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October 30, 2010

Vermont Yankee Sale: Trick or Treat?

IMG_1583 Talk about your October surprises: A blog post on the conservative website Vermont Tiger is alleging Democrat Peter Shumlin secretly favors relicensing the plant if it were sold to new owners and a power purchase agreement with Vermont utilities were in place.

Or so Shumlin allegedly said during a secret meeting with anonymous "businessmen" more than a month ago.

And this is news? An anonymously sourced blog post on a conservative website that consistently shills for Dubie is given credibility on at least two of the state's top TV stations by two of the better reporters? Really?

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy reading Vermont Tiger every day, even two or three times, for some insightful analysis and conservative perspective. But, given their Dubie drumbeat forgive me for being skeptical when they attempt to stray into the world of reportage.

True to fashion, however, Shumlin did little to kill the story. Instead, his nonanswers on WCAX and WPTZ in response to this anonymously sourced story only fueled the speculation that Shumlin might be OK with keeping Vermont Yankee open under certain circumstances.

Here's what he had to say on WCAX to reporter Kristin Carlson:

Carlson: "So, if you are elected governor, we won't be having a conversation at some point about you thinking Yankee should be relicensed with a new owner?"

Shumlin: "It will be highly unlikely."

Carlson: "So, highly unlikely, but that is not a yes or a no."

Shumlin: "You know I'm not trying to be evasive. What you have to understand about governors is, you have to lead and you have to deal with the facts we have before us. All the facts before me right now show me Vermont Yankee should be shut down in 2012."

Shumlin not trying to be evasive? Hmm. How uncharacteristic of him — or any politician.

On WPTZ, Stewart Ledbetter asked Shumlin if he would support VY's relicensure if the plant was under new ownership. "I can tell you that the chances of that happening are so remote that I don't deal with 'what ifs,'  replied Shumlin. "It's time to put the plan to sleep and move on to more renewable-energy sources."

The Clintonesque phrasing gave Dubie's camp an opportunity to pounce — once again — on the idea that Shumlin says different things to different groups.

“Peter Shumlin’s hypocrisy is mind boggling,” said Dubie campaign manager Corry Bliss. “Once again, Peter Shumlin seems to believe he can play by his own set of rules, saying one thing to one group and the exact opposite to another. He is promising everyone he will close Vermont Yankee, but telling business leaders who want to keep the plant open that he would not shut it down.”

Shumlin may have been less than forthcoming to the TV stations — at least in the portions of his interviews that were aired — but he was unequivocal during a live interview on Vermont Public Radio Friday.

"I don't know how many times I can say as clearly as I can say: Vermont Yankee is an old, tired nuclear-power plant that must be shut down in 2012," Shumlin told "Vermont Edition" host Jane Lindholm. "It's not an ownership issue."

When asked specifically if he thought Vermont Yankee should be shut down no matter who owns it, Shumlin replied, "Absolutely. And, I just want to ask you why this question is coming up now."

Good point.

If this alleged meeting happened in late September or early October, why is this "revelation" coming out just four days before the election? Could this be a precursor to Vermont Yankee announcing a potential sale or power deal with the state's utilities on Monday?

I dunno, I find it curious that these so-called businessmen were willing to talk to a pro-Dubie website anonymously but won't return reporters' phone calls.

(I wrote this post yesterday, and this morning Terri Hallenbeck over at the Free Press blog VtBuzz did talk to one of the folks in the meeting. He doesn't recall Shumlin wavering on VY.)

The meeting allegedly was held behind Sen. Dick Mazza's store in Colchester about a week after the recount. Mazza, who is now backing Shumlin because of Republican Brian Dubie's negative campaign tactics, was then neutral in the race.

Supposedly part of that meeting, along with Mazza, were David Coates, Glen Wright and several other prominent, Dubie-backing businessmen in Chittenden County. Neither Coates nor Wright have returned phone calls to Seven Days to offer their recollection of the meeting. Ditto Mazza.

Shumlin told Seven Days he doesn't even remember the question coming up at the meeting. "If it did come up, I probably said what I always say, which is that it's time to retire this old clunker. It's not about ownership, it's about an aging reactor. It's one of four water-cooled reactors that were built at the same time, and the other four have been dismantled."

The three closed reactors are Connecticut Yankee, Yankee Rowe and Maine Yankee.

In a race this close, every vote will count, so, could Shumlin lose some of his core antinuke support? Not likely.

So far, his environmentalist allies are sticking by Shumlin's version of events and don't believe he would double talk on an issue that has been central to his legislative agenda and campaign.

