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Key Court Ruling Issued in Vermont Yankee Case

NRC/Entergy Nuclear

A federal appeals court on Wednesday largely upheld a lower court ruling against Vermont's attempts to close the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Judge J. Garvin Murtha’s ruling that invalidated two Vermont statutes pertaining to Vermont Yankee. It upheld that Act 74 and Act 160 are preempted by the Atomic Energy Act, thus allowing the nuclear plant to continue operating. The plant’s future has already been the subject of fierce debate for years.  Vermont Law School Professor Cheryl Hanna says the decision is not a huge surprise.

State officials, including Governor Peter Shumlin, are disappointed with the decision. But they also note that the ruling does not halt the ongoing review of the reactor's operations by the state Public Service Board. Vermont Public Service Department Deputy Commissioner Darren Springer explains that is a key element of the decision.

The Second Circuit Court agreed with the district court that the state Legislature’s primary intent when it passed Act 160, which would require legislative, rather then public service board approval for the reactor’s state license, was radiological safety, even though that falls under federal jurisdiction. Vermont Public Interest Research Group Executive Director Paul Burns says that is a disservice to those who have significant concerns about the nuclear plant.

Ethan Allen Institute Energy Education Project Director Meredith Angwin calls the decision fair in echoing the lower court ruling, and is more optimistic about the future of Vermont Yankee.

Entergy-Vermont Yankee Spokesman Jim Sinclair noted that the company has released a short statement in response to the decision.
Sinclair adds.

The PSB is now the focus in the debate over the nuclear plant, and the Vermont Law School’s Cheryl Hanna notes that is where the next significant legal questions will arise.

The decision reversed the lower court ruling that found the state imposed an unconstitutional restriction on the sale of power by the plant. That was the basis for Entergy’s claim that Vermont owed nearly 5 million dollars in legal fees to the company.

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