|Vermont Yankee |
Vernon Dam in foreground
(picture from back when VY was operating)
When Vermont Yankee closed in December, 2014, “glass half full” people could at least point to the Vernon Dam’s $400,000 in annual tax payments and the hope that another power plant might be built near the Vermont Yankee site to take advantage of the new, nearby switchyard.
Now, the town has almost certainly lost the “bird in the bush” proposed power plant. And the “bird in the hand” Vernon dam may be wrenched from its grasp by the State of Vermont.
Last week's surprise announcement that the Kinder-Morgan natural gas pipeline would not be built has forced the shelving of plans for a natural gas-fired power plant near the Vermont Yankee site in Vernon. The KM line would have brought large new quantities of natural gas from Pennsylvania to Massachusetts and New Hampshire. But developers cited insufficient demand.
The pipeline cancellation may lead to more interest in power from north of the border. That's good news for the Clean Link power line proposed to run from Quebec beneath Lake Champlain, and then across Vermont to the Vernon switchyard. A similar power line from New York across Lake Champlain is also in the works. Furthermore Hydro Quebec recently announced a major marketing initiative for New England customers.
For Vernon, of course, the decision is a tough blow for backers who hoped the town could recoup some of the jobs and taxes lost when VY closed.
Furthermore, the proposed state purchase of 13 TransCanada Corp. dams on the Connecticut and Deerfield rivers includes the Vernon dam. The proposal, now under preliminary review led by a high-level “working group” appointed by Gov. Peter Shumlin, could lead to the dam becoming state property and therefore property-tax exempt. The state could offer Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT), which typically offers about 10 cents on the dollar, one Vernon official said.
A State of Vermont purchase of the TC Hydro dams, totally 567 megawatts and reportedly valued at about $800 million, is very far from a “done deal.” If the dams are instead sold to another corporation, Vernon and other revenue-challenged towns with Connecticut River TransCanada hydro assets can still keep collecting taxes.
Guy Page is the Communications Director for Vermont Energy Partnership, and a frequent guest blogger at this blog.