Saturday, April 23, 2011


Maverick Media’s Rebel News Round Up,* broadcast live at 11:15 a.m. each Friday on WOMM (105.9-FM/LP – The Radiator) in Burlington. Part Two.

Vermont's Nuclear Showdown Begins   Entergy Corp has filed a federal lawsuit to prevent the State of Vermont from forcing the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant to shut down in 2012. The corporation claims it "had no other choice" than to go to US District Court to resolve the dispute, which pits the decision of the state's elected officials – and the opinion of most Vermonters – against a federal agency's regulatory authority. It’s a state’s rights showdown of immense importance.

In March the Nuclear Regulatory Commission renewed Vermont Yankee's operating license for 20 more years, clearing the way for it to operate through March 21, 2032. But Vermont officials want the plant to shut at the end of its original operating license in 2012.

Entergy claims that the state doesn’t have the power to veto the federal government’s decision. It argues that Vermont is violating 1) the Atomic Energy Act, 2) the Federal Power Act, and 3) the Commerce Clause, which says that states can’t interfere with interstate commerce. Entergy also claims, although it had previously agreed to state oversight, that Vermont changed the rules with a 2006 law that gave the legislature the power to sign off on a new license. Entergy says that it never agreed to legislative oversight, and that the state’s decision is preempted by the Atomic Energy Act.

Governor Peter Shumlin recently showed video clips in which Entergy praised the state law, while Attorney General William Sorrell claims that Entergy is just experiencing a kind of buyer’s remorse.

There is a similar case. In 1983 California attempted to ban new nuclear plants. That time the US Supreme Court said Atomic Energy Act safety issues are controlling, but states do retain some authority over the need for a plant, its costs and so on. But the Entergy case will be a unique test, the first involving an operating plant. The NRC claims it won’t weigh in on the lawsuit. But it has already said, on one hand, that Vermont Yankee should get a new 20-year license, while, on the other, some state actions are valid and necessary.

So what will happen in 2012? Unless Vermont goes to court and gets an injunction, Yankee will probably keep operating. A sign of what’s ahead is likely in July, when Entergy decides whether to buy new fuel. If it does so, that will means it wants to keep operating and is ready to fight to the end. And that will lead to a showdown even more titanic than the state’s rights struggle over health care reform.

Toward the Popular Option   With only three electoral votes and a history of going Democratic in national politics for more than 20 years, Vermont usually isn't considered a battleground in presidential elections. But a bill just passed in the state legislature is a small step that may change the way future presidents are chosen.

The new law calls for Vermont to join the National Popular Vote, a movement to give the presidency to the candidate who wins the most overall votes, rather than the most electoral votes. The proposal has come in reaction to presidential elections in which the candidate with the most votes didn’t end up in office. In 1876 Samuel Tilden received more votes but Rutherford Hayes became president. Most notably, George W. Bush became president in 2000 rather than Al Gore, even though it turns out Gore got more votes. And no one really knows who had more votes in 2004.

Under the bill, all three of Vermont's electoral votes would go to the candidate who wins the national popular vote, even if Vermont voters themselves didn’t opt for that candidate. The system would go into effect only when it is adopted by enough states to ensure that 270 electoral votes — the minimum to become president — are committed to the plan. To date Vermont is the seventh state to adopt the proposal, joining mainly Democratic states that usually aren’t competitive in presidential election years. They are Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey and Washington. Including Vermont, the National Popular Vote plan now has 74 electoral votes behind it.

Climate Action Input   Burlington's updated Climate Action Plan is nearly finished and the Community and Economic Development Office (CEDO) wants public input. Thus, the office is asking local residents to take a priority ranking survey that can be found online at the Climate Action Plan site. Responses to the survey will help the city rank important greenhouse gas emission reduction opportunities. For more information, contact Sandrine Thibault, or Jennifer Green at CEDO.

One thought: don’t make deals with military contractors -- Lockheed Martin comes to mind  -- that are responsible for enormous pollution.

Good Nuke News   A Washington Post/ABC News poll confirms what we really knew already: that about 2/3 of Americans (64%) oppose new nuclear reactor construction, and 59% strongly oppose it. Meanwhile, Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts has introduced a nuclear bill that’s worth supporting. HR 1242 would ensure that nuclear power plants and spent nuclear fuel pools can handle earthquakes, tsunamis, strong storms, long power outages, or other potential disasters. It would require nuclear plants to have emergency backup systems that can withstand long electricity outages, require spent fuel to be moved into safer dry cask storage as soon as the fuel is cooled, and make the Department of Energy factor in the lessons learned from the Fukushima meltdown when calculating the risk of default on loan guarantees for new plants.

It's not a perfect bill and unlikely to pass soon. But at least there’s something to support and a place to begin a serious discussion.


Pulitzer Time  For the first time, a Pulitzer has been awarded for reporting that didn’t appear in print. The winner this year for national reporting is ProPublica, for its web series “The Wall Street Money Machine.” Another first: The Wall Street Journal won its first Pulitzer since Rupert Murdoch bought the paper in 2007, for Joseph Rago’s editorials on President Obama’s health care reform legislation.

Carol Guzy, a photographer with The Washington Post, became the first journalist to win four Pulitzers. The award for breaking news photography was shared with Nikki Kahn and Ricky Carioti, all cited for their shots of the devastation in the aftermath of Haiti earthquake.

The prize for fiction went to Jennifer Egan for A Visit From The Goon Squad. Bruce Norris won the drama award for his play Clybourne Park. The history prize went to Eric Foner for The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery. Ron Chernow won in the biography category for Washington: A Life. “Madame White Snake” by Zhou Long won for music. Kay Ryan took the prize for poetry for The Best of It: New and Selected Poems. The award for general nonfiction went to to Siddhartha Mukherjee for The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer.

There was no award for breaking news this year, but four newspapers became finalists: The Chicago Tribune, The Tennessean, The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald, a joint entry for their coverage of the Haiti earthquake.

David Leonhard of The New York Times won in the commentary category for what the Pulitzer committee called a “graceful penetration of America’s complicated economic question.” The Times’s Clifford J. Levy and Ellen Barry won for international reporting for putting “a human face on the faltering justice system in Russia.”

So, congrats to the winners, and to Vermont for its legislative independence. If such a small state can successfully challenge the nuclear industry, maybe there’s hope for the Earth and the End Times are farther off than some people think.

*Edited transcripts are posted after the broadcast, but don’t include extemporaneous comments and last minute changes or additions.