Shumlin says Democrats will make Yankee decommissioning a campaign issue

05/02/08 5:50PM By Bob Kinzel
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AP Photo/Sandy Macys
Senate President Peter Shumlin and Gov. Jim Douglas at a 2007 news conference.
(Host) One of the biggest issues still to be resolved at the Statehouse is whether or not Governor Jim Douglas is going to sign legislation dealing with the decommissioning fund for the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant.

Senate President Peter Shumlin says Democrats will make this issue a top priority in the fall campaign if the governor vetoes the bill. VPR's Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The legislation has been passed by both the House and the Senate and is now sitting on the governor's desk.

Backers of the bill say it's needed because the company that currently owns Vermont Yankee, the Entergy Corporation, wants to sell the plant and some of its other nuclear plants in the Northeast to a new company.

If the sale goes through, the bill requires the new company to take out a line of credit to ensure that there will be enough money in the plant's decommissioning fund to dismantle the facility in a reasonable time period after it closes down.

Supporters of the bill are concerned that if something happens to the new company, and it goes bankrupt before the decommissioning fund is full, that Vermont taxpayers will be on the hook for these costs.

Speaking on VPR's Vermont Edition, Senate President Peter Shumlin says the bill is designed to protect taxpayers.

(Shumlin) ``All this bill says is before you spin off to a new entity you wish to create, make sure that we have a financial guarantee, a financial instrument, a letter of credit that assures that the promise you made before is still kept. And that if there's not enough money in the decommissioning fund whenever the date comes that it's Entergy, which has deep pockets, that's on the hook for the money, not this new entity that may well be bankrupt."

(Kinzel) The governor argues that requiring this line of credit will result in higher costs for the company and that these costs will result in higher electric rates for Vermont consumers.

(Douglas) ``This is about ratepayers. It's about the cost of electricity. We've been very fortunate over the past couple of years in lowering, in relative terms, the cost of electricity compared to other Northeastern states. No matter what the details are of the corporate restructuring, we want to do what's best for the ratepayers of Vermont."

(Kinzel) Shumlin admits that Democrats don't have the votes to override a veto in both the Senate and the House. But he thinks it's a powerful issue for the upcoming gubernatorial campaign.

(Shumlin) ``Let's be thankful for democracy. The governor's running for re-election. I understand and I believe that if the governor does not sign this bill he is making a choice that will be extremely unpopular among all Vermonters."

(Kinzel) The governor does have a third option with this legislation. He could allow it to become law without his signature. That's something that he's done a few times during his tenure as governor.

For VPR News, I'm Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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