The Slow, Painful Death of the Douglas Years: Once Again The Governor Defends Entergy’s Inalienable Right to Flee the State
No creature, great or small, makes a pretty picture at the end of life. Things live, they flourish, and they die, but only after a prolonged period of denial and distinct unattractiveness. Political eras are no different. The Bush Years were least bearable at the end, when they were openly in collapse, no longer inflated by jingoism and hubris. And the same holds true for the Douglas Years, which are clearly still with us.
Nowhere are the jobs Jim promised, and re-promised. And the Governor’s last few moves of the current session have a particularly played-out, exhausted feel. It’s as though Douglas is determined to play the same scene once more, but without feeling: shift the tax burden to cities and school boards, all the while decrying the raising of taxes, veto the budget, and then, with his last remaining erg of energy, shield Entergy from financial liability.
Only the absence of a campaign finance veto would tell you that we’re in 2009, rather than 2007, which is to say that we continue to distinguish the Douglas Years one from another according to what hasn’t happened, session by session, rather than what has.
But of all these rote maneuvers, last Friday’s veto of Decommissioning Bill II will live longest in infamy.
To call it what it is, the bill at issue (H.436) was a very mild piece of legislation — not exactly toothless, but with all the incisors filed purposefully flat, in an attempt to moot the Governor’s veto. It called for Entergy to assemble a potential line of credit, to be activated only in the event that decommissioning began in 2012, still an unlikely scenario at this writing.
It was a highly theoretical bill protecting Vermonters, as Tony Klein nicely put it, from a “potential eventuality.”
Even that, though, Jim Douglas couldn’t stomach. “This legislation’s approach is to extract money in any way possible, creating a hostile business environment,” read the press release. Put aside that no real money would actually change hands; put aside that Yankee’s physical plant, with its billion-dollar-plus potential clean-up cost, represents an utterly unique case in Vermont’s business environment.
Let’s be clear: this bill was not about the future of nuclear power.
It was much, much simpler and cleaner.
This was a bill making clear that Entergy has a legal responsibility to leave the land as they found it. And that, ultimately, is what Entergy is still seeking desperately to avoid: not the limited financial maneuvering required to satisfy H. 436, but the more essential and elemental question of corporate responsibility itself.
Having now moved many millions in profit out of state, millions that should clearly have been used to bolster the anemic decommissioning fund, Entergy would like to extricate itself from the troubles in Vernon. And regardless of his motives — good, bad, or indifferent — Jim Douglas is effectively helping them do so.
The truth is that if Entergy spins off Enexus or Equagen — or Evasion or Evacuation or any other obscure shell company — and that company folds, leaving the plant in the reluctant hands of the state, taxpayers will have one man to thank.
Literally. One man. One man at the tail end of a tired era, an era that will eventually be notable to historians mostly for its slow-motion crusade against accomplishment.