Pilgrim owner says pending bill conflicts with federal law.
BOSTON — A bill that would cost Entergy Corp. $25 million in annual assessments until the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station is demolished and the site decontaminated took a first step toward becoming law Wednesday, but proponents can expect some pushback from the energy company.
If enacted, the measure would require that the yearly assessments be held by the state in a special decommissioning fund.
Entergy, owner of the Plymouth nuclear plant, has accrued about $890 million in a federally required fund, but Sen. Daniel Wolf, D-Harwich, who sponsored the bill, has said full decommissioning costs would likely reach $1.4 billion.
Entergy announced in October that it would shut down Pilgrim sometime before mid-2019. That does not ensure buildings will be demolished and the site cleaned up anytime soon.
The proposal was reported out with an “ought to pass” recommendation by the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy on Wednesday, the deadline for joint legislative committees to take action on bills filed between January 2015 and mid-February of this year.
Although he was pleased by the favorable ruling on the bill, Wolf said Thursday that time was tight.
“We’re going to work hard to push it through the Senate and get it over to the House,” Wolf said. “We need to get this done by the middle of July.” The legislative session is officially finished at the end of July.
Sen. Viriato “Vinny” deMacedo, a Plymouth Republican and fellow sponsor, called the bill’s progress “a strong step.”
“It’s good news we’ll have the opportunity to have a debate in the Senate and try to make our case,” deMacedo said. “This will help get the site totally cleaned up and useful in the future.”
Entergy’s vice president of external affairs issued a statement Thursday saying the company would fight the proposal.
“Entergy Pilgrim Station has a federally required Nuclear Decommissioning Trust Fund that at the end of 2015 stood at approximately $900 million, which is in full compliance with the funding assurances required by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission,” wrote Michael Twomey in an email to the Times. “We do not support the legislation because it is contrary to federal law and inconsistent with the terms under which we acquired Pilgrim. Further, such legislation could significantly impede progress and constructive engagement with the local community by inviting lengthy and contentious litigation.”
Citizens groups, meanwhile, celebrated the success of the bill.
“This bill will insure that Entergy Corp. will be accountable for the full costs of decommissioning and not the commonwealth,” wrote Pilgrim watchdog Diane Turco in an email. “We want our precious tax dollars spent for the betterment of the people, not bailout for Entergy.”
Mary Lampert, a Duxbury resident and president of Pilgrim Watch, said, “If passed by the Legislature, it will save Massachusetts taxpayers anywhere from $5 billion to $60 billion in the future.”
Owners of decommissioning plants can drag the process out for 60 years under the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s SAFSTOR option. The majority of nuclear plants being decommissioned have taken that route, including Vermont Yankee, also owned by Entergy.
When company officials announced Pilgrim’s future closure last fall, they indicated the SAFSTOR option would be given strong consideration.
Last week, another bill related to nuclear power plants that affect Massachusetts residents was reported out with a favorable recommendation from the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security. The bill, proposed by state Rep. Sarah Peake, D-Provincetown, would require state emergency planners to study the existing plans, radiological equipment, emergency notification methods, evacuation routes and timetables to prove they are adequate.
If current procedures come up short, the bill would require the governor to order the Federal Emergency Management Agency to withdraw the deficient plans. The governor would then call on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to revoke the operating license and begin the decommissioning process.
Source: Entergy to fight state decommissioning fund – News – capecodtimes.com – Hyannis, MA