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Towns Set To Lose Vermont Yankee Emergency Planning Money

Howard Weiss-Tisman
Brattleboro Assistant Town Manager Patrick Moreland walks through the towns' emergency operations center. The town has used VY emergency planning money to purchase equipment.

Seven Windham County towns that have been used to receiving emergency planning money from Vermont Yankee will have to write budgets this year without that funding.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says Entergy Vermont Yankee can eliminate the 10-mile emergency planning zone around the plant now that the reactor is shut down.

And that means towns in the 10-mile zone will not get the emergency planning money VY has paid out each year.

Federal regulations require nuclear reactor operators to fund emergency planning.

Before the plant shut down Vernon, Brattleboro, Guilford, Halifax, Marlboro and Dummerston, each received annual payments, which were about $32,000 last year.

And through the years the towns have also applied for additional grant money from the VY fund.

Entergy paid out about $2 million to fund statewide, and local emergency planning and radiological testing this year.

"If we don't negotiate something with Entergy, there will be no funding going to the towns... We go from 1.9, which is what we have this year, to nothing beginning in July of next year." - Erica Bornemann, Vermont Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security chief of staff

Erica Bornemann, chief of staff of the Vermont Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, says those days are over.

"If we don't negotiate something with Entergy, there will be no funding going to the towns," she says.  "So we go from $1.9 [million], which is what we have this year, to nothing beginning in July of next year."

The town of Westminster got some money because the town has Bellows Falls Union High School which was the emergency reception center. Rescue Inc. and the Windham County Sheriff's Department also got some of the money.

The towns used the money to pay its emergency management directors and for some communication services. But some also applied for, and received, additional money for equipment.

In 2014, Guilford got about $5,000 for a generator, Brattleboro got about $3,000 for folding chairs and tables for its emergency operations center the following year, and Halifax received $3,000 for laptops through the fund.

Brattleboro Town Manager Peter Elwell says  the town's $15 million budget can absorb the loss, though he says the annual payments have allowed the town to build up Brattleboro's emergency response capabilities.

"It has been helpful to receive that money, for sure, it's allowed us to buy equipment for emergency operations," says Elwell. "It's allowed us to do some training with employees, and so for a long period of time that steady stream of revenue coming to the town has certainly been helpful."

But in a smaller town, like Dummerston, with an annual general fund budget of about $431,000, losing the annual VY payments will have an impact, according to emergency planning director Dawn Hubbard.

"The selectboard is discussing whether  they can put money aside for emergency planning but I am not counting on anything," Hubbard says. "But, we're going to be proceeding ahead the best that we can without that backing."

The state is negotiating with Entergy for the company to make annual payments, but that money will likely remain at the state level for radiological testing and other statewide emergency planning.

Howard Weiss-Tisman is Vermont Public’s southern Vermont reporter, but sometimes the story takes him to other parts of the state.
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