Plymouth zoning board upholds nuclear storage permit

After nearly eight hours of testimony over two days, much of it centered around arcane details of state and local regulations, the Plymouth Zoning Board of Appeals rejected an appeal of the permit granted to Entergy Corporation allowing the construction of a dry cask storage facility at Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station.

The vote was 2-3 to reverse the decision by Director of Inspectional Services Paul McAuliffe to grant the permit. At least four votes were needed to overturn his decision.

Board Chairman Peter Conner, one of the three no votes, said McAuliffe’s actions were a reasonable interpretation of the town’s zoning bylaws. During the hearing, town counsel Elizabeth Lane had advised the ZBA they had to determine if the decision was based on a “reasonable interpretation” of the town’s zoning bylaws. McAuliffe had consulted with Lane before issuing his decision.

Conner, along with member David Peck, also noted there was a general agreement that storing the radioactive spent nuclear fuel in dry storage was superior to keeping it in the pool where Pilgrim’s spent has been stored since the plant opened.

MIchael Main and Bill Keohan, the town ZBA members who voted to overturn the permit, both argued  the original 1967 special permit only allowed storage of the spent fuel in the pool. Main also said, based on his reading of the law, that the town did not surrender its oversight of the Pilgrim Station’s zoning when the original permit was granted. One of the arguments made by Richard Serkey, Entergy’s attorney, was that the town had ceded its rights to the Atomic Energy Commission and then the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Before the vote, members of the audience had a chance to express their opinions on the issue. None of those who spoke were in support of McAuliffe’s decision. The question of fairness came up as several people asked if Entergy was getting the same treatment as anyone else who came before the board. Plymouth resident Norman Pearce described going before the ZBA to build a garage in 1999 and the restrictions placed on  him. Resident Wedge Bramhall related a similar story, talking about a beach house he tried to build in 1979. At the time, he found Boston Edison, which owned the power plant had illegally connected to the town sewer system.

Later, ZBA member Ed Conroy said the suggestion he would treat Entergy differently than any other applicant was “out to lunch.”

Some residents from outside Plymouth urged the board to apply what they said was common sense. Anna Baker of Marshfield and Mary Lampert of Duxbury, both local anti-nuclear activists, said requiring a special permit would give the town better oversight of the project.

In an interview with WATD-FM, Lampert said the zoning board’s decision would be appealed. The appeal of  McAuliffe’s decision was made by a group of 18 local residents who were advised by environmental law firm EcoLaw.

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