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Entergy cites federal laws in Vt. Yankee hearing

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 11, 2013 at 6:17 pm •  Published: February 11, 2013

Burlington lawyer Robert Hemley told the three-member board the only reason the presence of a nuclear plant might harm tourism is if the public develops fears about nuclear safety — a subject Vermont is barred from considering.

"Discussion about tourism is a pre-empted area. ... We feel the entire area is off-limits for this board," Hemley said.

Entergy's push for pre-emption appeared to run counter to an agreement it entered with the state when it bought Vermont Yankee in 2002 from the group of New England utilities that had owned it previously.

Under that memorandum of understanding, Entergy and the state agreed "to waive any claim each may have that federal law pre-empts the jurisdiction of the board" to decide Vermont Yankee's post-2012 future.

Entergy lawyer Sanford Weisburst argued later that the board would be hard-pressed to find a plausible, non-safety reason to deny Vermont Yankee a new permit.

Much of the lawyering came with economist Richard Heaps on the stand. Heaps, of the Westford-based firm Northern Economic Consulting, has done three studies of the economic impacts of Vermont Yankee, which employs more than 600 workers and is one of the state's largest taxpayers.

Robert Kirsch, a lawyer for the state Department of Public Service, questioned Heaps about whether the continued operation of Vermont Yankee might slow the state's push to develop renewable energy sources like wind or biomass.

Weisburst objected to that line of questioning as well.

Vermont Yankee's electricity is not provided directly to any of the state's utilities; instead it's sold into the New England regional power grid. Nothing about Vermont Yankee's continued operation would block Vermont from using as much renewable energy as it wished, he said.