Shumlin, Dubie Disagree On Meaning Of Senate's Vote On Yankee

10/12/10 5:51PM By John Dillon
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(Host) The future of Vermont Yankee continues to be a dominant issue in the governor's race - and a point of contention between the major party candidates.

Their differences are illustrated by the way each side characterizes a key Senate vote on Yankee last winter.

VPR's John Dillon looks back at the vote to unravel what it meant.

(Dillon) Democrats continue to pound Republican Brian Dubie on Vermont Yankee. Here's a piece from the latest TV ad, paid for in part by the Democratic Governor's Association.  

(Ad) Cooling tower collapsing, underground pipes leaking. When state lawmakers voted to close Vermont Yankee, Brian Dubie said he would have voted to keep it open.

(Dillon) But Dubie says the ads have it all wrong.

In debates and in interviews, he's said repeatedly that his statement in support of Yankee has been distorted and mischaracterized by the Democrats.

(Dubie) "Let's be really clear. The vote in the Vermont Senate was: Send this very technical question to the Public Service Board, still reserving the right, the possibility, that the General Assembly, after that analysis, could have voted up or down. The vote was not of continued operations for 20 years. The vote was, ‘Should the question be sent to the Public Service Board?'"

(Dillon) It wasn't a long bill, just two and a half pages. And the record shows it was written to allow Yankee to operate for another 20 years. Here's Dubie and a Senate clerk calling the bill up for debate on a snowy day last February.

(Senate) Dubie: "We have for second reading, S.289. Please listen to the second reading of the bill."

Clerk: "S.289. An act relating to approval for continued operation of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power station."

(Dillon) Vermont is the only state that gives the Legislature a say in nuclear plant licensing. Washington Senator Ann Cummings is a Democrat who chairs the Finance Committee, which wrote the bill. She says the legislation was clearly a vote on the future of Vermont Yankee, not to send the question to the Public Service Board.

(Cummings) The bill as it came out of the Finance Committee called for the re-licensing of Vermont Yankee. That bill was defeated 26 to 4. There was no reference to sending it to the Public Service Board. It was a defeat by the Senate, so it died there.

(Dillon) Senator Phil Scott - a Republican from Washington County - led the pro-Yankee forces in the debate last winter.

He argued that the bill was being rushed through for political purposes. Scott interprets the bill much as Brian Dubie does.

(Scott) "Really, we were just giving approval for it to go to the Public Service Board. I mean, that's really what the intent of a positive vote in both the House and Senate was supposed to do. But I know it was phrased different. It's convoluted in so many ways.

(Dillon) But Cummings, who managed the bill on the Senate floor, says that was not how she presented the Yankee legislation.

(Cummings) I reported the bill. And I never said anything like that. I never heard anything like that. So I don't see how anyone would understand it that way.

(Dillon) The Public Service Board is reviewing Vermont Yankee's request for a new license. State law says the board cannot grant a new license unless the Legislature approves. The issue may be revisited this winter.

For VPR News, I'm John Dillon in Montpelier.



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