Vermont Yankee | Conservation Law Foundation

Timeline of Advocacy

CLF worked for more than a decade to shut down the aging, polluting Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant. Here’s a summary of how we succeeded.

2002 – Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee (ENVY) purchases the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power facility from Vermont utilities. The sale is approved by the Vermont Public Service Board. The sale includes an express and irrevocable agreement that the Board has authority to grant or deny approval of operation beyond March 2012.

2006 – The Vermont Legislature passes a law requiring approval of the Legislature before the Public Service Board can issue a new “certificate of public good.”  30 V.S.A. § 248(e)(2).

2007 – Cooling tower collapses.

2008 and 2009 – Following a request by ENVY, the Public Service Board undertakes proceedings to consider whether it should grant a new certificate of public good to allow operation of the facility after March 21, 2012. During those proceedings, Conservation Law Foundation, Vermont Public Interest Research Group, and others show that continued operation of the facility is not beneficial. This view is based on traditional state regulatory concerns regarding economics and power supply, including the inadequacy of the decommissioning funds and the uncertainty of waste disposal which present economic and power supply risks.

January 2010 – The public is notified about leaks at the Vermont Yankee facility that were contaminating the groundwater and soils at the site. ENVY admits that the leaks had been ongoing since at least November 2009. The sources of the leaks were underground pipes at the facility. In 2010 it is also revealed that ENVY witnesses provided false testimony to the Public Service Board during the certificate of public good proceeding. ENVY witnesses had testified under oath that there were no underground pipes at the facility. Following this news, a number of ENVY employees are suspended.

2010 – Based on independent state authority, the Board opens an investigation into the leaks. CLF presents expert testimony about the contamination from the leaks and the failures of ENVY to follow Vermont law. The Board considers whether the leaks violate ENVY’s current certificate of public good and, if so, whether the plant should be shut down, the certificate of public good be revoked or amended, or other ameliorative action be taken to address the leaks.

Following the news of the false testimony, the public and the Vermont Legislature lose faith in the ability of ENVY to responsibly manage the facility.

February 2010 – In an historic vote, the Vermont Senate declines to approve a bill that continued operation would promote the general good of the state.

March 2011 – The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approves a twenty year license extension for Vermont Yankee.

April 2011 – ENVY brings a suit challenging Vermont’s authority to have a say regarding continued operation of Vermont Yankee. This suit is brought more than one year after the Vermont Senate vote, more than three years after Plaintiffs’ request of the Public Service Board for a new certificate of public good allowing continued operation, and more than five years after the Vermont statute requiring legislative approval. CLF joins as “friend of the court” and provides support for the State of Vermont.

May 2011 – State of Vermont and New England Coalition appeal NRC license. NRC license was issued without the required water quality certification. CLF represents the New England Coalition.

July 2011 – Court denies ENVY request for a preliminary injunction to allow the plant to keep operating until a final court decision is issued.

September 2011 – Court hearings take place in Brattleboro, Vermont on Entergy’s challenge to the State of Vermont’s ability to determine whether Vermont Yankee should remain operational.

November 2011 – CLF briefs are filed with the DC Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of the New England Coalition in the NRC appeal.

January 2012 – District Court rules in favor of ENVY and declares that the Vermont Legislature’s vote to control the fate of Vermont Yankee is invalid. However, the Vermont Public Service Board still retains power to decide whether the plant remains open based on whether Vermont Yankee provides public good.

August 2012 – NRC announces that it will not provide any new licenses to nuclear plants until after an extensive environmental review is completed.

November 2012 – Vermont Public Service Board confirms that its prior orders preclude operation of Vermont Yankee after March 2012.

May 2013 – ENVY appeals the Vermont Public Service Board ruling to the Vermont Supreme Court.  CLF files a brief jointly with the New England Coalition and Vermont Public Interest Research Group challenging the appeal. The State of Vermont also files an opposing brief.

August 2013 – U.S. District Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit affirms the decision that the Vermont Legislature cannot control Vermont Yankee’s operations, but that approval of the plant will still be needed from the Vermont Public Service Board.

August 2013 – Vermont Yankee announces its plans to close in 2014.

December 2014 – Vermont Yankee shuts down.