Wednesday

After Decades of Battles With Nuclear Critics, Vermont Yankee Reactor to Close

Entergy Corp. announces it will shut its 41-year-old Vermont nuclear plant at the end of 2014. The decision to close the Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor, one of the nation’s oldest and the subject of heated battles for decades, came less than two weeks after the company won a legal fight against Vermont to keep it open. Entergy said a long depression in natural gas prices pushed the wholesale price of electricity so low that it was losing money on the reactor, which is on the Connecticut River just north of the Massachusetts border. This year owners have announced the retirements of five U.S. reactors, with the low price of gas cited as a factor in each case. Vermont Yankee faced expenses for improvements prompted by the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns in Japan, but those do not appear to have been decisive. The New York Times, Burlington Free Press

Researchers rank Portland, Ore.,-based manufacturer as the nation’s worst industrial air polluter. Precision Castparts, which makes aircraft and engine parts internationally, was No. 1 in a pollution ranking by University of Massachusetts researchers. It was followed by corporate giants DuPont and Biomet. The ranking takes into account pollution toxicity and volume, along with population exposure. One-third of Precision’s score came from three Portland-area factories that emit cobalt and cobalt compounds. Exposure to high levels of cobalt can lead to respiratory problems such as hemorrhage of the lung, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says. “I would be concerned if I were downwind from the company that comes up at the top of this list,” one of the authors said. The Oregonian

Pennsylvania officials  block report questioning the benefits of natural gas. A report outlining how climate change will affect Pennsylvania was due in the spring of 2012, and there still is no indication when it will be released. Department of Environmental Protection officials said Tuesday the report still is going through review. But a copy of the original draft climate report and internal DEP emails reveal that the department’s policy office has held up the study. The policy office has wanted the Penn State scientists who wrote the report to remove references to a controversial 2011 Cornell University study concluding that methane gas leaks from natural gas production wipe out the climate change benefits of using gas instead of coal. StateImpact

Tobacco giant Philip Morris wins ruling blocking requirement for bigger warnings on cigarette packs in Thailand. The Thai court’s decision suspends the government’s Oct. 2 deadline to add warning labels covering 85 percent of a cigarette package, up from the existing requirement of 55 percent. A Philip Morris spokeswoman said warning labels were unnecessary and that the regulation was “illogical,” because it would exempt roll-your-own cigarettes, which she said accounted for almost half the tobacco consumed in Thailand. The government plans to appeal the suspension, which could be in place until litigation filed by Philip Morris and a group of more than 1,400 Thai retailers is decided. As FairWarning has reported, tobacco companies have been increasingly trying to thwart national governments’ anti-smoking regulations by invoking long-standing trade agreements. The Associated Press, Reuters

Death of lifeguard and injuries to maintenance supervisor lead to six charges against Texas water park. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s charges against the operators of Schlitterbahn Beach Waterpark and Resort in South Padre Island, Texas, included a willful violation, the agency’s most serious offense. In March, a 20-year-old lifeguard was fatally crushed, and a maintenance supervisor was severely injured, when a wave generation machine unexpectedly activated and pinned the workers between a gate and a wall. OSHA, which proposed $96,000 in fines, said the water park failed to develop procedures to control potentially hazardous energy for the wave machine. OSHA

 Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

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