economic implications of national energy strategies and US nuclear power and nuclear waste management. She and her husband own 118 Elliot Street, the venue in Brattleboro. She replaces the representative from Norwich.

 

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7th Year: Fukushima Solidarity

Sunday, March 11, marks seven years since the triple reactor meltdowns at Fukushima, Japan and the evacuation of 162,000 residents. As of now, 75,000 have yet to return to their homes.

Thank you to Maria Dominquez who filmed our vigil for BCTV. You can watch here: https://www.brattleborotv.org/fukushima-remembered-rally-pliny-park-31118

Safe and Green will host a vigil in Pliny Park, at the corner of High and Main Street in Brattleboro on Sunday at 2:30pm to honor the nuclear refugees. Please join us. [Past Fukushima solidarity events are here.]

 

 

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Sale Agreement Announced

[Update:   The PUC has set April 12th as the public hearing date on the sale. A presentation on the agreement will be made to NDCAP at their next meeting, March 22nd. Details are below.]

The deal to sell Vermont Yankee to NorthStar and conditions for decommissioning has been announced by the State of Vermont and other parties. The New England Coalition, Windham Regional Commission and other parties signed on to the deal. The Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) is the sole party which would not sign. We have not read the documents yet.

The VT Dept. of Public Service has posted the Settlement Agreement and Memorandum of Understanding, with a bullet-point summary of the deal plus why the State signed on,  here:  DPS Announcement on Sale 

  • The Public Utility Commission (PUC) will hold a public hearing on the agreement on April 12 at a location to be announced. You can email comments to the PUC through their electronic system here https://epsb.vermont.gov/  Reference Docket #8880.
  • It will also be on the agenda for the next Nuclear Decommissioning Citizen Advisory Panel on March 22 (6:00 pm – 9:00 pm, Brattleboro Union High School Multi-Purpose Room, 131 Fairground Road, Brattleboro). You can email comments to NDCAP at PSD.NDCAP@vermont.gov

New England Coalition posted a press release on its website: NECNP.org

Conservation Law Foundation posted a press release here: VY Settlement Leaves Communities Vulnerable

Entergy’s press release is here: Entergy NorthStar Reach Settlement Agreement with State of VT

VtDigger posted an article here Financial Cleanup Promises Win VY Critics . An update with the schedule is here: VY sale case will extend into the summer.

Rutland Herald posted an article 3.5.18 State Strikes Deal with Entergy & NorthStar on Yankee Sale

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VT Town Meeting Day Resolution

It has been exciting to see clean, sustainable energy on the rise in Vermont since Vermont Yankee shut down. This coming week, Vermonters will have an opportunity to tell lawmakers to get serious about making progress towards a 90% clean energy by 2050 – a goal set in 2011 by the State of Vermont’s Comprehensive Energy Plan. 

36 towns will vote on resolutions. VtDigger has an updated list of which towns will be voting.

The three main principles of the resolution are to move Vermont towards meeting its goal of 90% renewable energy by 2050, no new fossil fuel infrastructure, and to have the transition be fair and equitable. Small groups from each town drafted versions of the resolutions to meet the specific needs of the town before collecting the required signatures to get it on town warnings or ballots.

This campaign is being organized by our friends at 350Vermont 

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Back Room Deal Close

Since we last posted, all hearings and meetings on the sale of Vermont Yankee have been delayed due to the behind-closed-doors negotiations between the state of Vermont, Entergy and NorthStar. A public hearing scheduled by the Public Utility Commission for early February was postponed. The latest: the NDCAP meeting scheduled for February 22 has been cancelled.  We have links to all the latest articles posted here on our website. 
An article posted in Vt Digger reports that a deal coming out of private negotiations between the state, NorthStar and Entergy will be filed March 2nd. Read the post here. The deal would ask that the PUC make a decision on the sale by June 30.  According to the VtDigger post, this time around, the New England Coalition and Conservation Law Foundation have been asked to sign onto the deal but as of now are not on board. 
 

One question on our minds is: will the public have any input on the settlement at the public hearing, or will the settlement that comes out of these negotiations be final? 

You may recall that negotiations took place prior to the closure of Vermont Yankee. Even though there were 9 parties before the utility commission, only the state and Entergy were in negotiations (here is one article about the start of those negotiations; oh, the optimism!). The resulting settlement agreement was announced two days before Christmas in 2013. It was a “take it or leave it” deal which required the Public Service Board to grant a Certificate of Public Good by March 31, 2014.  (Our reply post from 12.23.13 is here).

We sure hope this isn’t another “take it or leave it” deal. Stay tuned!

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Updated: Cancel … Delay… Meet in Secret

Update 02.17.18: Now the NDCAP meeting for February has been postponed until March. From its website:

PLEASE NOTE NEW MEETING DATE & NEW MEETING LOCATION:

Thursday, March 22, 2018, 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Brattleboro Union High School Multi-Purpose Room
131 Fairground Road, Brattleboro, VT

The Panel WILL NOT MEET in February 2018.  Further details for the Panel’s March 22, 2018, meeting, including a complete meeting agenda, will be announced at a future date.

Now, back to our February 3rd post:

Someday there will be a Public Hearing on the sale of Vermont Yankee to NorthStar etal. But it will probably be after a Settlement Agreement & MOU are signed, sealed & delivered to the Public Utilities Commission which includes some kind of language to the effect: change one word, PUC, and this deals off.

At least, that’s our memory of how the Settlement & MOU went in 2014, when the State & Entergy met behind closed doors to create the same kind of agreement & MOU for post-closure operations of VY. [Those documents are here]. This time around the State & Entergy say they are talking with the other parties in the VT legal permit process (New England Coalition, Conservation Law Foundation, Windham Regional, Abenakis), but those talks are outside the actual negotiations. The groups are included behind the closed doors.

So, when there is a Public Hearing, will it be a done deal and the public will be blowing off steam to no effect?

In the meantime, NDCAP will meet on February 22 at 6pm, Brattleboro Midde School MulitPurpose Room. Public invited. Perhaps someone there will have answers.

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