A federal judge ruled today that the state of Vermont does not have the authority to force the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant to shut down. Brattleboro district court judge J. Garvan Murtha's decision will stop Governor Peter Shumlin and lawmakers from shutting the plant down in March, when a current state license expires, as they hoped to do.
Michael Burns is a spokesman for the plant's parent company, the Entergy Corporation.
"This ruling is great news for our 600 employees, the environment and New England residents and industries that rely on clean, affordable nuclear power provided by Vermont Yankee."
In his 102-page ruling, the judge says federal law preempts the state legislature's ability to determine the licensing of a nuclear power plant. Vermont is the only state in the country where lawmakers have tried to exert such authority. The Federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission has already approved extending the plant's operations beyond this year. The state's Attorney General, William Sorrell, says he is disappointed by the new ruling.
"The ability of the legislature to have a say on the continued operation of Vermont Yankee is struck down as preempted by federal law. Our utility regulatory entity, the Public Service Board, does retain some jurisdiction to issue a Certificate of Public Good for continued operation, but the powers of the PSB under Vermont law are restricted from what they have been. It's not even half a loaf for the state."
Sorrell notes that Vermont has 30 days to decide whether to make an appeal. The state's brief had been supported by environmental groups, as well as Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley.