Vernon Planning and Economic Development Commission: Helping Re-Energize Vermont

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  April 27, 2017

Last week, an op-ed by the Vernon Planning and Economic Development Commission was published in several media, including the Times Argus, Rutland Herald, and True North Reports, citing the economic benefits of a successful transaction on the Vermont Yankee/NorthStar deal.

An excerpt of the op-ed can be read below. To read the full text, visit one of the links above.

“There is one other major prerequisite for micro-grid (or any other) redevelopment of the Vermont Yankee site: the planned sale to NorthStar Services Group needs to be approved by the Vermont Public Service Board, and the NRC. If the sale is approved, the site may be available for redevelopment as soon as 2026 – just nine years. On the other hand, failure to approve the sale means the site likely won’t be redeveloped for about 50-60 years, per Entergy’s existing plan.”

Supporters of the NorthStar sale are encouraged to attend the May 25 U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) public meeting May 25 in the Brattleboro area. The specific time and location will be announced soon. Also, supporters may comment on the proposed sale at the Vermont Public Service Board comment link, ePSB.

Governor Scott mentions NRC meeting as a milestone in his first 100 days

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  April 21, 2017

On Tuesday morning, April 18, I attended a weekly press conference held by Governor Phil Scott on the milestones achieved during the first 100 days of his administration. One of the mentioned highlights was the negotiation of a joint Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)/Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel meeting, scheduled for Thursday, May 25, to discuss the sale of Vermont Yankee to NorthStar.

The following statement regarding the meeting was published in an April 18 press release distributed by the Governor’s office:

“Following through on a commitment to listen to, and respect the will of communities in Public Service Board proceedings, attorneys at the PSD are reaching out to communities to understand concerns in cases and filings and to provide help to citizens who are trying to participate. PSD helped persuade the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to attend a public meeting later this year where local communities will have a chance to directly relay concerns to the NRC about the decommissioning of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station in Vernon.”

The time and location of the May 25 meeting are to be determined. We will share this information with you as soon as we receive it. We encourage you to attend this important discussion on the NorthStar/Vermont Yankee sale, to both learn about and comment on its economic and environmental opportunities for Vermont.

NorthStar/Vermont Yankee Sale Questions Answered

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  April 21, 2017

The proposed Vermont Yankee transaction between Entergy and NorthStar has raised questions for many Vermonters, including the details of decommissioning and the economic savings under NorthStar. For better understanding of the project, see the following FAQ’s, provided by project partner AREVA:

Decommissioning Vermont Yankee

The Vermont Energy Partnership is also available to answer your questions on the proposed sale of Vermont Yankee and the many benefits this transaction could bring to Vermont.

Vermont Yankee Sale Garners Statewide Support before PSB

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  April 14, 2017

On Thursday, April 6, 2017, the Vermont Energy Partnership attended the Vermont Public Service Board (PSB)’s informational session and public hearing on the NorthStar Certificate of Public Good (CPG). About 40 VTEP supporters came out that evening to listen to NorthStar CEO Scott State and Entergy Vice President Mike Twomey introduce the proposed sale. Interested parties also had the opportunity to ask their questions concerning the sale at that time.

NorthStar CEO Scott State and Entergy Vice President Mike Twomey

Following the informational hearing, PSB members Margaret Cheney and Sarah Hofmann heard testimonies from 21 speakers, including VTEP leaders Brad Ferland and Guy Page. Others testifying in support of the sale included Tim Smith of the Franklin County Industrial Development Corp. and Ben Kingsley of the Campaign for Vermont.

“We have had the opportunity to meet with NorthStar officials and hear their explanation of how they plan to operate in Vermont and decommission Vermont Yankee. The workflow and process as experts at decommissioning is exciting both in terms of a timeline, but also for the economic boost it will bring to Windham County.”  – Brad Ferland, President, VTEP

“This is a statewide issue and also very much a Vernon thing. I used to be a roofer, and what I told my workers is, ‘the job isn’t done when the shingles are on the roof. The job is done when the nails are picked up.’” – Guy Page, Communications Director, VTEP

“This is a hot issue but it’s one we can put behind us. If it fits, let’s move this forward.” – Tim Smith, Franklin County Industrial Development Corp.

