MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermont's attempts to close its lone nuclear power plant were deceptive and misleading, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday in largely upholding a lower-court ruling against the state.
State legislators passed laws in 2005, 2006 and 2008 making it harder for the Vermont Yankee plant to win permission to operate for another 20 years. They were concerned about the plant's safety but tried to hide that because they were aware that nuclear safety is the sole province of the U.S. government under federal law, a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote.
There was "obvious coaching of Vermont legislators to avoid explicit statements about nuclear safety," the court wrote.
A state board is expected to rule this year on whether allow the plant to continue operating, but the laws passed last decade injected the Legislature into the state's decision-making process. They require that lawmakers vote to approve the plant's continued operation.
Plant owner New Orleans-based Entergy Corp. has argued in court that the state has no say over whether to keep the plant open and points to the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission's decision to extend the plant's license to operate in 2011.
Vermont Yankee opened in 1972 in Vernon. In the past, the plant has provided as much as a third of the state's electrical supply. Currently, nearly all of its power is shipped to electric companies in neighboring states.
The state had argued that the legislative record used by Entergy in its lower court arguments was spotty and the company "cherry-picked" the most damning comments by lawmakers. And it said Entergy had gone along with the state's safety concerns in legally binding agreements.
The appeals court didn't buy it, calling the state's account of the legislative record "inadequate and misleading."
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