Meeting Vermont’s energy needs without Yankee will be a challenge

by Angela Chagnon

Newly re-appointed Public Service Board (PSB) Chair Jim Volz See story below) said that his biggest challenges would be telecommunications issues and figuring out how to replace Vermont Yankee.

“Right now, the status of Vermont Yankee is that there’s a statute that says it can’t continue operating unless the legislature gives approval,” said Volz. “The legislature voted on that negatively in a very strong way and so I have to assume at this time that it’s not going to continue operating, and we need to be prepared for that. It’s possible that that situation could change, but until it does we have to assume that it’s not operating.”

Asked how prepared the state was to do without the nuclear power plant, Volz replied, “I think we’re quite prepared. There’s a market in New England where we can provide power, the utilities are taking steps to work with the plant system operator of New England to ensure that there won’t be a reliability problem if that plant’s not operating.”

Governor Shumlin was asked if it was fair for ratepayer funds to go to Vermont Gas even though the company has its own funds to invest in its system.

“The fact is that natural gas prices are artificially low and we’re now at the 9th rate decrease, I believe, in the last year and a half,” Shumlin explained. “All we’re asking, the department and myself, is for us to pool further rate increases. Invest those dollars to expand natural gas in Vermont which is going to serve all Vermonters well, create jobs and economic opportunities. And if we fail at doing that, we then give that money back to the ratepayers. So we’re trying to create a pool of resources. I think it is fair. I think it’s fair that people on the system help invest in expanding the system.

“I think our pooling of resources might get us upwards of $2.7 to $3 million a year,” he continued. “It’s a 60 million dollar expansion, so we’re just trying to prime the pump.”

In response to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission formally issuing an extension to Vermont Yankee, Shumlin spoke about the disaster in Japan and then said, “I guess my response is that I’m not surprised that the NRC continues to re-license aging nuclear power plants, that seems to be the policy down there. I’m grateful Vermont can go its own way, I’m doubly grateful that the NRC has acknowledged that Vermont has the power to determine its own destiny.”