January 21, 2021

Governor Shumlin wants Entergy to pay Vermont’s legal expenses

first_imgNorthstar Vermont Yankee,by Anne Galloway, www.vtdigger.org(link is external) April 30, 2011 The Shumlin administration wants Entergy Corp to pay for any legal expenses the state may incur as it defends itself against a lawsuit Entergy initiated against the state two weeks ago.That counterintuitive payment approach is called a ‘billback,’ according to a Department of Public Service official, who assured the Senate Finance Committee on Friday, such legal maneuvers are ‘an age-old tradition.’If the state, for example, was bringing a case in front of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, it could charge Entergy for the cost of hiring experts and lawyers, according to Sarah Hofmann, deputy commissioner of the Department of Public Service. The ‘causer,’ or the entity that caused the need for a legal suit, is liable for the cost, she said.The ‘bill backs’ would be effective immediately if the Legislature adopts the new statutory language as part of H.56, the omnibus energy bill, which was unanimously voted out of committee on Friday. The bill will go to the floor of the Senate early next week.The change in statute would make Entergy Corp. liable for the state’s legal expenses, including responses to public records requests and the preparation of litigation in the case, which the corporation lodged against the state in U.S District Court in Burlington.Entergy alleges that the state went back on its word when the Legislature passed a law in 2006 requiring Entergy to obtain permission from lawmakers on a license extension for Vermont Yankee, which is, under a 2002 memorandum of understanding, set to shut down March 21, 2012. The Louisiana-based nuclear power company’s case is based on the question of pre-emption. Entergy argues in its complaint that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which approved a new license for the company in March, has pre-emptive authority over state law.Attorney General Bill Sorrell has said the suit could be protracted and potentially costly if it goes all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. CORRECTED Just this week, Sorrell’s office may have lost a data mining case heard by the Supreme Court Justices. Cheryl Hanna, a legal expert and professorwith Vermont Law School, wrote in an opinion piece last week that sheanticipates if Vermont loses the case, in which it defended a new law regulating access to physician records, it will likely cost the state about $1 million.A court would rule on who would pay the damages in the Entergy lawsuit, Hofmann said. And the state, if it loses, could be responsible for not only its own legal costs, but also those of the plaintiff.Sen. Randy Brock, R-Grand Isle-Franklin, asked Hofmann: ‘Is it common that if someone sues us that they charge us legal fees for representing us in that lawsuit?’He put it another way: ‘If a state vehicle runs me over and I sue the state, the state requires me to pay for experts hired by the state to testify against me.’Hofmann replied that ‘It’s not unusual to see a bill back for the cost to the causer.’ At the end of the litigation, the federal judge decides who gets awards for attorneys’ fees and costs.The Vermont Attorney General’s office and Shumlin’s legal counsel Beth Robinson support the change in statute.‘We stand firmly behind the language,’ Robinson said. ‘We think it’s the right thing to do.’  Anne Galloway is editor of vtdigger.orglast_img

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