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February 25, 2010

VIDEO: Why Sen. Phil Scott Voted to Relicense Vermont Yankee

DSC05444 As Vermont state senators debated whether to re-license the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, young pages buzzed around the chamber delivering pink slips of paper to senators.

Many of the notes were last-second messages from constituents, phoning the Capitol to urge their senators to vote 'yes' or 'no' on the most anticipated and important vote of the 2010 session.

State Sen. Phil Scott (R-Washington) collected a thick stack of "While You Were Out" slips with constituent messages like "Unsafe," "Vote Against Re-licensing" and "Urging You to Close Vermont Yankee."

In the end, however, Scott (pictured) followed his conscience and voted in favor of extending the troubled nuke plant's operating license for an additional 20 years past its 2012 expiration date. He called the vote a "blatant political maneuver" by Democrats who control the state Senate.

He was one of only four senators to vote in favor of Vermont Yankee. Re-licensing went down on a 26-4 vote.

"I'm sure it's unpopular and it might be political suicide, but I just didn't feel we were ready to make a vote today, based on what we know and don't know," Scott said after the vote.

Scott, a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor in 2010, offered one of several amendments during debate aimed at delaying the vote on re-licensing. He wanted to send the question back to the Senate Economic Development Committee for more consideration about the impact closing the plant would have on jobs and the local economy. The amendment was voted down overwhelmingly. Even the economic development committee's chairman, Sen. Vince Illuzzi (R-Essex/Orleans) voted against his committee spending more time on the subject.

Scott said there was "a lot of pressure" from constituents and others sending him emails and calling by phone, urging him to vote against the plant. "I was concerned about the process from the beginning, that it was rushed to the floor," Scott said.

"I'd like to  know more about the tritium leak," Scott said, referring to the radioactive, potentially cancer-causing isotope leaking into Vermont Yankee's monitoring wells. "That may answer everything.  And maybe that's why it was rushed, because if we get the answer, the underground piping at Vermont Yankee is so poor that maybe it's going to warrant shutting down Vermont Yankee immediately. And I just don't know. But I think we'll  know sooner rather than later."

When the roll call came, Scott voted "no with comment." After the vote was tallied, he rose to explain his vote. He was the only senator to do so. Video below:

It would seem that if Phil Scott wants us to believe in his "let's not rush" line of thinking, he should have abstained from voting at all. Otherwise, he's just being reckless by both demanding that the process slow down so more information can be obtained AND voting to keep the plant open for 20 more years.

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