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Petition Filed Asking State to Update Vermont Yankee’s Water Permit

February 17, 2011

SOUTH ROYALTON, VT -- The Connecticut River Watershed Council filed a petition today asking the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources to either grant or deny Entergy's application for a renewed Clean Water Act permit for the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant.

The petition, which seeks to ensure adequate protection for fish populations of the Connecticut River, was filed by Vermont Law School's Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic on behalf of the Watershed Council.

A news conference will be held at 2:30 p.m., today in Room 10 in the Vermont Statehouse. A copy of the petition is attached.

Vermont Yankee is operating under an expired, administratively-extended permit that allows it to discharge heated water into the Connecticut River and to draw river water into its cooling water intake structure to cool the plant. Both activities can harm many life stages of fish, particularly American shad and Atlantic salmon.

"The Connecticut River used to support healthy populations of these migratory species, but today they are at risk," said David Deen, river steward with the Watershed Council. "We believe Vermont Yankee's heated discharge is contributing to their decline."

The petition calls on the ANR to either deny Entergy's renewal permit application or to issue a new draft permit as soon as possible. The current permit, which contains a thermal variance from Vermont's water quality standards, expired nearly five years ago. If the ANR issues the draft permit, it will be publicly noticed and the public will have opportunities for comment and appeal.

"The current permit is outdated," said ENRLC staff attorney Laura Murphy. "It is time for ANR to revisit this permit and conduct a full review."

The petition asks the agency to require Vermont Yankee to operate its closed-cycle cooling towers to reduce thermal impacts as well as fish mortalities from the structure itself. The Watershed Council also asks the ANR to open up Vermont Yankee's environmental advisory committee to public input and scrutiny. The ANR established the committee to give advice on environmental monitoring and standards for the plant.

"For too long, this committee has conducted business behind closed doors. It's time to let a little sunshine into the room," said VLS Professor Pat Parenteau, senior counsel of the ENRLC.

Deen concluded: "This permit is what is called a ‘zombie' permit, which is a permit that continues on past its expiration date because the agency hasn't processed the permit renewal application. This permit has been in zombie status for more than five years. The Connecticut River has waited long enough."

CONTACT: John Cramer, Associate Director of Media Relations
Office: 802.831.1106, cell: 540.798.7099, jcramer@vermontlaw.edu

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