Andrew Fisk, Executive Director 413-772-2020 x 208 or 413-210-9207 (cell)

Laura Murphy, Vermont Law School  802-831-1123 or 802-829-9304 (cell)


Montpelier, VT and Greenfield, MA. February 17, 2012 – Entergy Vermont Yankee’s scientific basis for continuing its thermal pollution of the Connecticut River is significantly flawed, according to two reports released today by the Connecticut River Watershed Council (CRC).

These reports reveal that Entergy has not justified to the state of Vermont why it should be allowed to bypass its cooling towers and dump hot water directly into the river. Entergy’s technical studies failed to meet several key requirements.  The studies:

  • assumed that its thermal pollution impacted only a half mile of river despite its own data showing the plume extended 55 miles to Holyoke, MA,
  • omitted critical analyses of time-varying, dynamic river conditions,
  • picked only a limited and static set of operating scenarios and used only a limited amount (16%) of available temperature data in its hydrothermal model,
  • ignored potential thermal impacts of Vernon Dam and the fishway, and
  • used only a limited number of fish species that do not fully reflect the river’s ecology.

“The Connecticut River belongs to the public and one bedrock principal of sound decision-making is transparency,” said Andrew Fisk, CRC Executive Director.  “After reviewing all the technical reports, we and our consultants filed a formal request to obtain the computer files of Entergy’s hydrothermal model to determine if its results could be validated independently, which is standard EPA practice.  But there was no response to this request, nor to our knowledge was the actual model ever previously released to Vermont’s Agency of Natural Resources or any other entity for a thorough peer review.”

“What’s Entergy afraid of?  Open up the box and let the public check your work,” Fisk said.

The lack of a valid case to justify the thermal pollution means the Agency of Natural Resources should issue a new permit with no special thermal allowances, Laura Murphy of Vermont Law School states.  The Law School’s Environmental & Natural Resources Law Clinic is representing CRC in this matter.

“What the Connecticut River Watershed Council’s reports show is that Entergy has not made the showing it’s required by law to make – that its discharge won’t harm the River’s native fish and wildlife.  Entergy needs to start over from the beginning, use valid modeling, and accurately consider the sensitive fish species that live in the River,” said Murphy.  “Until that time, Entergy should use its existing cooling towers to stop the discharges of excess heat,” Murphy said.

The CRC has provided the full reports to the Agency of Natural Resources as the agency prepares to issue a new water quality permit for the plant.

“For more than 15 years, Vermont Yankee has been permitted to raise the temperature of the Connecticut River up to 13 degrees during winter months and up to five degrees in the summer and fall.  In 2006, Entergy convinced the state to let it increase the river temperature even more.  None of it is scientifically justified,” Fisk said.

Thermal pollution can be just as insidious as other kinds of pollution, and although it’s invisible, it can harm river life.  Heating up the river negatively affects wildlife and their habitats.  It confuses, weakens, and disrupts fish, which look to changes in water temperatures to migrate or breed.  Of particular concern is the impact of increased temperature on migratory fish such as American shad and Atlantic salmon.

“Vermont Yankee has been allowed to do all this under an expired water quality permit,” said Fisk.  “Last year we petitioned ANR to begin the permit renewal process, which has been stalled since 2006.  Now that the court has ruled that Vermont Yankee won’t be shut down this March, it’s time for the state to issue a new permit that requires Yankee to use its cooling towers and stop using the Connecticut River as its dump.”

For more information go to

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Based in Greenfield, the Connecticut River Watershed Council works to improve water quality and native fisheries in the Connecticut River’s 11,000-square mile watershed in the four states of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont.  Through its web site and publications – such as the popular Connecticut River Boating Guide – the 60-year-old nonprofit organization promotes conservation, recreation, and a sensible balance between the needs of human and natural communities.