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July 06, 2011

No Charges Filed Against Entergy for Misleading Regulators About Vermont Yankee

Photo* Update below: Reaction from Gov. Peter Shumlin *

Attorney General Bill Sorrell said  Entergy Vermont Yankee personnel repeatedly misled state officials regarding the existence of underground and buried piping that carried radionuclides, but his office lacked "compelling evidence" that the company's actions constituted a crime.

"We demonstrate in our report today that, in our view, Entergy and certain of its personnel were at best untrustworthy," said Sorrell (pictured at podium) at a late morning news conference. "We lack the smoking gun evidence that this untrustworthy behavior was criminal."

Sorrell issued an eight-page report outlining his office's investigation. The report includes emails and other correspondence between Entergy officials. Click here to read the report.

Sorrell said the 18-month investigation, requested by former Gov. Jim Douglas and other legislative leaders, cost taxpayers a minimum of $100,000.

Was it worth it?

"Absolutely," said Sorrell, even though no charges are being brought. "Any prominent Vermont company that offers repeatedly misleading information deserves to have that conduct scrutinized."

Entergy officials were pleased with the outcome of today's decision and acknowledged that some of their own employees were punished internally for their roles in the misleading statements.

"We take our responsibility to deal openly and honestly with stakeholders very seriously. Some employees failed to live up to our highest expectations and values, and after our own internal investigations, we took disciplinary action against them over a year ago," said Rob Williams, an Entergy Vermont Yankee spokesman. "As the attorney general himself stated, we cooperated fully during his investigation, providing tens of thousands of pages of documents and full access to all relevant information and employees."

The state investigation, led by Assistant Attorney General John Treadwell, did not find evidence of a conspiracy to purposefully mislead the public and regulators, or evidence that their actions rose to the level of perjury or false swearing.

"If they really did lie, why?" Sorrell said his team asked. "What was the advantage to them to lie about the existence of this piping? One theory is they were concerned about the size of the decommissioning fund, and admitting to the existence of these pipes, maybe that would cause legislators and others to up the amount of the decommissioning fund."

Sorrell said after reviewing more than two million documents and interviewing dozens of people, he called Entergy's actions in this case "more incompetence than malevolence."

Sorrell said he felt that Entergy officials were "too cute" in their answers to public officials, state regulators and others and didn't pay close enough attention to simply answering questions fully.

The probe was launched in early 2010 after tritium began leaking at Vermont Yankee into surrounding groundwater and, eventually, the Connecticut River. In all, three separate tritium leaks pushed hundreds of thousands of gallons of tritiated water into the soil. Since then, Vermont Yankee has pumped out thousands of gallons of water as part of a remediation plan.

At the time of the leaks, questions were raised by lawmakers, the governor and nuclear watchdogs about whether Entergy Vermont Yankee deliberately misled the Vermont Public Service Board, the Public Service Department, lawmakers and a special legislative oversight panel about the existence of underground piping.

Entergy hired an outside law firm to conduct an internal investigation. As a result of that review, some employees were put on administrative leave and others faced unspecificied sanctions, the company said.

Entergy is currently suing the state of Vermont to keep Vermont Yankee open beyond March 2012, when its state license expires. The lawsuit seeks to overturn a 26-4 vote by the Vermont Senate last year that blocked the plant owners from bringing a re-licensing application to the Public Service Board. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission earlier this year granted Entergy the right to keep the nearly 40-year-old plant running until 2032.

The takeaway from today's decision by Sorrell to not prosecute may be simple: Crime doesn't pay; misleading state regulators pays.

In the past two weeks, both Entergy and Burlington Telecom have been given scoldings from top prosecutors rather than an arrest warrant and a court date. Last week, Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan decided against bringing "neglect of duty" charges against Burlington officials; a second state's attorney decided not to bring "false claims" charges against others — including a politically-connected Burlington law firm — involved in a financing deal with CitiCapital.

* Update *

Statement from Gov. Peter Shumlin:

“I know that the Attorney General’s office worked very hard on this complicated investigation into whether Entergy Louisiana officials broke the law when they misled state officials regarding leaking underground piping at Vermont Yankee. I respect the Attorney General’s conclusion. However, the facts are not altered by this legal analysis. The fact is that Entergy Louisiana officials said — under oath — that there were no underground pipes when there were. The fact is that radioactive tritium leaked from these undisclosed underground pipes. We expect our businesses to act in a credible and trustworthy manner. Although the Attorney General has decided not to pursue charges here, his investigation clearly describes the pattern of misinformation by Entergy Louisiana. These facts and others lead to the conclusion that Entergy Louisiana's business-as–usual is not how we expect businesses to act here in Vermont.”

