One of the key questions in the debate over Gaz Metro’s proposed acquisition of Central Vermont Public Service is this: Is it ever okay for the legislature to stick its nose into a regulatory process governed by the independent Public Service Board?
As we reported in this week’s Seven Days, Gov. Peter Shumlin’s answer last week appeared to be no, not ever. Outside an energy conference in Burlington last Monday, he said, “It’s absolutely inappropriate for the legislature or the governor to weigh in through law on a pending [Public Service Board] case.”
But later that week, Shumlin was asked at a press conference whether he did just that when, as Senate President Pro Tem, he orchestrated a 2010 vote denying Vermont Yankee a new operating license.
The gov’s answer?
No, he said. He was just following Act 160 — a law passed during his four-year hiatus from the Senate — which gave the legislature an up-or-down vote on Yankee’s relicensing. He further added that Act 160 — a law he utilized when trying to shut down Vermont Yankee — wasn’t such a hot idea in the first place.
At a press conference today, however, Shumlin shifted — ahem, elaborated on — his stance.
Asked about his effort last spring to charge Entergy, which owns Vermont Yankee, for any legal expenses the state incurred defending a lawsuit brought by the company, Shumlin today established a new standard of interference: If it has to do with Vermont Yankee, the legislature can do whatever the hell it pleases. If it has to do with utility acquisitions, leave well enough alone.
“The role of the legislature is different in Entergy than it has been in other regulated cases,” Shumlin said, because the legislature authorized the plant’s construction in the first place and then gave itself a role in the relicensing process.
Wait, what? Don’t worry, he explained: