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Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic


Vermont Yankee

The clinic has been working with the Connecticut River Watershed Council to reduce the impacts of Vermont Yankee's nuclear power plant on Connecticut River fish populations.

2006 Permit Amendment Case
The clinic represented the Connecticut River Watershed Council (CRWC), Trout Unlimited (Deerfield/Millers 349 Chapter), and the Citzens Awareness Network (Massachusetts Chapter) in an appeal of a discharge permit granted by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) in March 2006 to Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee, LLC (Entergy). The permit amendment allowed Entergy to increase the summer temperature of the upper Connecticut River by an additional 1 degree F. This was the third in a series of permit amendments beginning in 1978 that ANR had granted allowing Vermont Yankee to bypass its cooling towers and discharge super-heated water to the river. Appellants were concerned about the impact of this cumulative warming on aquatic populations, particularly Atlantic salmon and American shad. Of particular concern was the dramatic decline in the number of shad returning to the river above Vernon, Vermont, where the powerplant is located, occurring since Vermont Yankee received its last thermal variance in 1991.  After an extensive trial in June 2007 before Judge Merideth Wright, the Vermont Environmental Court upheld the state's permit decision but added new conditions to protect American shad. Our clients remained concerned about the impacts of this discharge and appealed the Environmental Court's decision to the Vermont Supreme Court. The Vermont Supreme Court upheld the state's permit but ruled that state water quality standards are applicable to Entergy's thermal discharge.

Recent Developments
In February 2011, the clinic filed a petition on behalf of CRWC asking ANR to act on Entergy's 5 1/2 year-old permit application. The petition asked ANR to take a fresh look at the available information, including additional data, and to issue a new permit with more stringent thermal limitations and more protective intake technology. In March 2011, ANR announced that it would begin the permit renewal process.

In 2012, the clinic and CRWC presented several expert reports to ANR. The experts reviewed critical elements of Vermont Yankee's pending permit - the hydrothermal model, the representative important species list, and the temperature compliance formula with real-time temperature measurements. The consultants, HydroAnalysis, Inc. and the Midwest Biodiversity Institute, determined that neither the hydrothermal model, the list of representative important species, nor the compliance limits are adequate to demonstrate that Entergy's discharge is not harmful to aquatic life. As such, we have asked the agency to issue Vermont Yankee's renewal permit as soon as possible without a thermal variance.

The clinic has also helped CRWC in its work to ensure that Vermont's water quality standards continue to provide for adequate protections against thermal discharges.

 

 
I want you to know how much the Connecticut River Watershed Council appreciates the clinic working with us on the permit for the Vermont Yankee thermal discharge to the Connecticut River. The research and monitoring of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources permit process by the clinic has been invaluable to me as the river steward for the upper reach of the river. I am a single staff person with little research capacity so the clinic attorneys and the interns who have done so much of the legwork will make our involvement in the permitting process meaningful for the river.

Vermont State Representative David L. Deen
River Steward
Connecticut River Watershed Council