Hood questions transfer of funds by Entergy

JACKSON — In the wake of the Vermont Senate’s decision last week to shut down an Entergy Corp.-owned nuclear plant, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood is questioning the company’s recent transfer of $1.3 billion from its parent company that oversees operations in Mississippi to its troubled nuclear program.

The Vermont Senate, in an unusual move, voted 26-4 to block the license extension for the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, citing radioactive leaks, false statements in testimony by Entergy officials and other problems.

Entergy Corp., in its 4th Quarter 2009 Earnings Report, noted that the nuclear side of the company had received $1.3 billion from the utility that provides service to Mississippi taxpayers.

“My translation of the (transfer) means that the regulated utilities like Entergy Mississippi, which are subsidiaries of Entergy Corp., put $1.3 billion less in their pockets in 2009,” General Hood stated in a letter to Vermont Attorney General William H. Sorrell. “One of my claims in Mississippi is that Entergy Corp. has wrongfully transferred money from the regulated utilities to Entergy’s Nuclear businesses and that money should be returned to Mississippi ratepayers.”

General Hood wants answers to the following questions:

1. What is the source of the $1.3 billion cash payment from Entergy Corp. and its regulated utilities such as Entergy Mississippi to its nuclear program?

2. What is the intended purpose for the 2009 infusion of $1.3 billion in cash from Entergy Corp. to its nuclear operations?

3. Does Entergy Corp. plan to use any portion of the $1.3 billion to pay for the decommissioning of its malfunctioning nuclear plants, and, if so, which ones?

“The ratepayers of Mississippi—and the rest of those inside Entergy’s service area—have a right to know where their hard-earned money is going, and what it is being used for,” General Hood said. “When our ratepayers are paying their light bills each month, they should not have to worry that their dollars are headed to Vermont to pay for a leaking nuclear reactor.”

The Vermont Yankee plant has a troubled history that led to the Vermont Senate’s vote. They include recent leaks of radioactive tritium, the collapse of a cooling tower and innaccurate testimony by the plant’s owner, Lousiana-based Entergy Corp.. Plant officials had testified under oath that there were no underground pipes at Vermont Yankee that could leak tritium, although there were.

Vermont Attorney General Sorrell is conducting a criminal investigation into the Entergy misinformation and two of the state’s leading environmental groups have asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to launch his own criminal investigation, saying Entergy “carelessly disregarded obligations to maintain and provide accurate information on critical power plant systems.”

Attorney General Hood said: “If this type of misinformation and these false statements can happen in Vermont, it can happen in Mississippi—and we believe it already has.”

In Mississippi, the Attorney General’s Office was forced to file a lawsuit against Entergy on behalf of the state after the company refused repeated requests to turn over documents about its business practices and show ratepayers they were not being overcharged for power. Company officials first denied that customers were being overcharged, then admitted to the practice. The lawsuit charges the company with fraud, unjust enrichment, anti-trust violations and other illegal conduct. The case is currently awaiting a ruling in federal court.

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