House approves waste storage legislation

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(Host) A key House committee has approved legislation that would allow Vermont Yankee to store its nuclear waste in large concrete and steel casks near the Connecticut River. The legislation also says the state can charge at least four-million- dollars-a-year for the radioactive waste storage.

But Governor, Jim Douglas, says he remains opposed to forcing Yankee to pay more.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) Entergy, the company that owns Vermont Yankee, wants legislative permission this year to move ahead with its dry cask storage.

Representative Robert Dostis, the Waterbury Democrat who chairs the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee, says the committee is concerned that the waste could be in Vermont for a long time.

(Dostis) “We have no certainty that this will be a short term or temporary storage. We’ve heard figures as fifty or one hundred years. The federal government should have taken this waste years ago, and they haven’t. And we don’t know when there’s going to be a place in this country other than our little site to send this waste. So future generations will not have the Vermont Yankee power plant, because that will be shutdown. But they will have this waste.”

(Dillon) Dostis says the state needs to get some benefit for the potential liability of hosting the radioactive waste. So the bill includes a minimum four-million-dollar annual charge. The money would be used to fund clean energy projects.

(Dostis) “The funds will be used to help build in-state generation, in order to bridge that gap, get us to a place where we are more energy independent.”

(Dillon) Business groups and Governor Jim Douglas don’t think Entergy should pay anything more. The governor says ratepayers get a great deal for the Yankee power, and that the state negotiated other benefits as part of Entergy’s plans to increase its power output.

(Douglas) “I don’t think that extracting more out of the company is good public policy when we’re getting such cheap, reliable electricity for our state.”

(Dillon) The committee heard estimates that Entergy could make up to fifty-million dollars in new power sales if it’s allowed to boost the electricity output.

Dostis says the legislation allows Entergy to go to state regulators and make the case that the state fee is too excessive.

(Dostis) “We were very careful in coming up with our figures to make sure that the charge is reasonable. In the bill however, if Entergy feels that the charge is a hardship, we give them the ability to go the Public Service Board, argue their case, and for the board to make the recommendation for that charge to be changed. So we give them an out if this is a hardship for them.”

(Dillon) The bill could still be changed to reflect ongoing negotiations between Entergy, lawmakers, and members of the Douglas Administration. Dostis says the goal of the talks is to reach a deal that all sides can live with.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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