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Entergy Corp. and the state of Vermont have reached a settlement agreement that will end the long-running legal disputes over the company's retiring Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, the two parties said in a statement Dec. 23.
The agreement could end a fractured relationship in which Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin has opposed the nuclear plant at every turn and Entergy has struck back in court, alleging in multiple lawsuits that the company was being singled out unfairly and the state was overstepping its authority.
In one suit, for example, Entergy had accused the state of essentially trying to "blackmail" the company by imposing levies on generation that applied only to Vermont Yankee.
Under the terms of the settlement, all ongoing litigation between the state and Entergy will be ended and the state will support the Vermont Public Service Board issuing a certificate of public good that will allow the plant to operate until its current fuel cycle ends in late 2014.
In return, Entergy will pay $10 million in economic development in Windham County, Vt., where the plant is located, $5.2 million for a clean energy development fund, $5 million for transitional tax payments and $25 million for a fund to restore the site after decommissioning.
The agreement also provides that Entergy move to decommission the plant as soon as is feasible with the funds already set aside by the company. Previously, Entergy had indicated it would decommission the plant over a period of 60 years using the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's SAFSTOR process.
"Our agreement today is guided by principles that reflect Entergy VY's desire for spent nuclear fuel to be moved from the spent fuel pool to dry cask storage in a timely manner, and that the decommissioning process should occur without unreasonable delay as soon as there are sufficient funds in the Nuclear Decommissioning Trust to complete decommissioning and remaining spent fuel management activities," Entergy Wholesale Commodities President Bill Mohl said in the statement.
With the settlement, Entergy expects to be able to move all of Vermont Yankee's spent fuel to dry casks by 2021, he said.
Previously, Entergy had won victories at both the federal district court and appeals court levels in its lawsuit arguing that the state cannot legally require Vermont Yankee to shut down without approval that the state was not willing to give. The district court decision allowed the plant to survive a March 31, 2012, deadline for that state approval.
But the plant ultimately will be shut down because of economics more than politics. In August, Entergy announced it would retire the plant because it was not making enough money in the wholesale market.
Another battle that is now ending is over Vermont Yankee's certificate, needed for the plant to legally operate and store spent fuel. Entergy had taken the state to the Vermont Supreme Court, arguing that it was unnecessary to require the plant to go through a more-than-yearlong process of hearings and filings before the Vermont Public Service Board to obtain the certificate.
The agreement is contingent on the board approving the certificate by March 31, 2014.