Jobs in Jeopardy: Vt. Lawmakers Vote to Shutter Nuclear Plant
March 15, 2010
The Vermont state legislature has voted against renewing the license for Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant beyond 2012.
The 26-4 decision delivers a heavy blow to the state’s economy and to nearly 200 IBEW members and more than 1,200 Vermonters whose livelihoods are contingent on the plant’s continued operation in Windham County.
Montpelier Local 300 leaders – who represent the IBEW workers – aren’t taking the news lying down. Local President George Clain said:
In most states, utility regulators and the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission decide nuclear licensing matters – but in Vermont, legislators weigh in. The lawmakers who voted against the relicensing cited credibility challenges with the plant’s owner – Louisiana-based Entergy – and recent environmental concerns regarding a tritium leak beneath the plant.
Prior to the Feb. 24 vote, Local 300 commissioned a study that highlighted the economic benefits of the plant for workers and the broader community in 2009. Among the reports’ findings:
Labor leaders and supporters say some elected officials are taking political advantage of the highly charged issue. Clain said:
In addition to championing nuclear power as a clean energy source, Local 300 has been ahead of the curve on green jobs growth – which lends local leaders added credibility when addressing the energy challenges that the state will face if Vermont Yankee is shut down.
Local 300 members have taken to the Internet to voice their concerns. Vermont Yankee employee William Reardon – who chairs the facility’s collective bargaining unit – wrote an op-ed for the Brattleboro Reformer calling the vote “political irresponsibility.”
While Vermont’s unemployment rate – about 7 percent – remains below the national average, the state has shed more private sector jobs than any other state in New England since the beginning of the recession that started in 2007.
The next legislative session – which begins in 2011 – may yield a new vote on the plant’s relicensing that could prolong the facility’s lifespan. In order for that to happen, workers and pro-labor activists will need to be at the top of their game to press lawmakers to reconsider.
Vermont Yankee reactor operator and Local 300 member Michelle Joy said she was discouraged by the vote, but remains cautiously optimistic that workers can successfully argue their case.