Lesley University intern, Marcel Howard, writes about the Pilgrim nuclear waste storage zoning case. Marcel is a 3rd year student at Lesley, majoring in Political Science with a minor in Environmental Studies and will be focusing on issues related to Pilgrim’s nuclear waste storage project for the semester.

The Land Court Zoning Lawsuit becomes one-step closer to a trial, as Entergy faces the possibility of Sanctions

The zoning lawsuit filed by local residents in August 2013 is moving one step closer towards a trial. Residents filed the case against Entergy Nuclear Generating Company, the owner and operator of the Plymouth-based, 680-megawatt Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station.

The lawsuit claims that Entergy violated Plymouth zoning laws by failing to get a special permit for the construction and operation of the nuclear waste storage facility that will be used for dry cask storage of spent nuclear fuel at the Pilgrim site. In August 2014, Land Court Judge Foster rejected Entergy’s motion to dismiss the case for lack of standing. Entergy alleged that none of the plaintiffs had a legal interest that was recognized by the law and had no right to bring the case. The Court ruled that 11 of the 18 plaintiffs had asserted valid claims of harm to their real estate from the dry cask project. The case has been in the discovery stage since.

The plaintiffs’ goal in the case is to win a ruling from the court that orders Entergy to go back to the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) in Plymouth to get a special permit for the dry cask storage project. Under the Town’s zoning laws, the Board would have to hold a public hearing and is required to impose conditions on the special permit that would ensure the project meets appropriate standards.

On April 7th, 2015, both parties appeared before Judge Foster at Land Court in Boston for a status conference in order to discuss the next steps in the case. Entergy asked the Court for more time to produce documents that were needed for the discovery phase. The Plaintiffs lawyers told the Court that Entergy had failed to meet the Court’s March 31 deadline for completing discovery and that it had failed to produce documents to which the Plaintiffs are entitled under Court rules.

Entergy’s failure to comply with the Court’s March 31 deadline caused the Court to impose a “drop dead date” for Entergy to supply the plaintiffs with the missing documents, and to officially finish with the discovery phase of the case. The Court repeatedly reminded Entergy that if it failed to meet the new deadline of June 1, it would be subject to sanctions from the Court.

With the threat of sanctions on the cusp, Entergy now has until June 1st to completely finish the discovery phase of the case. Shortly afterwards, the two parties will meet again for another status conference on June 8th. The topics being discussed will include the overall completion of discovery, the ZBA, and a possible trial date for the fall of 2015.