Vermont town to lose biggest taxpayer as nuclear plant shutters

Entergy Corp.

By Yaël Ossowski | Watchdog.org

When nuclear power finally vanishes from Vermont’s borders this year, the town of Vernon will suffer the loss of its biggest taxpayer.

GONE: The shutdown of Yankee Nuclear Power Plant will leave the town of Vernon, Vermont without its largest taxpayer.

As discovered in tax agreements with city officials, the announced shutdown of the Yankee Nuclear Power Plant, owned by Entergy, a New Orleans-based energy conglomerate, will not only reduce the choice in the energy market, but will leave Vernon starved for tax revenue.

As a last measure of good faith, lawyers from Entergy entered into negotiations with town officials late last year, hoping to soften the blow when the behemoth of economic activity packs up and leaves the Green Mountain State later in 2014.

The plant plans to shut its doors due to several economics factors, according to the company, including the mass adoption of the cheaper alternative of natural gas and the unsustainability of maintaining such large infrastructure going forward.

Vernon currently has an annual budget of $2 million, mostly funded by taxes from Yankee Power.

The shutdown will be a huge hit for the hundreds of employees and businesses who have relied on the plant for its 42 years in existence.

OUT: Entergy has promised millions in future tax contributions to the towns who have thus far depended on them.

One publicized version of the agreement reveals close to $20 million in promised tax contributions over the next few years, expected to cover the losses faced by Vernon and surrounding cities as well as a “site restoration fund.”

Also stipulated in the contract: the energy conglomerate commits to pay $10 million over the next five years to “promote economic development” in Windham County, the most southeastern county of Vermont.

It will also pay up to $60 million to fund severance packages for employees now laid off, according to Entergy.

A spokesperson for the company could not be reached in time for publication.

Vermont Senate votes to retire the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Plant

SHUTDOWN: Environmental groups have aimed to shut down the nuclear power plant for years.

The shutdown of the plant has been heralded by environmental activists, who have long looked for the demise of nuclear power in Vermont.

“The state has been saddled with this poorly managed, uneconomic dinosaur for far too long, enduring environmental damage and the persistent threats to public health and safety that come with operating a nuclear power plant well beyond its planned life,” wrote Sandra Levine, an attorney at the Conservation Law Foundation in Montpelier, in reaction to the plant’s announcement in August 2013.

They have similarly been very critical of alternative sources of energy, including natural gas.

The agreement was signed Tuesday by Vernon’s Select Board and will be the focus of public meetings as the town decides whether to shrink its government going forward.

Yaël is a national reporter for Watchdog.org. Reach him by email at yael@watchdog.org and follow him @YaelOss.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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