A House committee approved a grant of $500,000 for economic development in Windham County as the region plans for the closing of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. The House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development voted Wednesday to support the grant requested by the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, and passed the measure along to the Appropriations Committee.
The grant would be the first disbursement from $10 million that Entergy will pay the state according to an agreement between the state and Entergy, operator of Vermont Yankee, for economic development in the region.
Lawrence Miller, secretary of the agency, said the money will not come from the state's General Fund. "I thought it was better to go ahead and say, ‘Yes, we would like the spending authority in the budget adjustment that would allow us to go forward if the money shows up,'" Miller said during a committee testimony on Tuesday. "No state dollars."
The money will become available only if the Public Service Board approves a pending license renewal for the plant to operate until the end of the year by March 31. If the agreement is not carried out, he said the agency would introduce an alternative proposal.
Entergy, the Louisiana-based company, announced last year it will close the 41-year-old plant in 2014 for financial reasons. Regional planners in the area have a plan that they say will create an "economic ecosystem" for an already financially troubled region of the state.
"Why the 500,000 [dollars] is so important now, is that we have real immediate capacity needs," said Patricia Moulton Powden, executive director of the Brattleboro Development Credit Corp.
The plant has more than 600 employees, of which 238 are Vermont residents, said Chris Campany, executive director of the Windham Regional Commission. He said the plant pays nearly 50 percent of Vernon's taxes. Vermont Electric Power Corp., the state's transmission line company, pays nearly all the remaining taxes, Campany said.