Synopsis of Public Comments to PSB 1/14/14

  • Action Center

  • Thanks to all who responded to our calls and emails, who read and researched and shared, and who testified via tv from all over the state on whether or not the PSB should give Entergy a Certificate of Public Good to operate Vermont Yankee. We have summarized selected public comments below.  If you missed the hearing, everyone is encouraged to write comments and mail or email them to the Public Service Board. Perhaps reading the comments here will inspire and inform you.

    The briefest testimony came from David Bradshaw of Lyndonville. “To permit Vermont Yankee to operate is like allowing a drunk to drive after his license has expired.”

    “Let’s face the facts,” said Dick Brigham of Cuttingsville. “The easier that the Public Service Board is on Entergy, the more that Vermonters will have to pay. Vermonters will be shish-kabobbed.”

    About 40 people testified via interactive television across the state. Six people spoke in favor including Guy Page, head of a pro-nuclear business group funded by Entergy; Cheryl Twarog, the wife of a VY employee; and the executive director of the Brattleboro Development Credit Corp. which will receive the first $500,000 of economic development money. Howard Fairman, who identified himself as pro-nuclear, questioned Entergy’s “competence” and enumerated a series of problems at Yankee in 2013, including failed flood seals which were also a problem at Fukushima.

    These are the repeated themes by the others testifying:

    • Entergy cannot be trusted – look at their record.
    • Entergy should put up the money for decommissioning now and not wait for the stock market to grow the fund. The amount needed it close.
    • Move the coolest spent fuel out now, not later.
    • The language in the MOU is too vague. We need to hold Entergy to specifics and enforce.
    • We need a Citizens Advisory Panel.
    • No matter what you do, Entergy will sue and cry “preempted!”

    Ann Darling was first to speak. “You, the Public Service Board of Vermont, are just about all we have left to make sure that our interests are protected in the process of operating and decommissioning Vermont Yankee.” After 35 years, “I left Brattleboro, my beloved community, to get as far away as I could from Vermont Yankee and still keep my job.” This last year of operation will be the most dangerous. “I don’t know what your legal limits are …. But this is not an exercise in legal abstractions. This has to do with our lives and our communities.” Ann is on the Safe & Green steering committee, Conn. River Watershed Council and Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy Committee of Franklin County, Mass.

    • Next, Betsy Williams made a request that was echoed by many throughout the evening: Public Service Board must require that Entergy begin moving all cool spent fuel out of the pool the day after they shut down the reactor. She also demanded that the PSB hold Entergy accountable. “Do not let Entergy shift financial responsibility onto the backs of Vermont taxpayers. Do not allow Entergy to leave behind a sacrifice zone, permanently contaminated by a corporate malfeasance.” Betsy is from Westminster West and  is on Safe & Green’s steering committee

    A speaker from Lyndonville concerned about the dry casks that will contain the spent fuel for decades and beyond. “These issues are tender and obscure. I am concerned about the long term stability of this place.” [ed. note: in the past, the state raised doubts that Entergy was completely forthcoming in a geologic study before building the concrete pads for the dry casks in the flood plain of the Connecticut River]

