In March 2009, 36 Vermont towns voted to ask the legislature not to approve Vermont Yankee operation for another 20 years and to require the plant's owner, Entergy, to pay the full cost of decommissioning the plant, which could near $1 billion. The resolutions also called on the legislature to focus on finding non-nuclear sources of energy to replace Vermont Yankee, which supplies about one-third of the state's power needs.
As of now, 18 Vermont towns are organized to get this resolution on their Town Meeting Day warnings.
The group hopes today's announcement and release of the letter signed by prominent Vermonters will inspire residents of more towns to participate, and adopt their own version of the resolution.
"Entergy is doing intensive lobbying and is expected to increase its efforts to get the legislature to pass the required resolution as we approach decision time. The only way we can counter their efforts to get the 20-year extension is if citizens in the towns are actively involved, and town meeting resolutions facilitate that," said James Marc Leas, an attorney, and one of the campaign organizers.
Other lead organizers include Dan DeWalt, a former Newfane selectman, and environmentalists Elizabeth Skarie and Crea Lintalhac.
Using the Town Meeting Day ballot to tackle controversial topics is nothing new for DeWalt. He was the founder of a popular Town Meeting Day impeachment resolution urging Congress to conduct hearings into whether then-Pres. George W. Bush should be removed from office.
Likewise, Vermonters have often used Town Meeting Day resolutions to make broader political stands on everything from the Iraq War (calling for a study on the impact deployments had on the Vermont National Guard) to a nuclear arms freeze in the 1980s.
Leas said the effort will take two approaches: First, to form groups and petition to get the resolution on the warning in as many towns as possible. Those groups would also call and write their legislators on the issue. Second, during the session, they hope to bring people to the State House to support legislators who do not support relicensure.
"This is the democratic process, and involvement by large numbers of people is key if we are to counter the $14 billion company," Leas added.
Joining Leas at a press conference today at Union Station in Burlington at 4:30 p.m. will be: Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, co-founders of Ben and Jerry's, James Moore, VPIRG's clean energy advocate,
Phillip Baruth, UVM professor and state senate candidate, Anthony Pollina, Rep. David Zuckerman (P-Burlington), Jarred Cobb, Northeast Field Organizer, Greenpeace USA, and Phil Hoff, former Vermont Governor.
Here is a copy of the letter circulating with the petitions:
Dear fellow concerned Vermonters,
Our Vermont legislature will make a momentous decision about continued operation of Vermont Yankee sometime during the coming legislative session beginning in January. Vermont is the only state in the US whose legislature has the power to prevent further operation of an aging nuclear power plant. We want the legislature to use that power to close the plant in 2012.
Entergy Corporation has already mounted a powerful lobbying campaign. But with your help, citizens can counter those efforts and make sure that the interests of Vermonters come before those of the Entergy nuclear corporation. Grass-roots groups are working hard to ensure that the voices and concerns of Vermonters are being heard in Montpelier. Your voice is needed now to help counterbalance the well financed and relentless Entergy nuclear lobbyists.
Last year, as part of a state-wide grassroots effort to let the legislature know how Vermonters feel, 36 Vermont town meetings voted resoundingly to say forty years of Vermont Yankee are enough. The resolutions these Vermont towns passed asked the legislature not to grant approval for operation of Vermont Yankee after 2012. The resolutions also asked the legislature to hold the Entergy Corporation, which purchased Vermont Yankee in 2002, responsible to fully fund the plant's clean-up and decommissioning when the reactor closes, as the corporation pledged to do when it purchased Vermont Yankee in 2002. These Vermont towns also put on record that non-nuclear energy solutions are available for our state that make sense, are possible, and will greatly increase our safety and well being.
Town meeting votes provide a powerful way to counter Entergy Corporation’s highly paid lobbyists. In March of 2010 Vermont towns again have the chance to consider whether Vermont Yankee should get a 20 year extension. If your town has not yet voted, please consider giving a bit of your time and join with neighbors to help make your town's voice heard on this vital issue. In our small state, our voices and our town meeting votes do make a difference, and closing Vermont Yankee is a cause worth working for.
Vermont Yankee is one of the oldest still-operating nuclear power plants in the world. Its technology is not just obsolete. It is unsafe. Demonstrating its own lack of confidence, Entergy Corporation recently attempted to set up a separate limited liability corporation to shield itself from liability. Entergy Corporation is the company that allowed its subsidiary in New Orleans to go bankrupt to save its corporate money after Hurricane Katrina.
A coalition of groups is working to encourage more town meeting votes in 2010. The coalition includes the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG), Citizens Action Network (CAN), the Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Alliance (VYDA), Nuclear Free, the Sierra Club, and Toxics Action Center. The campaign is being coordinated by Dan DeWalt, a former selectboard member from Newfane VT. If you are interested in helping put a town meeting vote on the warning in your town contact Dan at email@example.com or through http://www.replaceVY.org or by calling him at 348-7701 to see how you can get started.
Please don't let Entergy's corporate lobbyists be the only voices our state representatives hear. Thank you very much.
For a safe energy future,
Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Company
Jerry Greenfield, co-founder of Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Company
David Blittersdorf, founder of NRG Systems in Hinesburg and CEO/President of Earth Turbines in Williston, founding member and past chair of Renewable Energy Vermont (REV), member of the Board of Advisors for the University of Vermont Rubenstein School of Natural Resources, the Vermont Manufacturing Extension Center (VMEC), and the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Sheila and Jeffrey Hollender, Jeffrey is Executive Chairperson of Seventh Generation, Inc.
Will Rapp, founder and former President of Gardener's Supply Company in Burlington
Melinda Moulton, co-developer of Main Street Landing in Burlington, Chair of VBSR Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Policy Team
Michael Granger, real estate broker and founder of Granger Real Estate in Newfane, Vermont
Nancy Braus, owner, Everyones' Books, Brattleboro
Margo Baldwin, President and Publisher, Chelsea Green Publishing, White River Junction, Vermont
Michael and Ellen Tenney, Brattleboro Books, Brattleboro
Spence Putnam, consultant and adjunct professor, Green Mountain College online MBA program in Sustainable Business, former Executive Director, Vermont Business for Social Responsibility, former General Manager of Danforth Pewterers in Middlebury, Vermont, and former Vice President of Operations at the Vermont Teddy Bear Company.
Beth Humstone, former Executive Director of the Vermont Forum on Sprawl (now Smart Growth Vermont), Director of U.S. Programs for the Institute for Sustainable Communities, Chair of the Board of the Vermont Housing and Conservation Trust Fund and President of the national Growth Management Leadership Alliance.
Crea and Phil Lintilhac, officers of the Lintilhac Foundation
Elizabeth Skarie, psychologist, board member of the Vermont Natural Resources Council
Elizabeth Courtney, Executive Director, Vermont Natural Resources Council
James Moore, clean energy advocate, VPIRG
Paul Burns, Executive Director, VPIRG
Todd Bailey, Executive Director, Vermont League of Conservation Voters
Jay Craven, film director and Professor of Film Studies, Marlboro College
Bess O'Brien, screen writer, film producer, and film director
Philip Baruth, novelist, commentator for Vermont Public Radio, author of the Vermont Daily Briefing, and Professor of English at the University of Vermont
Phil Hoff, former Governor of Vermont
Anthony Pollina, Progressive Party candidate for Governor, 2008
Dan Dewalt, former selectboard member, Newfane
James Marc Leas, attorney, S. Burlington
Mary Sullivan, Burlington, Vermont
Todd Lockwood, Vermont writer/photographer