Entergy Corporation, owner of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, has filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Vermont that would prevent the state from shutting down the aging 39-year-old facility.
The energy giant announced the lawsuit (pdf), filed in US District Court in Vermont, on its website on Monday. The company has been attempting to extend the life of Vermont Yankee despite efforts by the state to shut it down in March 2012.
Richard Smith, president of Entergy Wholesale Commodities, said: “We have made every reasonable effort to accommodate the state of Vermont and its officials while allowing the continued operation of Vermont Yankee – an outcome that benefits all stakeholders, including Vermont consumers and the approximately 650 men and women who work at the plant,” according to a company statement.
Last month, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) authorized the nuclear facility’s operation through March 21, 2032, despite not having received permission by the state’s General Assembly and governor. A 2006 state law passed by Vermont’s General Assembly, according to Entergy, has invalidated a key provision in a 2002 agreement when the company purchased Vermont Yankee.
That law, unopposed by Entergy at the time, requires the state Legislature to vote on allowing the state’s Public Service Board to authorize a certificate of public good, according to the Burlington Free Press.
In the lawsuit, the energy corporation accuses the state of breaching a 2002 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) it signed with two of Entergy’s subsidiaries, Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee, LLC (ENVY) and Entergy nuclear Operations, Inc. (ENOI), and according to the statement,
As the complaint alleges, Vermont repudiated the MOU, breaching that agreement and excusing the two Entergy subsidiaries’ obligation to further comply with that specific provision.
“Despite the fact that Vermont Yankee is important to the reliability of the New England electric transmission grid, emits virtually no greenhouse gases, and provides more than $100 million in annual economic benefits to the state of Vermont, it has been made clear that state officials are singularly focused on shutting down the plant. That has left us with no other choice but to seek relief in the court system,” Smith added in the news release.
Citing the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution used in a 1983 case in which the US Supreme Court held in favor of Pacific Gas & Electric over state authority, Entergy argues that
a state has no authority over (1) nuclear power plant licensing and operations or (2) the radiological safety of a nuclear power plant. In violation of these legal principles, Vermont has asserted that it can shut down a federally licensed and operating nuclear power plant, and that it can regulate the plant based upon Vermont’s safety concerns.
Although the energy company claims it has made “considerable effort” to resolve the issue of extending the plant’s life, it states an agreement cannot be reached.
“Litigation is by far the least preferred approach,” Smith said. “But it is clear our disagreement with the state of Vermont on the scope of its authority over Vermont Yankee cannot be resolved between the two parties. Putting this dispute before a federal judge is the appropriate and responsible way to resolve this disagreement. Our filing today does just that.”
Entergy states it is the second-largest nuclear generator in the US, delivering electricity to 2.7 million customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. It employs around 15,000 personnel and has annual revenues in excess of $11 billion.