Entergy sues Vermont over diesel generator
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | April 30,2013
BRATTLEBORO — Entergy Nuclear has again sued the state of Vermont, this time over the delayed permit for construction of a backup power diesel generator.
The Public Service Board has refused to authorize construction of the so-called station blackout diesel generator, and has treated Entergy’s petition in “an unusual manner,” Entergy claimed in its 27-page lawsuit.
Entergy Nuclear filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court, saying the Vermont Public Service Board had dragged its feet on its application, which was filed in September 2012. Without a certificate of public good for the generator, Vermont Yankee might be forced to shut down on Sept. 1, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit, filed by the firm Gravel & Shea of Burlington, also claims that the Public Service Board’s actions are at conflict with the Atomic Energy Act, which gives the federal government preemption in regulating nuclear power plants.
“Vermont law is in direct conflict with the NRC’s regulation, and stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress,” the lawsuit states.
Vermont Yankee needs the new source of backup power because of a decision last year by ISO-New England, which operates the New England power grid.
“Vermont’s attempts to regulate the VY station and frustrate Entergy’s compliance with NRC regulation are preempted,” the lawsuit states.
According to the 2012 decision, ISO would no longer allow Vermont Yankee to rely on the emergency start up power source it had for decades — the hydroelectric dam in Vernon, immediately down river from Vermont Yankee.
Without the Vernon hydro as a source of independent power, Entergy Nuclear decided that a third, dedicated, diesel generator was needed. Vermont Yankee already has two similar diesel generators at the Vernon reactor to power emergency systems in the event of an emergency, said James Sinclair, a spokesman for Vermont Yankee. Sinclair refused to say how much the generator cost.
“The slow pace of the proceedings strongly suggests that, even if the Board issues a favorable ruling, it will not do so prior to June 11, 2013,” the lawsuit states.
Sinclair said that Vermont Yankee is linked by a special, dedicated, underground power line to the Vernon hydro station. It tried to negotiate a special contract with TransCanada, the current owner of the dam, but talks failed, according to the lawsuit.
The company claims it needs an answer by that date to install the generator and have it tested to make sure it is fully operable by Sept. 1, the NRC deadline.
The lawsuit names Gov. Peter Shumlin, Attorney General William Sorrell, three members of the Public Service Board and Christopher Recchia, commissioner of the Department of Public Service.
The Department of Public Service had supported Entergy’s request to purchase and install the generator for the so-called “black start” program.
The lawsuit claims that PSB Chairman James Volz said that the diesel generator request would be handled in conjunction with Entergy Nuclear’s request for a new operating certificate of public good. A decision on that case is not expected until the fall.
Entergy has asked the U.S. District Court for a preliminary and permanent injunction prohibiting the state for enforcing “any provision of Vermont law” that would prohibit it from constructing the generator.
“This lawsuit is another example of Entergy suing the state when it doesn’t get its way,” said Sandra Levine, senior attorney for the Conservation Law Foundation. “Entergy continues to defy Vermont law and is now asking the Federal Court to sanction its non-compliance.”
“The board has acted responsibly and a day before the lawsuit, issued a scheduling order that would allow a decision in a timely manner. Rather than allow Vermont regulators to do their job, Entergy is instead suing the state,” she said.