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Oyster Creek Deal in Jeopardy

Date : Fri, 20 Jan 2012 13:46:09 -0500

/For Immediate Release/
January 20, 2012 Contact Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

*Oyster Creek Deal in Jeopardy*

/Vermont Yankee Case Rules Federal Law Trumps State Deals/** Yesterday a U.S. District Court ruled that federal laws regulating nuclear power plants trump state laws, having significant impacts on the fate of the Oyster Creek plant in Lacey Township.The Court ruled Entergy Corp.'s Vermont Yankee nuclear plant can continue running even though the operators of the plant entered an agreement with the state to not seek permit renewals. In 2008, Entergy had agreed to do whatever the state wanted.After the Vermont Legislature voted to close the plant and the plant did not receive state approvals to operate for an additional 20 years, Entergy reneged on the deal.The company said they did not have to listen to the state and instead went court and won. Entergy sued the state on the grounds that only the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has jurisdiction over their nuclear facility and health and safety issues there, and the courts agreed.Similar to Oyster Creek, the plant had already received federal approvals to continue operating for another 20 years from the NRC when the state took action to close the plant.The Court found those federal approvals trump actions by the state of Vermont, setting a dangerous precedent for Oyster Creek and the deal Governor Christie entered into with the plant operator Exelon.Although the plant is scheduled to close in nine years under state agreements, Exelon can challenge that in court and operate under its 20 NRC license until 2030.

"This is our worst fear come true. The Governor's ACO is not worth the paper it's written on.With this court ruling, the state does not have any real power over Oyster Creek. If Exelon wants to keep the plant open past the agreed to nine years,"*said Jeff Tittel, Director, NJ Sierra Club. *"In Vermont they had the backing of the Legislature, here in New Jersey we just have a piece of paper with a Governor that will not even be serving in 2019." The Christie administration entered into an Administrative Consent Order (ACO) with Oyster Creek's operator Exelon to close the plant by 2019.Since the plant would close early, the state would not require cooling towers.However Oyster Creek's permits have also been extended by the NRC and under their jurisdiction the plant could operate until 2030.Now that the courts have ruled in favor of Vermont Yankee, the Governor's deal could be scrapped by Exelon and Oyster Creek will continue to deteriorate the health of Barnegat Bay.If Exelon decides to keep Oyster Creek open beyond 2030, the state may not be able to stop them.The court ruled that federal regulations trump *state laws*.Vermont Yankee won despite action by the Vermont Legislature, not just a Governor who will not even be in power when the deal is up.New Jersey would have even less power to force the closure of the plant, since the state ACO would not be enforceable.

"This court case shows the deal made between Governor Christie and Exelon is not worth the paper it was written on.The company could renege on the deal as they have federal approvals from the NRC to operate for an additional 20 years," *said Jeff Tittel*. There are also issues with tritium leaks and cooling towers at the Vermont Yankee plant.Not only is the deal similar, but so is the plant. Exelon has other options as well.Under federal law, if PJM, the grid operator, determined the plant was a "facility of need" it would be kept open.This designation could even require ratepayers to pay for upgrades and cooling towers for the plant to keep it operating through 2030.Exelon could ask PJM to do this or PJM could just do this on its own.Christie's revised Energy Master Plan calls for a new energy generation facility at this site.

"Federal law and PJM rules overwhelmingly favor utilities and power producers.They can step in and force the plant to remain open, with ratepayers footing the bill for upgrades.This would hurt the environment and cost ratepayers millions of dollars," *said Jeff Tittel*. As part of his deal with Exelon, Christie did not require cooling towers at Oyster Creek. The Christie administration pulled down the permit from the Corzine administration that would have required cooling towers and issued a new permit that let the company off the hook.The state lost the only leverage it had to close the plant early when it issued that new permit.Oyster Creek discharges superheated water into the Bay each day, causing the thermal pollution that leads to algae blooms and lost of dissolved oxygen. Oyster Creek also kills billions of fish larva, fish eggs, and a variety of aquatic species in the Bay as its pumps act as a giant vacuum, sucking up and destroying everything in its reach as they take in water to cool the plant's nuclear reactors.The EPA has recognized cooling towers as the Best Available Technology to address these impacts and has proposed a draft regulation that would allow states to call for cooling towers facilities such as Oyster Creek. Exelon had previously stated it would close the plant in 7-10 years if cooling towers were required, rather than pay for the upgrades.Now Exelon has the power to do whatever they want under the 20 year federal permit and can continue dumping superheated water into Bay over the next 19 years.

"The only leverage we had to close Oyster Creek in ten years was requiring cooling towers.When Governor Christie issued a new permit for the plant without cooling towers, he gave that power away.Under the new permit Exelon can keep polluting the Bay over the next 9 years and now with this court case the next 19 years.Given all the problems from superheated water entering the Bay from Oyster Creek, we may not have a Bay in 19 years,"*said Jeff Tittel*.

Kate Millsaps
Program Assistant
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
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Received on 2012-01-20 10:46:09

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