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Entergy Sues to Keep Vermont Yankee Open

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Entergy Corp., owners of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, filed a lawsuit against the state of Vermont in U.S. District Court this morning. The Louisiana-based company says the Nuclear Regulatory Commission — not Vermont lawmakers — should decide whether the plant can continue operating beyond 2012.

The NRC has already granted the plant a 20-year license extension, but the Vermont Senate voted last year to deny Entergy permission to keep operating the plant beyond next year.

The lawsuit comes as no surprise. Shay Totten explored the possibility that Entergy would sue in a story in the February 2010 Vermont Yankee issue of Seven Days (Shay is on vacation this week.)

From last year's story:

Rep. Tony Klein (D-East Montpelier) said he has discussed the issue with several attorneys and believes Vermont is on solid legal footing.

Others are not so sure. Vermont Law School Professor Cheryl Hanna says Entergy could have a strong case against the legislature. That’s because Vermont is the only state whose lawmakers have given themselves the authority to weigh in on this debate. Entergy could argue in court that a political body does not have the scientific background or expertise to make such a decision, says Hanna.

Gov. Jim Douglas has been making similar arguments for months: The legislature should let the “experts” decide Yankee’s case.

Entergy’s legal outcome would largely depend on who first presides over the case in Vermont, Hanna added. Judge William Sessions has a strong record in favor of allowing states to carve out regulatory niches, but newly appointed judge Christina Reiss has no such track record. Beyond Vermont, Hanna said, it’s not clear how well Entergy would fare.

Click here to read more of Shay's analysis. File illustration by Tim Newcomb.

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