MONTPELIER — Both the Shumlin administration and Entergy Nuclear have finally agreed on something — next week’s hearings on the relicensing of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant should go ahead as planned.
In comments filed Wednesday with the Public Service Board, both the Department of Public Service and Entergy Nuclear said the postponement — suggested by the New England Coalition last week — would cause “enormous inconvenience on the board, the parties and the witnesses,” in the words of Entergy attorney John H. Marshall, of the law firm of Downs Rachlin Martin, one of three law firms representing Entergy in the case.
Marshall wrote that Entergy and other parties to the Public Service Board case had been “engaged in substantial preparation for the technical hearing. These efforts will have been wasted if NEC now succeeds in having the technical hearing stayed.”
The state agreed.
“The Board should not suspend these proceedings pending the resolution of Entergy’s appeal. It is exceedingly unlikely that a decision in Entergy’s appeal will moot these proceedings,” wrote Geoff Commons, director of public advocacy for the Department of Public Service, the state agency that acts as the public’s advocate in such cases.
“The small risk of such an outcome must be weighed against the certainty that a stay would waste the efforts of the Board and the parties in preparing for next week’s technical hearing.”
Commons also noted that granting the New England Coalition’s motion “would delay by months or years the ultimate resolution of whether Entergy should be allowed to operate” Vermont Yankee for another 20 years.
Commons wrote that the two weeks of technical hearings are due to start in five days, and that more than 30 witnesses are expected to testify. He noted that all the parties had submitted extensive prefiled testimony, produced discovery responses, taken depositions, defended depositions, as well as preparing witnesses.
“Granting NEC’s request would promote inefficiency, not efficiency, in light of these extensive preparations and the looming commencement of the technical hearings,” he added.
Appeals filed with the Vermont Supreme Court can take months if not years, he said, referring to the Entergy appeal, which prompted the coalition’s motion to stay the proceedings until the state’s high court had settled Entergy’s legal challenge.
On top of that, Commons wrote, “the record in this docket may once again become stale, and the board may be required to start over for a third time.”
“Meanwhile, Entergy will continue to operate the Vermont Yankee Station long after its promised shutdown date of March 21, 2012, without a certificate of public good,” he said.
Plus, he said, “recent history and the instant proceeding make clear that Entergy is a tireless, creative litigant that will press its case in every forum to which it can gain access.”
Marshall also suggested that the Public Service Board may consider “refraining” from issuing a final decision until the Vermont Supreme Court issues its decision on Entergy’s appeal.
The Public Service Board has ruled that Entergy is operating Vermont Yankee without proper state permits, since its original certificate of public good expired in March. Entergy contends that since it had applied for renewal, and the board hadn’t ruled by March, it could continue to operate legally.
“The board has held that such operation is unlawful and that it may be a factor warranting denial of Entergy VY’s pending petition,” Marshall wrote.
If the PSB rejects Entergy’s request for a new certificate, but the Vermont Supreme Court agrees with Entergy’s appeal, “the board’s final decision would have to be reversed.”
The Public Service Board is expected to make a decision on the New England Coalition’s motion quickly.
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