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Antinuclear Group Denied Intervention in Entergy Case


Published May 18, 2011 at 8:08 a.m.

A federal court judge late Tuesday denied the antinuclear group New England Coalition's petition to intervene in Entergy's lawsuit against the state of Vermont.

NEC filed a motion two weeks ago in U.S. District Court. In his ruling, U.S. District Court Judge J. Garvan Murtha said NEC's concerns are "adequately represented" by the state.

"The motion is denied because NEC’s interest in this case is adequately represented by the Attorney General, representing the State of Vermont, which shares NEC’s ultimate objective in upholding the constitutionality of Vermont’s statutory and regulatory scheme governing the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant," wrote Murtha in his ruling.

"Indeed, NEC has not explained how its views would diverge from those of Vermont," Murtha added. "It professes its interest is 'to ensure that the Vermont Yankee plant is not relicensed,' and concedes 'Vermont appears to have accepted NEC’s position, and decided that the continued operation of this plant in our State is not in the public good.'"

Murtha will allow NEC to file an amicus brief, or as a so-called "friend of the court" brief, by May 31. In his ruling Murtha even welcomed the amicus filings, writing that the briefs often bring attention to issues otherwise not raised by the main parties.

In a separate ruling, Murtha denied motions by the Conservation Law Foundation and the Vermont Public Interest Research Group to reject Entergy's motion for a preliminary injunction to prevent the state from shutting Vermont Yankee down in March 2012. He did invite CLF and VPIRG to file amicus briefs on Entergy's request for a preliminary injunction.

Murtha has not yet ruled on CLF and VPIRG's motion to intervene, though it seems pretty clear from his denial of NEC that it's unlikely he'll grant them intervenor status either.

In his ruling, Murtha noted that he feared allowing NEC to intervene would likely delay the expedited schedule he established to hear the case.

A VPIRG spokesman seemed unfazed by the court defeat, noting that the environmental group was prepared to support Vermont's defense in any way Judge Murtha allows.

"We're looking forward to participating in whatever way we can to help defend the state against Entergy's litigation.  Whether that's as an intervenor or 'friend of the court' we'll do our best to help uphold the laws of our state," said Paul Burns, VPIRG's executive director.

A CLF spokeswoman said her group was disappointed in the ruling, but glad to see that Murtha finds value in amicus filings.

"We are disappointed CLF & VPIRG will not be fully participating at this early stage. It is encouraging that the court recognized the value of having additional information," said CLF attorney Sandra Levine. "We are pleased to participate in any way that helps the Court decide this very important case."

NEC and Entergy officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

Hearings on the merits of Entergy's entire lawsuit — whether Vermont has legal authority to effectively shut the plant down in 2012 — are slated to be held in October. Murtha set aside June 23 and 24 to hear arguments on Entergy's injunction request.

Download NEC ruling: Download 33 Order re NEC intervention 5-17-11

Download CLF/VPIRG ruling: Download 34 Order re CLF&VPIRG