In May 2006, after intensive citizen advocacy efforts, the Vermont legislature passed a law of truly historic proportions, Act 160. Act 160 states that the Entergy Nuclear Corporation may not operate the Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor after its license expires in 2012 without "the explicit approval of the General Assembly". Even if the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in Washington, DC decides to authorize a 20-year license extension for the aging, mismanaged reactor, the representatives of Vermont's citizens still have the authority to say "NO!" The legislature's vote will likely take place during the 2010 session.
What does Act 160 require of the state?
Act 160 requires the state's Department of Public Services (DPS) and the Senate-House Joint Energy Committee arrange for studies that will inform the public and the legislature regarding long-term accountability, financial responsibility, environmental, economic, waste and public health issues. The act also requires the DPS to utilize a “public engagement” process. The DPS held four public meetings and an online discussion in the spring of 2008, despite the fact that VCAN and other groups vehemently opposed the holding of these meetings prior to the release of any studies. Current results show a majority of Vermonters want Vermont Yankee to close and be replaced with other energy options by 2012.
What is being done and what can I do to help make Act 160 successful?
No other state legislature has ever claimed the right of its citizens, through their elected representatives, to make a decision that could override the powerful interests of a major nuclear corporation and the NRC. While Vermonters were successful in passing Act 160, we understand that it will take a far greater effort to win the decisive vote in 2010. One part of that effort is to monitor the DPS as it carries out the required studies and public engagement that are to inform the state legislature. Vermont citizen advocacy efforts have already helped block a DPS plan to subsume the public engagement activities within another process that took place in the fall of 2007. Additionally, citizens successfully challenged the department’s decision to offer a contract to a consulting firm to do a single study that did not cover the breadth of issues in the legislation. A coalition of citizen and advocacy groups will continue to provide input about what constitutes an adequate combination of economic, health and environmental studies and meaningful public engagement. The key to our success will be people power: citizens organizing throughout Vermont. This is especially crucial in those parts of the state furthest from the reactor. The residents of the evacuation zone in Vermont, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, who live in the shadow of the reactor, will need to reach out to our fellow citizens. We will succeed in closing the Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor, and we will make history by providing a model for citizens of other states who are equally endangered by the nuclear reactors near them. The full text of Act 160 can be accessed online at: http://www.leg.state.vt.us/docs/legdoc.cfm?URL=/docs/2006/acts/ACT160.htm