Entergy drops federal lawsuit over backup generator

Public Service Board grants permit in response

Two days after representatives from the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Plant and the state of Vermont met in federal court to address a backup generator for the plant, the Public Service Board issued the project a Certificate of Public Good.

In response, Vermont Yankee's parent company, Entergy Corp., is dropping the lawsuit.

“We are pleased that the Public Service Board has issued the Certificate of Public Good for the new diesel generator,” said Entergy spokesman Jim Sinclair. “As we have maintained throughout the CPG process, the new diesel generator provides the best option to provide an additional source of safe and secure back-up power to the plant site, and ensures full compliance with Nuclear Regulatory Commission safety regulations. We will begin construction next week, as scheduled, and will be notifying the federal district court that we are dismissing this matter.”

Lawyers for Entergy filed a lawsuit against the state in April because the company wanted the board to issue a permit by June 11, or bring the federal government in to intervene.

To comply with federal regulations, the nuclear plant must have an emergency source of power, in the event of a station blackout. The plant's contract for that power is set to expire Sept. 1; TransCanada, the owner of the Vernon Hydroelectric Station, is not renewing the contract.

Entergy sought a certificate of public good from the Vermont Public Service Board to build an on-site diesel generator for the purpose of backup power this past year. But in April, the company said it received strong indication that it would not get a permit in a timely fashion from the state's quasi-judicial board, which is tasked with regulating power producers and utilities. The company then filed the lawsuit in federal court.

On May 20, a Public Service Board hearing officer recommended that the board permit the project, and the Public Service Department supported the decision.

After hearing oral arguments against the permit from the anti-nuclear New England Coalition on June 5, the board provided the plant with a permit the following day.

The permit is for “a 3,000 kW diesel generator, a 9,604 gallon fuel tank, switchgear assembly, a resistive load bank, and equipment enclosures mounted on a new concrete pad within the protected area of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station.”

In addition to this federal suit, Entergy and the state of Vermont are litigating in federal appeals court over the Legislature's authority to shut the plant down, over a generation tax passed last legislative session, in the Vermont Supreme Court, and in front of the Public Service Board to provide a new certificate of public good for the plant to operate for another 20 years.

That case in front of the federal court of appeals bears far more weight on the future of the plant's ability to operate and a state's power over a nuclear facility, said Cheryl Hanna, a constitutional law professor at Vermont Law School.

“The fundamental question is what is a relationship between a state and a federally regulated, currently operating nuclear facility, and there is no clear answer to that question,” she said.

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