About 110 Vernon residents and interested parties attended.

The next Public Service Board hearing on the sale will be held in September, 2017. A Vermont public meeting including the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has been tentatively scheduled for early May. Meanwhile, interested parties are invited to submit your  supporting the NorthStar CPG through the link here. Be sure to reference PSB Docket #8880 or Vermont Yankee in the Subject line.

NRC to Discuss Vermont Yankee Sale at 1/26 NDCAP

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  January 17, 2017

Staff from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will preview the upcoming licensing process of the proposed sale of Vermont Yankee to NorthStar at the Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens’ Advisory Panel at Brattleboro Middle School on Thursday, January 26, 6-9 PM.

Representatives from Entergy and the State of Vermont will also give an overview of the Vermont Public Service Board Certificate of Public Good process for the proposal.

The VTEP staff and leadership fully support the sale as proposed. Both the federal (NRC) and state (PSB) regulatory hearings will provide opportunities for interested Vermonters to express comments and ask questions through email, letters, and in person. In the coming months, VTEP will provide contact and issues information to help interested Vermonters express their views.

The agenda for the January 26 meeting is available at the website for the Vermont Department of Public Service.

PSB General Counsel to serve as Commissioner of Public Service

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  January 9, 2017

Hours before taking the Oath of Office on Thursday January 5, Gov. Phil Scott (R-VT) announced the appointment of June Tierney as his first Commissioner of the Department of Public Service.

According to her biography on the Vermont Bar Association website, June Tierney has a varied and accomplished legal career, an undergraduate degree in journalism, and was a U.S. Army officer prior to becoming a lawyer:

“June Tierney has served on the staff of the Vermont Public Service Board since 2008, first as a hearing officer, and more recently as the general counsel to the Board. Prior to working at the Board, June served as an attorney in the Public Advocacy Division of the Vermont Department of Public Service (2001-2008). A 1986 graduate of Boston University (journalism) and a 1993 graduate of Vermont Law School, June began her legal career as a law clerk to Justice James L. Morse on the Vermont Supreme Court. Thereafter, she practiced law as an associate at Davis Polk & Wardwell in New York City (1994-1997), specializing in securities fraud litigation, white collar crime defense and corporate internal compliance investigations. Following her return to Vermont in 1997, June continued to litigate and to counsel clients on internal compliance matters in private practice (1997-2001). Prior to her career as a lawyer, June served four years on active duty as a commissioned officer in the United States Army, where she specialized in human resources management and developed a facility for parsing complex regulations for the benefit of soldiers in need of compassion and pragmatic solutions.”

Ms. Tierney also holds a Master’s Degree in organizational communications from Farleigh Dickinson University, and is listed as the clerk for the New England Conference of Public Utilities Commissioners (NECPUC). Former Public Service Commissioner Richard Saudek, in an online comment to the January 5, 2017 Vermont Digger story announcing her appointment, had high praise: “June Tierney is an outstanding choice. She’s thoughtful, objective and knowledgeable about public utilities regulation and energy and environmental policy,” he said.

Ms. Tierney, of Bethel, is well-acquainted with Vermont Yankee. As general counsel to the Vermont Public Service Board (PSB) since 2012, she advised the PSB as it presided over Docket 8300, Vermont Yankee’s application for a Certificate of Public Good for dry cask storage of the fuel in the shutdown reactor.  Now she will step into a new role, representing the interests of the State and Gov. Phil Scott in PSB docket 8800, the proposed sale of Vermont Yankee to NorthStar, a New York-based plant decommissioning company.

Sale of VY to NorthStar looks better and better

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  December 21, 2016

What could be better than having the Vermont Yankee site ready for redevelopment in 15 years? Answer: having it ready in 10 years.

According to the Dec. 20 Brattleboro Reformer, the proposed buyer of Vermont Yankee can complete its decommissioning and site restoration work by as soon as 2026 – just 10 years from now. At that point, the highly valuable site will be ready for tax-paying, job-creating redevelopment..

