Angwin on Energy: Is our word really our bond in Vermont, Governor Shumlin?

by Meredith Angwin

Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant

Recently, Governor Shumlin gave a press conference explaining his views on decommissioning Vermont Yankee. He did not acknowledge that the situation is governed by a by a legally-binding 2002 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Entergy and the state of Vermont.

Vermont Yankee held up its end of that deal, delivering below-market power since 2002. Vermont ratepayers saved hundreds of millions of dollars as a direct result,. For most of those years, our neighboring states were forced to buy dirtier, higher-priced fossil-fuel power from New England grid plants.

Now that most of the 2002 deal’s terrific economic value has been received, Gov. Shumlin seems to have developed amnesia. Shumlin is fond of shaking of his finger at Vermont Yankee and saying: “In Vermont, your word is your bond.” I think that phrase should be true of Vermont’s governor and the state’s legal agreements.

Failure to honor the MOU will have serious repercussions, not the least of which might be a well-justified court challenge. Great damage will also be done to Vermont’s reputation: we will be the state that tries to break its contracts.

Furthermore, Vermont Yankee’s owner is not walking away; they are seeking to operate the plant for another 20 years. They have made major investments and improvements in the plant since purchasing it in 2002. Unlike Maine Yankee and Connecticut Yankee which voluntarily closed, Vermont Yankee wants to continue to operate and provide clean power. Vermont Yankee plans to continue serving Vermont, despite the toxic political and business atmosphere that many elected officials in the state are creating.

Meredith Angwin is a director of the Ethan Allen Institute Energy Education Project.