    • Rep. David Deen of CRWC drew attention to a recent independent report on Yankee’s thermal discharge and its effect on life in the Conn. River. The report, by a group of fisheries and water quality experts from NH, VT and MA agencies, concludes that closed cycle cooling should be used — even for just the one year in the permit. “Entergy has fought tooth and nail to hide behind their flawed science and cherry-picked modeling results in order not to have to stop discharging thermal pollution to the river.”
    • While VPIRG appreciates the good faith work of Gov. Shumlin and his team, and agrees that Entergy should contribute in a big way to economic development and renewable energy, Paul Burns said it cannot support a settlement that allows a corporation with such a terrible record of untrustworthiness to be granted a CPG. VPIRG has an alternative [which we are looking forward to reading.]
    • Marian, speaking from Newport, said to send Entergy back to Louisiana. “Entergy’s persistent unscrupulousness is not the Vermont way.”
    • Eleanor Gavin shared her concerns about spent fuel. The Public Service Board must have jurisdiction after closure, she said, and “I hope there will not be a pile of new requirements that have to be fulfilled to keep Entergy to its promise shutting down the reactor by Dec 31st, 2014.  I hope other states will not be put in this predicament.”
    • From Randolph Center, a Vermont Law School student ticked off the many reasons why Entergy cannot be trusted and pointed out a list of weaknesses in the MOU.
    • Nancy Rice is most concerned about getting the spent fuel out of the fuel pool promptly. In addition, she said, “In by-passing the other parties to the pending case on the re-licensing of VY, it seemed to me that the negotiations between Entergy and the Shumlin administration were unfair to those other parties who had been working diligently on this case for the past five years.” She closed with, “As things stand, it feels like we are at the mercy of Entergy.”
    • Jake Stewart, speaking from Randolph Center, has been involved since 1970,  two years before the license was granted. “We were assured the waste would be taken away every 5 years. We were made promises that have been broken every step of the way.”
    • Brooke Decker, speaking from Springfield, called Entergy’s behavior “disturbing, disgusting and wrong.” Granting a CPG to Entergy would set a bad precedent. Vermont needs to show that untrustworthy business practices will not be rewarded. The Brigham family, represented by Dick, advised the Board to look at Fukushima, and to think about how we will be safe guarding plutonium for 10,000 years. We are being shishkabobbed by the corporation.
    • From White River Junction, Ulrike von Moltke said Entegy cannot be trusted to do its own site assessment and asked the Board to require an independent analysis.
    • Nina Swaim recommended the PSB set 5 conditions, including yanking the CPG and fining Entergy the minute any agreement is broken; binding the parent corporation to fully fund decomm and restoration if Yankee declares bankruptcy; a citizen watchdog panel; and after closing, hiring union workers who are able to report problems to the state.
    • Back in Brattleboro, Leo Schiff asked the Board members to “remember that the regulators in Russia and Japan did not care for their land and loved ones any less than you do.”  He does not trust Entergy, who has lied repeatedly to the PSB and the legislature.
    • Chad Simmons thanked the Shumlin administration for its efforts, and understands the predicament it is in. “That being said, it is shameful and a sad testament to our current political framework when a multi-billion dollar corporation can so easily dictate the terms of negotiations. This should not be a negotiation.” Entergy must be held to the highest standards possible, without compromise for public health and safety. Chad works for a non-profit and his wife runs a small business, so he understands the economic impacts on charity and the local economy, but “bribe-like” nature of $10 million incentives is completely unacceptable and short-sighted. Chad is on the Safe & Green steering committee, the Brattleboro town energy committee, and was active on the Post-VY Economic Impact study.
    • Nina Keller is a town official from Wendell Ma, 12 miles from Yankee. Everything is economics, she said, including “the economics of evacuation. I see nothing about evacuation in the MOU.”  She likened Entergy to a “spoiled child” who throws a tantrum when it doesn’t get its way.
    • Ann Ferguson from Leverett, Mass, said “I think this Memo of Understanding is too vague. We don’t have anyone saying how much this is going to cost and when they are obligated to start decommissioning.”
    • Peter Cooper said when negotiations began, people “hoped the result would be a fair and equitable agreement …with both parties committed to the same goals. This settlement does not achieve that. “Critical to what is missing is deadlines that commit Entergy to doing what it says it will do.” He ticked off a list of problems with agreement and MOU, and predicted the end result will be more lawsuits by Entergy. Peter is on Safe & Green’s steering committee and is active in the Progressive party.
    • Jonathan Morse is a founder of Sustainable Energy Outreach Network. Yankee closing will create many new jobs in renewables. As a builder who saw the aftermath of the tower collapse first hand, he seriously doubts the company’s competence to maintain the reactor.
    • Gary Sachs said, “The role of the PSB is not to bet on long-shots. Based on Entergy’s record before you since 2002, there is no way can this PSB make a good faith decision that Entergy will be a ‘fair partner’ with the state of VT again. That’s a long-shot.”
    • Leslie Sullivan Sachs asked the SPB to take a moment to look at the big picture, with an eye to the wave of decommissioning sure to come. Vermont is an activist state, led by a legislature and a governor against Entergy. What will other states’ public utility commissions learn if a backroom deal controls the PSB process? “Does corporate profit control the democratic process? Do states have any rights to protect their people and environment? Will Vermont become another sacrifice zone because another corporation was not held accountable? Be bold. Be creative.” Leslie is project manager for Safe & Green.
    • Sally Shaw of Gill, MA looked back at 2002, when Entergy promised in the sale agreement not to challenge the state on preemption grounds. Several costly lawsuits later, it’s likely they will continue invoking preemption. “The courts may be our only recourse with this rapacious corporation.” She is also concerned about the danger of high burn up fuel in the fuel pool and dry casks, and reminded the Board that “Every additional minute VY runs, the fuel in its core creates more deadly Cesium 137, Strontium 90, Cobalt 60 and the other hundreds of radioactive products that future generations will have to contend with.  We know this.”
    • Clay Turnbull of Townsend said that “Money exists to start prompt decommissioning after shutdown. So why wait? The $606 million in the decommissioning trust fund is not far from the $630 million Entergy once estimated it needed, and in a year it could be even closer. “What might happen to the funds if the stock market crashes again.  The money is there now, let’s use it now.”  Clay works for the New England Coalition.

    PSB Public Hearing, 01-14-14 regarding Entergy Vt Yankee’s Certificate of Public Good to operate and store spent fuel through 12-31-14. Dec. 23rd the state and Entergy announced they had reached a settlement and sent a Memorandum of Agreement to the Public Service Board. It requires the PSB to make a decision by March 31, 2014. The Board met Jan. 2 and set a schedule including this one public hearing on January 14.