NY Gets a Say on Nuke License for Indian Point

ALBANY, N.Y. (CN) – Spelling trouble for the continued operation of a nuclear-power plant in New York City’s backyard, the state’s highest court held Monday that the application to renew Indian Point’s federal license is not exempt from state review.
Entergy Nuclear Operations owns the two pressurized-water reactors at Indian Point, located along the Hudson River near Peekskill, just 40 miles north of New York City. Together they supply about 25 percent of the power used in the city and Westchester County.
When both plants were nearing the end of their 40-year operating licenses in 2007, Entergy applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for 20-year license renewals.
Facing opposition from New York, however, Entergy sued in 2013 to have a judge rule that the state’s approval – in the form of a Coastal Zone Management certificate – was not required.
New York’s highest court took up the case after an appellate panel sided with Entergy in 2014, finding that Indian Point is exempt from state review.
The Court of Appeals was unanimous Monday in ruling for the state.
“In sum, the Department of State’s interpretation of the exemptions in the Coastal Management Program, and its conclusion that Entergy’s application to re-license the nuclear reactors at Indian Point is subject to consistency review are rational, and must be sustained,” Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam wrote for the court.
Jerry Nappi, a spokesman for Entergy, said the company is reviewing the court’s decision to determine its next steps.
While awaiting a final supplemental environmental impact statement from the NRC, Entergy had withdrawn the Coastal Zone Management application it filed with New York. Entergy could refile that application now.
Nappi expressed optimism that this hurdle will not hurt Entergy’s permit chances. “The facility continues to safely operate in a manner that is fully protective of the Hudson River and in compliance with state and federal law,” Nappi said.
Despite the plant owner’s optimism, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has intensified his calls to close the facility in the wake of a May 9, 2015, fire at the plant that caused fluid to spill into the Hudson River.
Cuomo praised Monday’s reversal.
“Indian Point is antiquated and does not belong on the Hudson River in close proximity to New York City, where it poses a threat not only to the coastal resources and uses of the river, but to millions of New Yorkers living and working in the surrounding community,” Cuomo said in a statement.
The D.C. Circuit meanwhile is weighing claims from environmentalists concerned about the plant.
Friends of the Earth complained that one in three of the stainless-steel “bolts holding together a crucial structure surrounding the nuclear reactor core in Unit 2 of the plant were degraded or missing entirely.”
The group says separation of the metal plates could deprive the core of necessary cooling water, potentially provoking a “catastrophic nuclear meltdown.”
Regulators have downplayed the alarm, however, saying there is no reason to suspend the plant’s license.
“Petitioners’ framing of their petition here as an ’emergency’ simply invites the court, inappropriately, to substitute its judgment about nuclear safety for the NRC’s technical expertise,” a response brief from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said.

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Vivendi Securities-Fraud Verdict Affirmed

     (CN) — The Second Circuit upheld a judgment Tuesday against a French media company accused of lying to investors about its financial status and artificially inflating its stock prices.     Vivendi SA, the former French utility turned global media company, appealed from a 2010 jury verdict finding it liable for violating U.S. security laws for hiding debt from a $77 billion acquisition spree from investors.     The underlying class-action lawsuit was filed against Vivendi in 2002. It alleged that the company made “persistently optimistic representations” from October 2000 to August 2002, and those representations constituted securities fraud.     During those two years, “Vivendi repeatedly expressed its aggressive growth prospects and its secure financial footing,” according to court records.     Vivendi’s stock plummeted in 2002 after it spent much of its capital acquiring a diverse array of media and communication businesses in the United States. It was originally a French water utility.     In 2010, a jury found Vivendi liable for violating federal securities laws. The Second Circuit affirmed the decision Tuesday.     Judge Debra Ann Livingston, writing for the three-judge panel, found that statements Vivendi made to investors could be construed as false and misleading. The New York City-based appeals court rejected Vivendi’s arguments that the statements were “non-actionable opinion, puffery, or forward-looking statements.”     “We conclude that there was sufficient evidence for the jury to find the fifty-six relevant statements materially false or misleading in regards to Vivendi’s true liquidity risk,” Livingston wrote. “Where a company seeks fraudulently to hide a particularly large problem with multiple contributing factors, it is quite probable that the company will have to lie about a number of related topics in order successfully to conceal the larger issue.     The judge added, “A reasonable investor could find each of the alleged misstatements false or misleading in context with respect to Vivendi’s liquidity risk.”     Attempts to reach Vivendi for comment Tuesday were unsuccessful, but the company said in a statement that it “is analyzing its options, both in seeking further review before the court of appeals and in filing a petition for review with the Supreme Court of the United States.”     In 2014, a $50 million judgment was entered for investors. The jury wasn’t asked to assess damages against Vivendi in the 2010 trial.     In a related ruling filed Tuesday, the Second Circuit also upheld the lower court’s finding that certain “value” investors “would have made the choice to buy the same securities” had they known of Vivendi’s liquidity problems.

