When T. Michael Twomey applied for his job, there were at least three requirements:
1. Willingness to place his soul in escrow
2. Ability to say ridiculous things without cracking a smile
3. Cojones the size of grapefruits.
Twomey is Vice President for External Affairs for Entergy Wholesale Corporation, and he deployed his stone face and massive onions during lengthy testimony before the Vermont Public Service Board on Friday. It was the fifth day of hearings on Entergy’s request for a new certificate of public good to operate Vermont Yankee for another 20 years.
(His testimony, as far as I can tell, was only covered by Susan Smallheer of the Herald/Times Argus, so the full story is behind the Mitchell Family Paywall.)
According to Twomey, the various problems, breakdowns and maintenance issues that have occurred during Entergy’s ten-year ownership of Vermont Yankee are “not relevant” in deciding whether to let the plant stay open.
Twomey and his attorney Robert Juman, of the New York law firm of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, tried to deflect a long list of problems at the Vernon reactor in the 10 years Entergy has owned the plant. Juman raised objection after objection, claiming information about the 2007 and 2008 partial collapse of Yankee’s cooling towers was not relevant, and that neither were other issues at the plant, including the company’s response to the tritium leak there in 2010.
The Department of Public Service says the maintenance record — and the fact that Entergy executives lied under oath about the existence of underground pipes carrying radionuclides — proves that Entergy is an untrustworthy partner. But Juman contended that maintenance concerns relate to safety — which is strictly a matter of federal jurisdiction.
Indeed, Entergy seems intent on stretching “safety” to include almost everything under the sun.
Earlier in the week, its lawyers argued that the PSB can’t consider the economic impact of Vermont Yankee — even the impact of a meltdown. And the potential impact of a nuclear plant’s presence on tourism. Freeploid:
Burlington lawyer Robert Hemley told the three-member board the only reason the presence of a nuclear plant might harm tourism is if the public develops fears about nuclear safety – a subject Vermont is barred from considering.
“Discussion about tourism is a pre-empted area. … We feel the entire area is off-limits for this board,” Hemley said.
… Entergy lawyer Sanford Weisburst argued later that the board would be hard-pressed to find a plausible, non-safety reason to deny Vermont Yankee a new permit.
Well, sure, if you assert that everything relates somehow to safety, then it’s hard to find a “non-safety reason.” In Entergy’s eyes, black is white — and so is yellow, green, orange, brown, red, blue, ecru, aquamarine, burnt umber, and Misty Sunrise.
Not trying to incite any conspiracy theories here, but the nuclear industry’s rather spotty safety record is kind of an asset in this regard. If people immediately thought “safe, clean, reliable” whenever they see a nuke, then Entergy couldn’t tie everything back into federally-regulated “safety” concerns. As it stands, when the first thought that comes into mind is “OH GOD OH GOD FUKUSHIMA CHERNOBYL THREE MILE ISLAND CHINA SYNDROME WE ALMOST LOST DETROIT OH GOD OH GOD RUN AWAY AIIIIEEEEEE,” then sure, it’s easy to say that everything revolves around safety.
Now, back to Twomey. He also engaged in “a verbal dance” over Entergy’s 2002 assurances that it would not seek to extend VY’s license beyond 2012, refusing to confront his company’s 180-degree turn. But the biggest howler of all may have been:
“Honestly, we don’t want to go to court,” Twomey said at one point, causing more than a few raised eyebrows in the hearing room.
Raised eyebrows, eh? Uncontrollable laughter would have been the appropriate response. After all, Entergy has four law firms on retainer for its battle over VY, and has repeatedly filed challenges and lawsuits to state actions.
Twomey told the PSB that he was assigned to VY after the underground-pipe scandal broke in 2010. Judging by his testimony, his assignment wasn’t to clean out the stables and improve relations with the state — but to delay, defer, defy, and cover up.
And clearly, Entergy doesn’t give a rat’s ass about its “partnership” with Vermont.