Why would he, wondered Todd Bailey, executive director of the Vermont League of Conservation Voters. "To what, convince 12 people to vote for him? This might be close, but not that close. I have to call into question any report where no one will go on the record, and the senator who was present says that, to his knowledge, the conversation did not even occur.

"In October, with Halloween just around the corner, there are tricks and there are political treats," added Bailey. " This one has to fall into the political-trick category, and Vermonters know better.  Peter has been very clear on his position to retire Vermont Yankee as scheduled."

As to whether a sale or power purchase deal are in the works, Vermont's utilities and Entergy officials are both mum on the subject.

"As we said when we rejected their public offer of 6.1 cents earlier this year, we'll continue to talk as long as relicensing remains a possibility and there is any hope of a favorable deal for Vermont," said Steve Costello, spokesman for Central Vermont Public Service, the state's largest utility. "I can't predict when or if we'll be successful. Beyond that, we're bound by a confidentiality agreement."

Costello said that agreement binds CVPS and Green Mountain Power from divulging if the companies have even met with Entergy.

"In the meantime, of course, we've been looking at all kinds of alternatives and have signed numerous contracts for other power supplies to diversify our mix," Costello said.

Shumlin was in Bradford yesterday. A friend asked him point blank about this supposed "support for relicensing" at a "secret meeting."

His reply: Absolutely not.

Corry Bliss has had a little difficulty with the truth in this election cycle, so I wouldn't be surprised if this were just more of the same. It's so sad to see these out-of-state tactics injected into our little state. They are tiresome and utterly transparent. It'll be nice when it's over. I certainly hope that future candidates running for office in VT think twice before dragging that kind of professional out-of-state sleaze-machine into our politics.

Too funny: you're complaining about 'out-of-state tactics," on behalf of Shumlin, one of the greatest political hucksters and frauds Vermont has ever seen.

A summation, unfortunately it cannot be brief, and please excuse any spelling errors.
While not a Shumlin fan of any sort here I believe he threw down the gauntlet with his proposol to shut down Vt. Yankee in his legislative move.He gambled,( as Bob Seger would sing you got to know when to Ramble, you gotta know when to gamble)Peter became the ramblin gamblin man.
While I really dont think he had a plan to provide energy he gambled on what at the time could prove to be a decisive move.(I do not agree with what he did or what the legislature approved but he had the stones to throw down the gauntlet and let it be an important factor in his race for governor.( Of course he is the same legislator that was involved with Sen. Bartlett in the ill conceived under the table workings of the budget deal that will put the health of our wildlife at risk for many years. A stoneless move.(Another Pete only that one is a moose).
While I urged at the start of this race for the candidates to stop the were all friends here approach and get down to business, for one time I guess politicians listened and took it to extremes, and loaded their mud pies with cement.
Their is one possibilty of a big winner in this race and that could be Dick Mazza.
He at the end as the noted peacemaker of Montpelier will have his hands totally challenged in getting us back on course to civility. Back room meetings at the store may not be the best method as it hints of executive session meeting that we are so familiar with in Burlington, and many communities of Vt.
With everything said, as previously stated I am not a big Shumlin fan and will cast a timid vote for Dubie, while holding his feet to the fire like no other governor before.

Anyone who's been following Shumlin's career for even a short period of time knows that he's legendary for saying opposite things to different people, and he has no qualms about it. It is not at all difficult to believe, and in fact entirely plausible, that he said what VT Tiger says.

It is also of course entirely predictable that he would deny it, and entirely predictable that the businesspeople in the meeting would not want to go on record.

Shumlin confirmed the story in his answers to PTZ and CAX. I know you did your best to spin this away, but it's not going to work. Shumlin's full of shit, and Dubie just won.

BTW, "so-called businessmen"? Could you possibly be any more obvious?

"a conservative website that consistently shills for Dubie"

So it is appropriate to call what you do "shilling for Shumlin"?

And are you suggesting that Tiger just made this up out of thin air?

Gimme a break.

You know it's true,

Yeah Sean we get it. You hate Shumlin. It's funny to see you attack Seven Days for asking a tough question about Vermont Tiger, but have no trouble accepting the Tiger version of events. Just because you don't like Shumlin doesn't make him a fraud. You and your little buddies over at Vermont Tiger will have to come up with some better lies if you want to derail his victory on Tuesday. But hurry up buddy, you're running out of time.

You know it's true,

"asking a tough question about Vermont Tiger"

What was that, exactly? Surely you're not referring to the screechy, desperate flailing masquerading as a blog post above.

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