Proposals for the Vermont Yankee site at this early date include a multi-energy source “microgrid” to power Vernon and surrounding towns, and a computer data center. The emergence of a major new employer in Vernon within 10 years is encouraging news to Windham County. As proposed, the $800 million decommissioning job would begin in less than five years, and would itself provide a major stimulant to the regional economy.

The State of Vermont, NorthStar and Entergy must still resolve questions about the scope of site restoration. Failure to do so could jeopardize the whole deal. Let’s hope the major players have made New Year’s resolutions to reach a fair, flexible site restoration agreement.


Energy-minded Vermonters needed to serve on state boards and commissions

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  December 9, 2016

WANTED – Vermonters who care about clean, safe, affordable, reliable energy policy to serve on state boards and commissions.

There is no such actual classified advertisement, but there COULD be, because right now the State of Vermont is looking hard for interested Vermonters to serve on the state’s many boards and commissions that deal directly or indirectly with energy siting, transmission, and conservation. Some are paid; most are volunteer (except for the free food and travel stipend). Some are advisory, others are quasi-judicial. Some are very high-profile and intensive – for example, a new Chair of the Vermont Public Service Board will be appointed in March, 2017. Others are quarterly gatherings with very little “heavy lifting.”

Energy is ubiquitous – it is everywhere and it affects everything. There are dozens of boards and commissions addressing issues such as energy, natural resources, planning, development, workforce training, conservation, and higher education. As a VTEP member, you have already demonstrated an interest in state energy policy. If you are interested in taking it to the next level and serving your fellow Vermonters on a board or commission, or even as a state employee, go to the Transition Team website established by Governor-elect Phil Scott.

On this site, you will find a long list of state boards and commissions. Click on one, and you will learn what it does, how often it meets, the length of terms and availability of seats – everything you need to know. Governor-elect Scott has stated plainly that he is looking for new blood and good ideas, and he doesn’t care what party you vote for or who you know or whether you have served in state government before. So if you have a passion for energy policy – or almost anything else affected by state government – chances are there is a board or commission of interest for you.

Happy hunting!

Since Election Day, future of Vermont wind power less certain

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  December 2, 2016

Election Day, November 8, 2016, was bleak for the future of ridgeline wind power in Vermont. The outcome of local, state and national voting signaled a vote of no confidence in the growth of utility-scale wind power in the Green Mountain State.

Local voting
Iberdrola, developers of the 24 turbine Styles Brook project, promised host towns Grafton and Windham there would be no development without voter approval by referendum. On November 8, Grafton voted 235-158 and Windham 180-101 against construction, and Iberdrola has said it will honor its commitment.

Local Vetoes a Harbinger
The Windham-Grafton vote was the latest in a line of anti-wind development referenda. Unimpressed by the 2016 Vermont Legislature’s conditional gift of a little more say in the energy siting process, municipalities are now bypassing Montpelier. If this trend of “permission by referendum” continues, towns will have carved out a local veto power for themselves over ridgeline wind development. A new precedent is being set. This is Vermont, after all. One way or another, local people will jealously protect their control of the landscape.

State Results
During the governor’s race, candidate Phil Scott promised a moratorium on ridgeline wind development if elected governor. His opponent, Democrat Sue Minter, did not. Voters chose Scott by a nine-point margin. Minter even lost hometown Waterbury, where just 34 percent of residents (Waterbury Town Plan, page 65) support local utility-scale wind power. Of course, many others issues stirred voters, but the unpopularity of instate ridgeline wind power cannot be denied.

Statewide Policy
Gov. Scott is expected to keep his promise of a moratorium. He will almost certainly appoint a like-minded commissioner to lead the Department of Public Service, the state’s energy regulator. Most importantly, the term of Vermont Public Service Board Chairman James Volz expires in March 2017. Under his watch, ridgeline wind projects in Lowell, Georgia and Sheffield were approved and constructed. Governor-elect Scott’s choice to chair the PSB is anyone’s guess, but the logical choice would be a fellow ridgeline wind skeptic.