Bad luck for Roger Clements that he didn't draw a prosecutor whose actions are determined more by incompetence than malevolence.

"Crime doesn't pay; misleading state regulators pays."

Oh my gosh, I didn't see such a comment on the corresponding BT story! Why is that? Oh, never mind.

And where's Shumlin's statement on the BT decision? I guess we don't expect our municipalities "to act in a credible and trustworthy manner."

Double standards - apparently, the order of the day.

So wait, the Democrats went soft on an issue they campaigned on? Hmmm, sounds familiar. The silence of the (Democratic) lambs continues.

No point in prosecuting these guys or BT for Sorrell, it would never make it to the Supreme Court and that's Sorrell's #1 priority.

OK wait a damn minute! Had these 'misleading' officials been successful in hiding the facts how many $billions would that have caused VT taxpayers in unanticipated clean up costs??? And HOW is that not a theft of servics crime??? Because they got caught before the crime had been commited??? Hello - RICO!! And lets just suppose the existance of the pipes didn't become known until after a large leak? A comspiracy to defraud that had the potantial to cause VT citizens $billions in public funds AND long term/permanant degradation of our environment isn't a crime in Bill Sorrels opinion? Reminds me of former US AG Mukasy's comment that "not all crimes are criminal". Eight wing trash like Bill Sorrel should be required to live in the homes nearest VT Yankee for the duration of their time in our state.

Umm Ted, you are aware that Sorrell is a loyal far left Democrat right?

"Had these 'misleading' officials been successful in hiding the facts how many $billions would that have caused VT taxpayers in unanticipated clean up costs???"

Exactly $0.00. You see there is the purposeful misrepresentation of what actually will occur at the time Vermont Yankee is decommissioned. What WILL happen is decomissioning will occur, AND Vermont Yankee WILL pay for it (regardless of what is actually in the decomissioning fund) to the satisfaction of the NRC. Consequentially, the NRC knows EXACTLY what pipes are where, what monitioring wells are where, and they also have the capability of testing the effluent/ground water/soil samples/ etc.

The idea that VY will leave the place in shambles is nothing more then political pandering to round up voters and perpetuate scary stories about nuclear power.

I think that if those Yankee pipes had been leaking sugared drinks instead of tritium, Sorrel would have sent the SWAT team in.

Umm Ted, you are aware that Sorrell is a loyal far left Democrat


Oh man, that's a good one.

"n an analysis of state attorneys general published in July 2010, Sorrell was named "The Nation's Sixth Worst Attorney General" by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). Basing their criteria on ethical breaches/selective application of the law, fabricating law, usurping legislative power, and predatory practices, the Vermont Attorney General, ..., received a letter grade of F in the last two categories; he narrowly missed acquiring the failing mark when it came to fabricating law, securing a letter grade of D-, and was given a middling letter grade of C- in the initial grouping. Sorrell was blasted by the CEI as "having done more damage to the fabric of the law" then any other state attorney general in the country"

Fabricating the law, selective application....all characteristics.

A far right-wing advocacy organization gave a Democrat a bad evaluation?

Wow! Shocking!

"CEI is supported by both conservative foundations and corporate funding. Known corporate funders in addition to ExxonMobil include the American Petroleum Institute, Cigna Corporation, Dow Chemical, EBCO Corp, General Motors, and IBM. One of CEI's prominent funders is conservative Richard Scaife who has provided money through the Carthage and Sara Scaife Foundations. CEI is also heavily supported by the various Koch brother foundations.

Shocking no, but if Sorrel were a right winger or even a moderate dem as Odum and Ted seem to be implying, would they have given him such a review? Of course not, thus corroborating, as you did, to my assertion that Billy bob is a card carrying Left Winger.

These right wing extremist groups routinely give harsh reviews to ANYONE who is a member of the Democratic Party, moderate or not.

Their sole mission is to trash Democrats and promote Republicans who back their extremist agenda.

It's silly to base our views on what the Kotch Brothers think and promote.

