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December 09, 2010

Fantasy Headline: Act 250 Board Keeps Vermont Yankee Open

Vermont Governor-elect Peter Shumlin and Deb Markowitz, his designee for Secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources "suggested that climate change should become listed as one of the criteria in the Act 250 process for new projects" according to vtdigger.org coverage of the announcement of Markowitz' appointment. Just so out-of-state readers'll understand, nothing significant gets built in Vermont without an Act 250 permit, and the permits are hard to get and easy to delay.

At the same news conference Shumlin reportedly said: "When the telephone rings … we want someone on the other end to say Vermont is open for business." Adding an impossible-to-define criterion or criteria to Act 250 isn't going to convey that message, but let's dream:

Suppose we go one step further and require an Act 250 permit in order to STOP doing anything. Under climate-change criteria, it would then be impossible to shut down the production of Vermont Yankee, Vermont's nuclear power plant. After all, if that electricity is produced from coal or even from cleaner natural gas, there will be a huge increase in emissions of CO2 – that's not even debatable. No district environmental commission would give a permit for that! And businesses will be glad to hear that Vermont can continue to have the lowest electric rates in New England.

Since Shumlin as Senate President pro tem, was the leading opponent of relicensing Yankee and Markowitz as a gubernatorial candidate was also anti-Yankee, it's hard to believe this is what they have in mind.

BTW, Shumlin has often said that "renewable" energy sources will replace Yankee and has proposed that wind towers be easier to site (I think everything should be easier to site). Even ignoring the fact that utilities are required to pay five times as much for wind-generated electricity as they currently pay Yankee and 7.5 times as much for solar under the Vermont's feedin tariff , there is a problem of scale. We would need 2100 industrial-scale one megawatt wind turbines to produce the same number of megawatt hours of electricity annually as Yankee (the math and the explanation of the difference between a megawatt of capacity and a megawatt-hour of electricity are at Scale Matters). Vermont doesn't have enough ridgeline for that.

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