National Outlook
President-elect Donald Trump has said wind power kills too many eagles and is an inefficient energy source, according to many media outlets. Trump also publicly called global warming a hoax and said he would restore the U.S. coal industry. In December 2015, he lost a lengthy battle to stop a wind turbine project offshore from his Scotland gold course.

Long-Term Outlook
The wind industry can be thankful that Congress extended the 2.3 cent/kilowatt-hour Production Tax Credit in 2015, even though it drops 20% every year and expires in 2019. In an impromptu interview with VTEP in Montpelier on November 22, U.S. Congressman Peter Welch said the Republicans who now control both houses of Congress “hate renewables” and that Trump supports fossil fuels. Wind power backers should not expect any new help from Congress or the new administration, he said.

This is especially likely to be true if Trump’s next Secretary of the Energy is his energy advisor, Oklahoma billionaire Harold Hamm. According to a November 19 Forbes article citing him as a leading DOE Secretary candidate, Hamm is the son of a poor sharecropper who built a trucking empire and then earned another fortune by hydrofracking oil and natural gas. Far from supporting wind subsidies, Hamm says wind should be taxed similarly to oil and gas – two percent on production in the first three years, and seven percent thereafter.

None of these local, state and national developments mean ridgeline wind has no future in Vermont. What government giveth, it taketh away, and may someday giveth back again. Thus, the next two state and federal election cycles may have different results. Still, one must wonder about the long-term sustainability of an industry that must rely not only on the ever-changing winds of nature, but also on the fickle winds of government.

Who is NorthStar?

Posted by: Vermont Energy Partnership Staff    Posted date:  November 22, 2016

On Tuesday, November 8, Entergy announced plans to sell Vermont Yankee to NorthStar, a NYC-based demolition and remediation company with extensive experience in nuclear reactor decommissioning and site restoration.  The sale is expected to be finalized by 2018 and requires prior approval of both the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Vermont Public Service Board. Both bodies are expected to rule on the proposed sale during 2017 following a lengthy hearing process.

The Vermont Yankee Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel (NDCAP) will hold an informational meeting on the proposed sale 6 P.M. December 1 at the Brattleboro Middle School All Purpose Room. Representatives from both Entergy and NorthStar are expected to attend and discuss the proposal.

Vermonters know plenty about Entergy, but relatively little about the proposed buyer. Who is NorthStar?

Based in New York City, NorthStar was formed in April, 2014 by the merger of two leading U.S. demolition and remediation companies, according to its website: “With combined annual gross revenues approaching $600 million and nearly 50 offices nationwide, NorthStar will be the foremost provider of environmental remediation, deconstruction and demolition, nuclear decommissioning, emergency response and asset recovery management.” (NorthStar statement, April 24, 2014)

The NorthStar job portfolio reports decommissioning and site restoration at the following reactor sites:

  • Federal nuclear research reactor in Omaha, Nebraska – NorthStar was selected as the prime contractor to decommission the A.J. Blotcky Reactor Facility (AJBRF) within the Omaha Veterans’ Affairs Medical Center. The work was completed and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) license was formally terminated in July, 2016. The Veterans’ Affairs Medical Center will continue to function as a hospital post-decommissioning. The owner plans to re-purpose the current AJBRF areas for storage, laboratory space, and/or staff offices.
  • University of Illinois Mark II reactor research facility – NorthStar dismantled, removed, and packaged the reactor, systems, and structures and decontaminated and removed radiologically contaminated surfaces, components, and debris with unrestricted site release. The NRC license was terminated in 2013.
  • University of Arizona reactor and Nuclear Reactor Laboratory (NRL) – NorthStar dismantled the reactor, ancillary support systems, removed all radioactive materials from the NRL, and reduced the radioactivity to levels that permitted release of the licensed area for unrestricted use. The NRC License was terminated in 2012.
  • University of Washington nuclear reactor – NorthStar removed and disposed of all hazardous and radioactive materials above unrestricted release limits to allow the University to terminate its NRC license for the training reactor, which operated from 1961 to 1988.

Each of these jobs was completed without any NRC or Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) safety violations, NorthStar said.

  Vermont Energy Partnership © 2016