• Entergy warns layoffs are in its future
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     | July 22,2013
     

    In this undated photo released by Entergy Corp., the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon, Vt., is seen.

    VERNON — Entergy Corp. has put its 15,000 employees — including 650 in Vermont — on notice that it is looking for efficiencies in running its giant energy company and that could mean their jobs.

    While the New Orleans-based company was short on specifics Friday, it released a statement saying it was reorganizing the company with an eye toward economy.

    The news came a few days after the company released its projected quarterly earnings, saying its earnings would be cut in half, from a little over $2 per share in 2012 to $1 a share.

    Chanel LaGarde, a spokesman at Entergy headquarters, said the company “had a number of companywide strategic imperatives” under way to evaluate the company’s financial situation.

    Entergy announced earlier this week that its quarterly earnings per share had been cut in half, from $2.11 to $1, largely due to “substantially higher income tax expense” after a settlement with the Internal Revenue Service regarding storm cost financing in Louisiana.

    “We do expect workforce reductions to be one result of this initiative,” LaGarde wrote in an email. “We don’t have final specifics at this time regarding who or how many employees will be affected.”

    Vermont Yankee, which has about 640 employees and generates about 640 megawatts of electricity, is Entergy Nuclear’s smallest nuclear operation, and in the past year company officials have said Vermont Yankee was not covering its costs of operation, putting it on many analysts’ hit list for closure.

    Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said the NRC had established staffing levels for key areas at nuclear power plants. He said there are staffing standards for control room operators, security, and emergency response.

    “Otherwise, the NRC does not specify staffing levels or monitor any plant personnel staff size changes,” he said.

    “The NRC is generally aware that Entergy is implementing what it refers to as its ‘human capital management plan’ initiatives,” Sheehan said Friday.

    “There have been reorganizations in the past at other U.S. nuclear power plants. As in those cases, the NRC has the ability to determine whether there are any adverse impacts through our Reactor Oversight process.

    “If we observe any negative trends via inspection findings and/or performance indicators, we could determine if there was any linkage to human resource changes,” he said.

    Sheehan noted that Vermont Yankee currently does not have any negative inspection findings that are ‘greater than green,’” which is the NRC’s lowest level of concern.

    Annie Noonan, Vermont’s labor commissioner, said Friday the state had reached out to Entergy on Friday when news of the company’s plans became public. She said the company did not contact the state.

    Noonan said according to state law, Entergy would have to notify the state within 24 hours if it laid off more than 25 workers.

    “We’ve been in touch with the company,” she said, saying the state communicated with longtime Entergy government affairs chief Brian Cosgrove.

    Entergy Nuclear has applied for a state certificate of public good to keep operating for another 20 years; a decision is expected later this year from the Public Service Board.

    “Asking fewer people to do more work will inevitably impact both reliability and safety,” said Raymond Shadis, the New England Coalition’s technical adviser. The group advocates for the closure of Vermont Yankee.

    Shadis said Vermont Yankee was already hurting because revenue from electricity sales barely meets operation and maintenance costs.

    “It is clear that Entergy is desperately seeking a way to make its older, smaller nuclear plants pay but devoting fewer resources to inspection and maintenance is exactly what brought down and ultimately closed VY’s sister plants — Connecticut Yankee and Maine Yankee,” he said.

    Entergy has 15,000 employees spread out in a traditional utility serving the Southern states of Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi, as well as some nuclear plants in those states. It also has developed a Northeast nuclear fleet, which includes Vermont Yankee, Pilgrim outside of Boston, Indian Point, north of New York City, and FitzPatrick in upstate New York. It also owns a nuclear reactor, Palisades, in Michigan.

    The firm has $10 billion in revenue, according to its website, and has generating facilities pumping out 30,000 megawatts of power, of which 10,000 megawatts are nuclear.

    Robert Williams, spokesman for Entergy Nuclear in Vermont, declined any comment, referring reporters to LaGarde in New Orleans.

    susan.smallheer

    @rutlandherald.com

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