JCarter's statement may well be right as far as it goes: "What WILL happen is decommissioning will occur, AND Vermont Yankee WILL pay for it (regardless of what is actually in the decommissioning fund) to the satisfaction of the NRC."

BUT, there are two important nuances here. If the tritium leaks are cleaned up before the plant closes, there is no question where the money comes from: it comes from ENVY's operating funds (and/or assets), NOT the decommissioning fund.

However, if they're cleaned up afterwards, and the decommissioning fund proves inadequate, there will be lawsuits and uncertainty. With luck, JCarter will prove to be correct and the NRC will try to hold Entergy to its responsibilities. Doing that, however, will almost certainly require "piercing the corporate veil," since VY is actually owned by Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee, which has no assets other than the plant. Once the plant is closed and the decommissioning fund exhausted, there will, in fact, be NO assets. So either NRC will have to get past the corporate barrier to the parent corporation, or it will be left suing a dry hole.

In addition, the NRC is concerned ONLY with radiological decommissioning, NOT with restoring the site for other uses. If cleaning up unanticipated tritium leaks depletes the decommissioning fund, that money will not be available for site remediation, and Vermont taxpayers could well be left holding the bag.

"that money will not be available for site remediation, and Vermont taxpayers could well be left holding the bag."

Hogwash. After VY is decommissioned the land will still be owned by Entergy. If they sell it, it will be owned by some other private entity. The only way the tax payers are on the hook is of the state purchases the land as is.

As for what ENTERGY will do...well since thier business is based on getting plant relicensed, I suspect they will decomission them as asked to do so by the NRC. A refusal would likely result in the revocation or end to any future licensures. Their company is worth way more then a hundred Million.

@ one_vermonter:

"These left wing extremist groups routinely give harsh reviews to ANYONE who is a member of the Republican Party, moderate or not.
Their sole mission is to trash Republicans and promote Democrats who back their extremist agenda.
It's silly to base our views on what George Soros thinks and promotes."

Happy now? Congratulations, you've proven that you are capable of regurgitating Bernie's lines.

As for Sorrell, it's no so much about whether he's a far left Democrat, but about him being interested in one thing and one thing only: Sorrell's political career.

Yes, "Another" obviously there are left-wing groups that put out misinformation, too.

That's why, unlike JCarter, I don't use the propaganda of extremist groups (left, right or otherwise) to back up my arguments.

Use credible sources for your information, instead of wackos like CEI and the Koch brothers and you might be more able to form a persuasive argument.

I wasn't using it to establish a point or back on up. I was using it to illustrate that Sorrell is not a republican or even a middle of the road kind of guy. He is a democrat through and through. That was the only point. Sorrell is a democrat. Let me repeat that so you don't miss it as you did the first two times. A right wing based group slammed Billy, ergo, William is not a right winger or middle of the road kind of guy but a far left winger.

@ one_vermonter:

You say don't use the propaganda of extremist groups to back up your arguments, and then you exhort everyone to use credible sources?

First of all, in my view your original 10:21 anti-right-wing screed added nothing informative to the debate and was nothing more than a Bernie-esque left-wing "nyah nyah!" against the Right. And the anti-VY views you have expressed on this site time after time after time after time are perfect examples of left-wing anti-corporate talking points fed to their footsoldiers by doctrinaire anti-nuke extremists like Jim Moore and Arnie Gunderson and Bernie Sanders.

You are correct that the Koch brothers are right wing extremists, and not to be relied upon or emulated. But George Soros and Michael Moore and our own Jim Moore and Arnie Gunderson and Bernie Sanders are just as much left wing extremists. And you spout them.

Each side in American politics is convinced that they are right and rational and normal, and that the OTHER side is "extremist." Ultra-leftist Vermont suffers from the same hubris as everyone else: it thinks that its political orthodoxy (anti-business, anti-corporation, anti-military, anti-nuke, anti-US, anti-Israel, anti-religion) is "normal" and that everyone who doesn't agree is a "right wing extremist." Guess what? This is a mental disease. And it infects the Left just as much as it infects the Right. And a clever but ironic symptom of this disease is the delusion that you are not biased and indeed you are immune to bias, and that your viewpoint is based on your ability see things clearly and make rational, bias-free decisions, whereas your adversary is simply an unthinking fool. Hogwash. The fact that the Left predominates in Vermont only means that people with the same prejudices gather themselves here.

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