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Environmental Groups Seek to Intervene in Entergy Lawsuit


Published May 13, 2011 at 3:43 p.m.

Two more environmental groups are seeking to intervene in Entergy's lawsuit against the state of Vermont: The Conservation Law Foundation of Vermont and the Vermont Public Interest Research Group.

Last week, the New England Coalition (NEC) filed a similar petition to intervene. Entergy filed a response earlier this week with the court asking U.S. District Judge J. Garvan Murtha to deny NEC's request.

"NEC's participation as a full party to the proceeding would be of little value to the Court and, more likely than not, would needlessly inject collateral, time-consuming issues into the case, while opening the floodgates to requests to intervene by other Vermont Yankee opponents," Entergy lawyers argued in court papers.

Entergy also argues that other district courts have denied such petitions on the grounds that the state is perfectly capable of defending itself in court and doesn't need outside intervenors getting in the way.

VPIRG and CLF believe they do have a role to play in this case.

“This is an important case that will decide the direction of our energy future," said Chris Kilian, vice president and director of CLF Vermont, in a statement. "CLF and VPIRG will support the state of Vermont in its efforts to uphold Vermont law and ensure that the people’s voice and vision for their energy future will prevail over the interests of out-of-state polluters.”

James Moore, VPIRG's clean energy director, added, “Entergy is proposing to break Vermont law. On behalf of our thousands of concerned members, VPIRG and CLF will stand with the governor and the attorney general to make sure Entergy Corporation retires Vermont Yankee on schedule. They must be held to their promise to retire in 2012 rather than allowed to run the old, unsound nuclear facility for another 20 years at the expense of ratepayers and the environment.”

Despite Moore's comment, Entergy hasn't made a promise to shut down Vermont Yankee in 2012. Instead, Entergy requested, and received, a license from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to keep operating Vermont Yankee another 20 years. A vote last year in the Vermont Senate — led by then President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin and now Governor Peter Shumlin — rejected Entergy's effort to receive a similar state permit from the Vermont Public Service Board.

It's probably no surprise that VPIRG jumped on the intervention bandwagon. For starters, Shumlin has long been on VPIRG's shut down Vermont Yankee bandwagon — literally. During the gubernatorial primary Shumlin jumped aboard VPIRG's Mardi Gras float, which made it look as if the nonprofit was endorsing Shumlin's run for governor. The group also polled Vermonters about Vermont Yankee and tested whether Shumlin was a good messenger for their campaign to shut down the aging nuclear reactor. In short, the results found that he was a good spokesperson.

It's unclear how long it will take Judge Murtha to rule on these intervention petitions. 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.

Meanwhile, Entergy is seeking an injunction to keep Vermont Yankee open and running as long as their lawsuit is pending in the U.S. courts. At a status conference earlier this month with state and Entergy attorneys, Murtha set aside two days in June — June 23 and 24 — to hear arguments on the injunction request.