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March 03, 2009

TMD: Preliminary Vermont Yankee Roundup

Radioactive_2_2 [Ed. Note: This just in from Seven Days correspondent Anne Galloway...]

So far, 20 municipalities have passed a resolution demanding that the legislature refuse to approve continued operation of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant beyond its scheduled end date of 2012.
The nonbinding resolution that petitioners placed on town meeting day warnings in about 40 towns around the state also required that lawmakers hold Entergy Corporation, the owner of the plant, fully responsible for the cost of shutting down Vermont Yankee.

The Vernon-based plant has been plagued with safety problems (including the dramatic collapse of a cooling tower several years ago). The 38-year-old facility’s license to operate expires in 2012. The plant supplies 30 percent of Vermont’s power, according to VY officials. Entergy, which purchased the VY in 2002, is seeking a new license to continue operating the plant until 2032.  

These towns have passed the resolution so far: Brookline, Calais, Charleston, Charlotte, Corinth, Dummerston, East Montpelier, Greensboro, Hinesburg, Holland, Newfane, Plainfield, Putney, Richmond, Townshend, Warren, Westfield, Westminster, Woodbury and Worcester.

In most towns, the resolution was presented in three parts: The first asks the legislature to recognize that Vermont Yankee accounts for 2 percent of New England’s power supply and that the electricity the plant generates can be replaced with renewable energy sources, energy conservation and excess power already available in the regional market; the second asks lawmakers to deny approval of the plant’s continued operation beyond March 2012; and the third holds Entergy responsible for the clean up of VY after it is shut down.

The town of Bolton rejected the first two portions of the resolution, but passed the third unanimously, according to Dan Dewalt the organizer for Replace VY, the group behind the grassroots petition drive.
Full town meeting day results and a more in-depth look at what Vermonters said about the resolution at town meeting will be posted later tonight.

-- Anne Galloway

I'm thrilled to see so many Vermonters coming to their senses about VY! Or perhaps they've been sensible all along and never had the opportunity to put it to vote on this matter. But, as Shay Totten wrote earlier tonight in 7d's live blog, we'll have to see which legislators represent these voters--and what they'll do about it in Montpelier. Hello?

To coin a phrase, I'm unthrilled to see so many Vermonters taking leave of their senses about VY!

What information did these people have at their disposal when they voted? What reports had they read? What plans did each of them have for replacing the 1/3 of our electricity that we now get at 4.5 cents per kilowatt hour from the plant -- far, far below the prevailing New England spot market price?

Dan Dewalt's referendum was misleading. It says that VY only provides 2% of New England's electricity. How is that relevant to Vermonters -- the people who are voting? He left out the part about VY providing 30% of VERMONT'S electricity -- at a bargain basement price and with no greenhouse gas emissions. How many of the voters knew this information when they voted? Were they told exactly how CVPS, GMP, and the other utilities would get the replacement power and how much it would cost? Were they told that you can't put a wind turbine in your yard without PSB approval and a guarantee that a bunch of your neighbors will sue your ass in a heartbeat? Were they told that the environmentalists are making us take down all they hydrodams? Did Mr. Dewalt and his minions advocating for this measure in the towns provide an evenhanded presentation of the facts on both sides of the issue before asking the townspeople to vote?

And does a vote of collectively nothing more than a tiny, tiny subfraction of Vermont's elegibile voters mean anything? 90% of Vermonters didn't get to vote on this issue because most Vermonters had to work or couldn't or didn't want to go to town meeting. If it's a statewide referendum you want, a fairer vote would be in the ballot box during a general election.

And nevermind that there are numerous governmental agencies staffed by qualified, trianed, and experienced people, specifically set up to decide these issues (the Legislature, the Department of Public Service, the Public Service Board, the Legislature's and Governor's joint special safety commission, the NRC, etc.).

Will we decide all our complicated public policy issues by a last-minute, uninformed statewide popular vote and mob the Legislature with our demands? How about the death penalty? In the wake of the Brooke Bennett murder, are you willing to put that to a statewide vote and live with the results? Polls show that Vermonters favor it. Put that question to a popular vote and the death penalty will be the law of Vermont in a heartbeat. Gun ownership? Gay marriage, maybe?

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