Deal is a good start
Dec 26, 2013 | 3823 views | 0 0 comments | 301 301 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Earlier this week the state of Vermont announced a deal with the owners of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. The agreement will end the ongoing litigation battles between the state and Entergy Corp. and pave the way for decommissioning the plant after it stops generating power next year.

There are a number of interesting aspects to the agreement, most of which center around money Entergy will pay to the state and local entities as part of the process. All told, slightly more than $45 million will be paid out by Entergy in the form of taxes and grants during the next few years.

One we particularly like is the $10 million slated for Windham County to help lessen the economic burden of the extensive job losses created by the plant’s closure. That $10 million will be spread across five years, so it’s not like a windfall is coming. But’s not insignificant, either.

It’s no secret that we’ve been strong supporters of economic development initiatives, and here’s another opportunity to add strength to those currently underway. We certainly hope that the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation will be the main facilitator of the Entergy money.

BDCC and its subsidiary, Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies, have been working to jumpstart the economy in Windham County. They have done extensive research and planning, and have put together contingency plans for just such a time, when Yankee owners decided to pull the plug on the aging nuclear power plant. Now a difficult task lies ahead: Replace the 650 or so job the power plant offers, and replace the economic impact that Yankee’s wages, taxes, and charity have on the region. Given the fractured nature of modern economic development, it seems unlikely that any one entity will be lured to southern Vermont; more likely there will have to be a number of smaller, diversified attempts to bring in businesses, jobs, and revenues.

While the $10 million is encouraging, the money is just a drop in the bucket compared to the reported $100 million Vermont Yankee currently pumps into the regional economy. We hope that the $10 million can be seed money that will be used to bring increased economic vitality to the region.

Of course, Entergy’s financial spigot won’t run completely dry after 2014. Upward of $1 billion is projected to be spent during the next 20 to 30 years for decommissioning the plant. Much of that money will have an impact in the region’s economy. The problem is that it’s too early in the process to say when the decommissioning will actually start, and how much of the money will stay in the local economy. So it would be premature to count on any impact from the decommissioning funds.

What we’d like to see is that $10 million leveraged into something more. We’re not sure how that will take place, but we’d hate to just see it trickle away without some significant impact.

Another thing we’d like to see is some of the activist groups who were opposed to Yankee’s continued operation getting involved in the economic development process. In the ultimate irony, it was market forces, not activism, that were the deciders in shutting the plant. Entergy decided it would cost more to keep the plant open and operating than the return it would see from selling the power it generated. Activists might be wise to look at that, and use some of the economic lessons learned. We’re also sure some of the plant workers who will be losing their jobs would love to see the same energy antinuclear groups used against the nuclear plant used to help displaced workers find comparable and suitable reemployment.

In any event, the closure of the Vermont Yankee plant will have long-term ramifications for many in Windham County and throughout the region. We’re happy to see the state and Entergy put aside their differences.

But there is much work that lies ahead along an unmapped road. This week’s agreement is just a first step.
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