Massachusetts AG Coakley Joins Vermont Yankee Appeal

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley is joining her counterparts in eight other states to support Vermont’s appeal of a federal judge’s ruling that limited that state’s authority over the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. 

During a visit to Springfield Tuesday, Coakley said the original decision failed to acknowledge the legitimacy of vermont’s legislative process. The ruling, she says, relied too heavily on arguments that the only consideration at stake was the safety of the plant – which all acknowledge is an issue for federal, not state, regulators.

“States, particularly Vermont, but all states have an interest in some dual regulation around economic issues, around the viability of the plant for providing utility and energy to a particular state, and that for the judge to say it was just a safety related decision, and therefore pre-empt, we believe was incorrect.”

Coakley also says the Vermont case could play a role in the future of the Pilgrim Yankee nuclear plant in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Coakley and other officials have called for federal regulators to take a new look at that plant’s safety, given lessons from the nuclear accidents following Japan’s earthquake last year.

“We still think, and we’re not alone in this, that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission moved too quickly, without doing an extensive enough review of the particular safety issues in Plymouth, particularly after that incident in Japan, with the kind of storage and the threat that could arise in Plymouth, and so we’re going to continue our court challenges on that. But it is important for the court to make determinations as states do have some say around the licensing of plants that go beyond just safety issues.”

In the last year, federal regulators have extended the operating licenses for both Vermont Yankee and Pilgrim Yankee for another 20 years. The fight over Vermont’s authority is expected to eventually end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.