Connecticut River Watershed Council files petition over water permit for Vermont Yankee
The Connecticut River Watershed Council has filed a petition 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 seeks to ensure adequate protection for the fish populations of the Connecticut River. The Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic at Vermont Law School filed the petition on behalf of the Watershed Council.
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“The current permit is outdated,” said ENRLC staff attorney Laura Murphy.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.”
About CRWC: For more than 50 years, CRWC has worked in partnership with people to protect the Connecticut River watershed from source to sea. Accomplishments include helping to restore access to spawning areas for migratory fish, protecting more than 8,000 acres through our Land Conservancy Program, and supporting three full-time River Stewards who bring CRWC’s on-river presence to every region of the watershed, taking action and assisting community groups. Learn more at www.ctriver.org.
About ENRLC: The Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic provides an experiential learning opportunity for students at Vermont Law School. Its mission is to provide a high-quality, skills-based educational experience for law students who learn how to become competent, ethical attorneys with expertise in the field of environmental and natural resources law; provide pro bono representation for individuals and organizations who could not otherwise afford legal services; ensure that laws protecting health and the environment are properly interpreted, implemented and enforced to prevent and abate environmental problems; and to conserve and restore natural resources for the benefit of this and future generations. For more information, visit http://www.vermontlaw.edu/x1389.xml.
Source: CRWC. 2.17.2011