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Ticketed Protester’s Video Spells Trouble for Police

     (CN) — A Connecticut man received a fistful of tickets for protesting a DUI checkpoint, but he is getting the last laugh in court. Video released in conjunction with his federal lawsuit shows police spoke openly about fabricating charges while the camera they seized recorded the whole thing.     The American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut filed the lawsuit Thursday on behalf of Michael Picard, who has a habit of protesting DUI checkpoints because he sees them as “contrary to the Fourth Amendment, and a waste of public money.”     Picard was protesting near a checkpoint in West Hartford on Sept. 11, 2015, when Connecticut state trooper John Barone approached. In addition to Barone, the suit names as defendants fellow troopers Patrick Torneo and John Jacobi.     According to the complaint, Barone approached Picard and swatted the camera out of his hand. As the camera clattered to the ground, ejecting its battery, Barone allegedly removed a pistol from Picard’s hip holster and the pistol permit from Picard’s pant pocket.     Picard says Barone had gone to his police cruiser to talk to Torneo and Jacobi, so he picked up his camera and reinserted the battery.     As Picard began filming the officers, the footage shows Barone grabbing the camera, saying, “it’s illegal to take my picture.”     The tape was still rolling, however, when Barone put the camera on the roof and the cruiser and talked with the troopers about Picard.     Picard’s footage show that the troopers were dissatisfied when his pistol permit proved valid. Barone asked the others, “Do you want me to punch a number on this one? We gotta cover our ass.”     “Punching a number,” according to the complaint, is police slang for opening an investigation in the electronic case management system and assigning it a case number.     The conversation turned to what charges they would issue.     “Torneo said that the defendants should issue Mr. Picard a public disturbance charge, ‘then we claim that in backup we had multiple [motorists] stopped to complain about’ a man waving a gun, ‘but that no one wanted to stop and give a statement,’” the complaint states. “Torneo emphasized the words ‘then’ and ‘multiple’ when speaking, as if formulating the defendants’ cover story aloud.”     The troopers settled on giving Picard two tickets for use of a highway by a pedestrian and for creating a public disturbance by carrying an exposed side arm in plain view of passing motorists.     Picard’s camera proved a rude awakening for the officers when Torneo started to drive away, and the camera slid off the roof onto the hood of the cruiser.     “Oh, shit,” Torneo said, as heard in the footage.     “I ended up with his camera on my roof,” he tells Torneo. “It’s still on.”     This past July, a prosecutor dropped one charge against Picard and nolled the other. Picard is seeking a civil judgment in his favor, but is not specifying any damages,     A spokeswoman for the state police said the troopers are the subject of an ongoing internal investigation.     The Connecticut State Police Unions said in a statement Friday that it believes Picard’s lawsuit is “frivolous and will ultimately be dismissed.”     They cautioned against a rush to judgment “simply because charges were dropped against Mr. Picard.”

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